How to pack with hand luggage only

How to pack with hand luggage only

Packing for your holiday can be a pain at the best of times – but taking just hand luggage can make the task seem near impossible. We assure you, it’s not and it’s definitely worth it.


While you reap the rewards of saving time (no more waiting at the dreaded luggage carousel!) and money, travelling only with hand luggage does mean organisation is key to getting it right. Smart packing is essential, but just think of the extra pennies and pounds you’ll have to spend during your break!

Travelling light can be easy and stress-free – after all, you’re solely in charge of your bag for the entirety of your journey. With the right bag, packing techniques and pre-planning, it’s now possible bring all you need for a week-long holiday with only your carry-on. This means less spending, hassle, heavy loads to carry and queuing – why not give it a go?

Check out our top travel tips on how to pack for your holiday with hand luggage only!

Keep up-to-date

The size and weight restrictions of airlines’ hand luggage is constantly changing so be sure to keep up-to-date with the latest measurements. Ensure you have the right size bag and weight for your journey before arriving at the airport (taking into account any indirect routes or airport changes) – all the information you need can be found on your airline’s website. Many prefer taking backpacks instead of suitcases due to their lighter and more flexible frame. Some airlines require your handbag to fit inside your carry-on too – if so, ensure there’s space to do so!

Know your limits to avoid any nasty surprises at the airport – whether it be shuffling your clothes and underwear between the bags of your travel party or an unwanted extra charge!

Embrace the list

Have a checklist ready before packing and be ruthless – only pack what you need. Check if anyone in your travel party is bringing duplicate items which can be shared and keep an eye on the weather forecast for your destination so you can list and pack efficiently.

Pack smart

There truly is an art to holiday packing – especially when it comes to hand luggage! Pack your wardrobe day by day so you don’t under or over-pack clothes. If you’re jetting off to somewhere warm, it’s obviously easier to pack lightweight clothes.

Don’t fold – always roll your clothes to make the most of your bag space. Wear your heaviest clothing on your flight to keep the bag weight down and if necessary, leave space for holiday purchases (but bear your luggage restrictions in mind when shopping on your break!). Keep your important travel documents safely and securely on your person.

Rules & restrictions

The main difference in packing solely for hand luggage are the restrictions on items you can bring on board. Always make sure you’re up to date with your airline’s item restrictions as they can change on a weekly basis! Airport security won’t let anything through if they consider it dangerous, even if it’s not on the restricted list, so be prepared to give up an item even if you dispute it. 

There are strict rules on the amount of liquids you can pack in your hand luggage – typically containers must hold no more than 100ml and be packed into a transparent, resealable bag. These containers and bags can easily be found at supermarkets/pharmacy chains/online (the transparent bags can be commonly found at the airport too).

If you are taking medicine/baby milk larger than the allowance on board, this is usually allowed. Of course, you can take liquids bought from the airport, as long as they are sealed with the receipt of purchase.

It’s a good idea to check what electronic items you can carry on board too, with recent rules adding further restrictions to devices depending on what country you are flying from/to.

Don’t slip up

It’s forgivable to accidentally pack something restricted into your hand luggage – but doing so can cause a delay at security, lose you an item from home and waste other passengers’ time! If you’re not sure about an item, check your airline’s website for information before packing. Some typical items confiscated at the airport include unsealed drinks, multiple lighters and scissors – try not to slip up!

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