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Stuart Messham

Tips for going hand luggage only

Thanks to a huge influx of excited passengers, airports around the globe are getting busier. However, there are some measures you can take to make your journey smoother. 

One way of circumventing some of the hustle and bustle is to avoid luggage check-in queues on departure – and luggage reclaim queues on arrival – by having carry-on baggage only. 

Okay, so it’s not going to work for week-long family holidays or group excursions, but this travel hack can certainly pay dividends for short-haul solo efforts. The trick is being assertive with what you do and don’t bring.

Ask yourself some simple questions, and you can “eco-pack” accordingly: 

1. Is my hand luggage the correct size? Will it make the weight limit?

It’s imperative that you check your airline’s rules before you get to the airport. Having the right piece of hand luggage is essential: too big, and you’ll have to check it in; too small, and you won't be taking advantage of all the available space.

Each airline has its own rules. If you frequently fly with one specific airline, it’s a good idea to get a bag that perfectly fits their requirements.

Finding an optimal case is the first step in going hand luggage only.

2. Does your airline allow a second piece of hand luggage?

Most airlines allow a second bag – handbag, laptop bag, camera bag – as well as your main piece of hand luggage. Some even stretch to a small rucksack.  

Make sure you take advantage of these additional spaces: they are ideal for wallets, travel documents, e-readers and any other small items you need to access quickly while at the airport.

Keep everything you need to access quickly in your secondary bag.

3. Does your hotel offer shampoo, conditioner, body wash and a hair dryer?

If they do and you’re happy to use them, this represents a whole lot of luggage space saved. 


4. Can I replace liquids with solids and use samples? 

If you’re dead set on taking your own toiletries, why not swap liquids for solids or try to get hold of some samples? 

Liquids are bulky and take up a lot of space, especially when you are restricted to one clear bag for all of your 100ml items, like at Heathrow. You can easily replace some of these liquids with solid deodorant, shampoo bars, conditioner bars, solid perfume and even solid toothpaste. And if you can’t find a solid alternative, take a sample: a lot of department and beauty stores give out samples with each purchase and they are ideal size for travelling. 

Lighten your load and swap liquids with solid substitutes.

5. Are the clothes I’m packing suitable for layering and different outfits? 

Utility clothes that work at different times of the day and for different functions are invaluable when saving space. Pick coordinating tops and bottoms in neutral colours so you can mix and match. Think about taking smaller items that you can layer up with other items. And if you desperately want to take that heavyweight, super-cosy hoodie or cable-knit cardigan, why not just wrap it around you as you travel through the airport? It’ll save tons of space in your carry-on and might make a nice pillow for your flight. 


6. Do you need two pairs of jeans? 

How often have you returned from a trip, having only used a small portion of the stuff you’ve taken? Be assertive and economical with what you require. 

7. Pack like a pro

Being methodical and organised when packing your case is paramount if you’re going with hand luggage only.

  • Use the ‘fold and roll technique: For larger items, like jeans, cardigans and tops, fold twice and then roll up. This saves space while avoiding any unsightly creases. 
  • Use packing cubes: As well as keeping you enviably organised by compartmentalising your stuff, packing cubes also fit rather neatly into most luggage, saving you vital space. You can separate your toiletries, main clothes, electricals and shoes. Or devise a unique system all of your own, like packing certain outfits into cubes.
  • Decant toiletries: If the place you are staying at doesn’t provide toiletries, decant your favourites from home into reusable 100ml bottles. You’ll have no trouble passing through security, but you’ll still have all the necessities for your morning regime.
  • Utilise every bit of space: Pack the heaviest items at the bottom of your bag. Put belts around the edge of the case. Put socks into shoes. Use every nook and cranny of your case to your advantage. And remember to leave a little room if you want to buy a small souvenir.


8. If in doubt, ship it!

You didn’t think of this one, did you?!

With the huge proliferation of the Amazon Prime service, sometimes it can make sense to ship goods that don’t fit in your bag, so they arrive at your destination when you do. 

Just mark your order for “Hotel Guest: [Your name]”, and your accommodation should be happy to take delivery of your goods. If you're lucky, they might even deliver them to your room. Now that’s a hack!

Packing cubes help section and organise your accessories.
Decant your toiletries before you get to the airport.


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