If you’re wondering if it’s actually possible to travel with hand luggage only, then this blog post is for you! I’m sharing all of my best tips and travel hacks to show you just how easy it is to avoid baggage fees and travel with a carry-on bag only.
I’m also here to tell you that if an avid overpacker like me can change her ways then anyone can. I actually dread to think of the money I’ve wasted on extra baggage charges for clothes and shoes I never wore. Sigh.
What made me change my ways you might ask? It’s partly to do with airlines constantly changing their baggage fees/policies and also connected with my goal of trying to be a more sustainable traveller.
Let’s dive in and find out my best tips and tricks on how to travel with hand luggage only.
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Table of Contents
Why Travel With Hand Luggage Only
Before I share my top tips on how to travel with hand luggage only, it’s important to look at what the benefits are. There are so many benefits to travelling with just hand luggage:
- Airport check-in is quicker or possibly even non-existent.
- You can skip through baggage claim and head straight to your destination.
- There’s no need to worry about your luggage being lost, damaged or stolen.
- It really makes you think about what you need versus what you think you need.
- You won’t buy things/souvenirs that you really don’t need (you can’t fit them in!).
My biggest test to date was a recent trip which included a 10-day Iceland and New York trip. Read on to find out my top tips for travelling with hand luggage only.
Travel With The Right Bag
This is my number one tip for travelling with hand luggage only. The right travel bag can literally make or break a trip. Well, maybe not that extreme but travelling with a good, sturdy bag with different compartments will make all the difference.
I am all about trying to find the best deals and travelling on a mid-range budget but this is one area where I was willing to splurge.
This is the bag I chose after a lot of research and I absolutely adore it. It’s pricy (around €100) but it is so worth it.
I chose this one as it’s anti-theft which also includes an RFID pocket to prevent credit card theft, it’s also incredibly roomy, there are padded area’s for electronics, neat organisation areas for easy access and it is also super comfortable!
When travelling with hand luggage only, the ideas above are definitely the minimum requirements you need to think about when choosing your bag. They will ensure that your belongings are safe and that you have room for everything you need.
Find Out About Your Airline’s Baggage Policy
Airlines, especially in Europe, change their baggage policies all the time. You may think you know what you’re allowed to bring on board but before you travel with hand luggage only, check their website.
You can also easily do this through SeatGuru, an incredible free resource which has information about all airlines and is updated regularly.
Some airlines especially low cost ones like Ryanair are notoriously inconsistent. I’m sure you’ve heard the same horror stories that I have. One way to combat this is by using a cheap luggage scale like this one and checking your bag dimensions.
packing cubes for the win
Packing cubes have been a complete game-changer for me when it comes to travelling with hand luggage only. I’ve been using cubes for about 5 years now and I honestly could not travel without them.
Now, I no longer have to root around trying to find a phone charger or a cardigan – they’re all labelled and organised in my beloved packing cubes.
You can organise your belongings whatever way you want but I’ve found it best to separate them into sections such as underwear/swimwear, tops and dresses, shorts and leggings and then other bits ‘n’ bobs into the smaller cubes.
Roll Your Clothes
When packing, one of my biggest tips is to roll your clothes! By doing this you will keep your clothes compressed inside the cubes giving you lots of extra space in your hand luggage.
I’ve also found that by doing this, my clothes are more wrinkle-free and it is so much easier to see what I have packed. Plus, I noticed that I don’t pack as much when I do this as I like the rolls to be small and neat. As someone who has always overpacked, this is a big achievement!
Prepare Your Liquids In Advance
To speed up things at the airport (nobody wants to be the person holding up the security line) always prepare your liquids in advance.
We all know that 100ml is the limit and even if your regular sized bottle has less than 100ml in it, those security guys are just not going to let it through. It sucks I know!
So what should you do? Transfer your liquids in advance into these TSA approved containers. I love that there are a variety of sizes too. I label mine (I’m a teacher, I can’t help it!) and refill them with my favourite beauty products.
Store Liquids In A Separate Bag
This may seem obvious, but it’s definitely something to remember especially if you travel with electronics!
The mini travel bottles that I’ve recommended are leak-proof but being careful is never a bad thing. So I also use this reusable, clear toiletries bag that I keep in the front section of my bag. Security is a breeze as everything is easily accessible and there’s no need for using those awful plastic bags that are such a waste.
*I haven’t run into any issues using my own personal TSA approved bag but some travel friends of mine have been asked to swap out the bags for the airport plastic bag at random*
Use Solid Beauty Products
Another great space-saving technique when travelling with hand luggage only is solid beauty products. I’ve been loving using them lately especially as they are environmentally friendly too.
However, always do your research and ask others who have tried and tested different brands as some are not as eco-friendly as they would like you to think.
Pack A Capsule Wardrobe
I’m not even going to try to pretend to be some sort of a fashionista by advising on what clothes to bring when travelling. However, as a recovering over-packer, I have picked up some tips on how to pack clothes when you want to travel with hand luggage only.
- The Rule of Three: Pack three outfits that can be mixed and matched depending on the occasion – this works a dream! Stick with a couple of neutral staples such as a top that can be dressed with jeans for nighttime or with shorts for during the day. And remember, you can wash clothes when you travel!
- Be ruthless: Do you really need 10 tops and 15 bikinis? No, you absolutely don’t. Back when I was an over-packer, I never wore all the clothes I had packed. In fact, I would say more than 50% of it was never worn. I remind myself of that every time I’m packing now. This tip reminds me of Marie Kondo’s catchphrase “does it spark joy?” – if not, don’t pack it!
- Wear your bulkiest items: This one can be tough but it is doable. Travelling can be a very sweat-inducing event so wearing a thick winter coat is not my idea of heaven. But if it has to come with me, I just tie the jacket around my waist. Also, you only need 2/3 pairs of footwear so put on the heaviest and take them off on the plane.
Bring a Tote Bag for Your Washing
Let’s be honest, travelling is dirty whether you’re off on a city break or to a far-flung destination. There’s sweat, there’s grime and who knows what else embedded into your clothes so the last thing you should do is throw those clothes in with the rest of your stuff.
This is where a tote bag comes in handy – or even a spare packing cube – throw your dirty clothes in there. This keeps them separate from the rest of your clothes and makes laundry that little bit easier.
Genius Travel Packing Hacks
When travelling with a carry on bag only, every little bit of space matters. Here are a few extra genius travel packing hacks that I use all the time!
- Use your shoes as storage – pop some socks, your glasses/sunglasses case, phone chargers – anything really that will fit inside.
- Store jewellery such as earrings and rings into a pill organiser. Not only will this save space but it will also make them easy to find during your vacation too.
- Put beauty products into contact lens cases. Products such as foundation, concealer and primer that don’t warrant a TSA approved container.
- Put a couple of dryer sheets into your packing cubes including the tote where you plan on keeping your dirty clothes. This will help keep your bag smelling fresh.
- Use an old pill bottle to store those pesky little bits and pieces such as hair bobbins, cotton buds and clips.
You Might Also Like….
- How To Survive A Long Haul Flight
- Long Haul Flight Essentials You Need To Pack
- How To Be A More Sustainable Traveller
- Travel Resources To Help You Plan Any Trip
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Over To You….
Do you have any pro travel hacking tips? I would love to hear about them in the comments!