Do’s and Don’ts For Travelling With Hand Luggage Only

With all the furore surrounding long queues at check-in, overwhelmed baggage handlers, and delayed or missing luggage over the Easter period and beyond, it’s easy to see why many are looking to streamline their travel and downsize their luggage for their summer getaway. 


hand luggage only! An open cabin-sized suitcase, packed with the travel essentials.
Hand luggage only! | © Marissa Grootes via Unsplash

Although strictly size-restricted, some airlines will allow passengers to travel with both a cabin bag (typically stowed in the overhead locker) and a personal bag (which you can keep at your feet, tucked under the seat in front of you). The key to carefree travel is in packing smart and making the most of the space you have across those bags.

But what if I’m going away for more than just a few days? No problem! Put that thought out of your mind – whether you’re travelling for four days or fourteen, and whether you’re a frequent flyer, seasoned traveller, or you’re about to embark on your very first trip, here are some do’s – and some don’ts – for travelling light with hand luggage only.


DO: Keep your travel documents together and easy to access.

It’s amazing how often you’ll have to whip out your passport or flash your boarding pass – or even just double – and triple-check it for the flight details. Keeping all of the important documentation together eliminates a lot of the stress of travel because you know as soon as you pull out that folder or travel wallet, everything you need will be in there. This is especially important in cases where you require a visa or proof of vaccination, or if you have to provide a copy of a prescription or doctor’s note for medication or medical equipment.

DON’T: Throw things in at random. Making a list is the easiest way to keep track of what you need and what you’ve got – so you can tick them off when they’re packed and know you won’t forget something vital – like your passport. 


DO: Wear your heaviest and bulkiest items to travel.

That includes the ‘just in case’ sweatshirt. Pack the sandals and wear the walking boots! This will keep the bulky bits out of your bag and leave more space for the essentials – and more importantly, your souvenirs.

DON’T: Pack your heaviest sweaters, even if you’re heading to colder climes. Lightweight layers will help you stay warmer – and they’re more versatile for mixing and matching. They’ll also take up less room than your chunky knits!


DO: Plan ahead!

Check the weather at your destination before you leave – this will save you from wasting precious suitcase space on sweaters you won’t need in the height of summer (but if it looks like rain is forecast, it might be wise to pack a lightweight rain jacket). Planning your outfits in advance (and planning to wear some staples more than once) is an easy way to see what items you’ll really need, and what you can leave behind. A good pair of jeans can suit several outfits for several days, whilst some smart accessorising can take a look from day to night without the need for a whole new wardrobe. 

DON’T: Pack entirely new outfits for each day, or bring your whole closet – you can wear the same shorts or dress more than once; I promise you, no one will notice. Make use of the amenities provided at your destination instead of trying to pack for every eventuality.


DO: Make your items work double duty.

One accessory to jazz up several different outfits? Check. A single makeup palette to do your entire face? Check. Two-in-one skincare for the all-important nightly routine? Check, check. 

DON’T: Stuff your makeup bag with extra brushes, lipsticks or palettes you won’t use. Not only will it take up more space, but it’ll weigh you down. By bringing multi-purpose products, you’ll save space – and if you want to go a step further, get yourself some reusable travel containers and decant products from full-sized bottles into smaller, more space-friendly ones. 


DO: Use your personal bag!

You’re probably already imagining the multiple uses for this bag on your trip – maybe you’ll take an oversized tote and use it as a handbag, or perhaps your hiking backpack is the perfect vessel to stash your important documents on the plane and your trail mix when you land. The personal bag is the ideal place to carry things you’ll want easy access to on the plane and at the airport, so it’s highly recommended that you keep medications, travel documents and any personal electronics (like a tablet, headphones or camera) in here.

DON’T: Forget to check with your airline before packing! Whilst many airlines allow a cabin and personal bag, some might not, or might charge extra for it – and they likely have different size and weight restrictions, too.

Would you travel with just hand luggage? Let us know about your best packing tips in the comments!

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Sammie White
Sammie White
A photographer and writer from an early age, Sammie now spends most of her time flying, writing about flying, or sat in traffic on the way to the airport. At Travel Radar she is VP of Content & News, responsible for leading all frontend content teams, including Editorial, Photography & Videography/Production.


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