How To Pack Just Hand Luggage: Top Tips For Travelling Light

Do you really need five bikinis?

With budget airlines charging extra for passengers to take hold luggage on flights, many of us are opting to travel with just a cabin bag. Not only is it cheaper, but quicker once you get through passport control and it minimises any risk of your bag getting lost in transit.

But this means those care-free days of throwing everything in a massive suitcase “just incase” are a distant memory. Packing for a weekend away might be straight forward enough, but if you’re going for a week or longer suitcase space is now incredibly precious.

We asked frequent flyers and travel experts how to travel with just carry on luggage. Is it really possible to go away without taking everything but the kitchen sink?

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Organise your suitcase

Will Jones, managing editor of, advises being meticulous with your carry on. “Have a place for everything and make sure everything is in its place,” he says.

“Dedicate one of the pockets to documents (passport, boarding pass etc), so they’re always in the same place when you need them. Similarly, make sure your liquids are already in plastic bags before you get to the airport, and that they’re in the most accessible place (i.e. the top) so you’re not holding people up at security. Same goes for anything else you’ll need to get out, like electronics.”

Ranyhyn Akui, social media editor at Suitcase magazine, advises using nooks and crannies wisely to store loose items. “Shove all socks, undies and adaptors into your shoes,” she says. The same goes for evening bags. Why not double up the extra space as storage for those dangly earrings or underwear?

Check the weather

You may think long sunny days and warm evenings are sure thing on your summer getaway, but don’t take the weather for granted. There’s nothing worse than getting caught short with the wrong clothing - and having to spend money on buying an emergency cagoule.

Once you’re on top of the forecast, Will Jones advises to be “ruthless and realistic” when packing. “Going somewhere hot for a week? You don’t need seven pairs of socks. Or two pairs of jeans. Or a jumper. You simply won’t use them.” Brutal.

Travel writer and editor Amelia Edelman’s goes one step further, advising travellers to refrain from packing any shoes. At all. “I know it sounds crazy, but I find that if I pay attention to the weather forecast and my travel itinerary, I can plan ahead and wear one pair of shoes for the flight and simply not pack any in my carry-on,” she says.

Plan your outfits

“There’s no need to pack 27 options for nice evening attire if you’re only going out for dinner and drinks once or twice,” says Suitcase magazine’s Ranyhyn Akui. Instead she recommends recycling outfits or individual items. “If you can coordinate everything to a single pair of shoes, even better,” she adds.

If you’re unsure of what clothes to pack ask your travel buddies what they’re planning on wearing and do your research to check the vibe of any restaurants or bars you plan on visiting. Also, ask yourself: do you really need to take different swimwear for every day?

Wear half your wardrobe

If you’re really struggling for space, remember you could always pack extra clothes on you body. That’s right, the more layers the better – it gets cold on a plane after all.

Try wearing the bulkiest items you want to take away with you – a big jumper, a coat and boots – and enjoy skipping (or waddling) past airline staff without a care in the world.

Amelia Diamond, deputy editor for Man Repeller, says: “Always, always, always pack cozy socks, a sweatshirt and some sort of blanket-like shawl, wrap or scarf for the planes, even if you’re flying somewhere warm. It’s always freezing on planes, and you can always use the shawl at night if the temperature drops.”

Decant your beauty products

Another awkward item to pack is beauty products, especially if you have a seven step Korean beauty skincare regime. Someone who doesn’t want to compromise on her beauty routine when travelling for work around the world is Amelia Diamond.

“Put foundation, face oils, serums, liquid highlighters ― anything liquid that you don’t actually use a lot of ― into these contact cases. This way, you can pack them in your carry-on without worrying about weight or bulk or taking up space” she advises.

For your solid makeup, palettes that double as eyeshadow, blush, bronzer, highlighter and contour kill several birds with one stone. And products such as foundation with SPF or lipstick that’s balmy enough to be used as a cheek tint will make sure you’re taking only the necessary items.

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