Travelling with hand luggage only is a skill worth mastering if you like to head off on holiday at a moment's notice. It has loads of benefits, like saving on checked baggage fees and avoiding the hassle of lost luggage. This guide will give you practical tips to pack everything you need into a single carry-on bag, making your travel experience smoother and more enjoyable.
Choosing your cabin bag wisely
Being clever when choosing your cabin bag makes packing light a lot easier. Shop around to try and find the biggest bag for your airline's hand baggage rules. You can find this on their website, but Skyscanner have also created a cabin luggage size guide. Jet2 has the largest cabin bag dimensions (56x45x25cm) in the listed airlines, while Norwegian Air has the smallest underseat bag option (30x20x38cm).
Some airlines will also add a weight limit on cabin bags, so that's one to watch out for when planning what to pack. If your airline has a weight limit, soft bags rather than hard cases are usually lighter, so you'll have more room for your clothes and belongings.
Learn how to pack light
Deciding what to pack when you're travelling with hand luggage only can be tricky. Try to think practically about what you'll be doing on your trip, so that you don't pack outfits or clothes that you won't wear. If you're planning to do long walks or hikes, then you probably won't need to pack your favourite pair of evening shoes.
If you're not sure whether you'll need to take a heavy jacket or shoes, then wearing your largest item to the airport means you'll save space in your suitcase.
To fold or to roll? You might think folding your clothes neatly will help make the most of your space in your carry-on, but rolling your clothes can often be even more space-saving. This can be useful when you have awkward space to fill in your case. If you roll your clothes, you might need to iron them before wearing. So it's worth checking with your hotel or apartment has an iron.
Make sure you keep the essentials to hand
If it's going to be a while before you can unpack, then keeping your essential items where you can find them quickly can make travelling light a lot easier. Think about what you might need between the airport and where you're staying. This could include:
- Passport and other travel documents
- Any medication you need and your prescription or doctor's letter
- Purse or wallet
- Phone and charger
- Tablets and chargers
Navigating airport security when you have hand luggage
If you're travelling with hand luggage only, then getting through the airport can be much smoother, as you don't have to check in your bag. But security rules means you can only take one clear bag of 100ml liquids, so keep this in mind when packing your toiletries.
If in doubt, you can buy full-sized toiletries once you're past security, or when you reach your destination.
Things to leave at home
When you're packing light, some things are best left at home if you can.
- Try and only take the jewellery you can wear on the journey. This will save space and give you less to worry about losing.
- Who wants to wear uncomfortable shoes when you’re sightseeing? Keep your shoe options light, which will maximise the space in your suitcase.
- In the digital age, you can find out anything you need to know about your destination online, so don’t be tempted to take up valuable space in your suitcase with guidebooks. Most hotels or apartments will usually have some there for you to browse.
- Almost all hotels and apartments will have hairdryers. You can save a lot of room in your bag if you leave the hairdryer at home.
- If you’re staying in an apartment, check if there’s a washing machine you can use. Washing your clothes while you’re away can cut down the amount you have to pack in the first place.
And don't forget your travel insurance
This is one that won't weigh down your suitcase. Simply sort your travel insurance before you go and get peace of mind that you'll be covered if things don't go to plan. You can compare travel insurance quotes using our price comparison to find the best value cover that fits in with your travelling plans.
By Mikaela Bartlett
Mikaela Bartlett is SEO Editor at PayingTooMuch. She loves to explore places off the beaten path and sharing tips to make travel as easy and cost-effective as possible.