The Ultimate Hand Luggage Packing Guide

I bloody love travelling, I love jetting off, turning up at the airport in the middle of the night bound for new adventures, what I hate is waiting for hold luggage, so about 12 months ago I decided I would only travel with hand luggage. It has been a game changer for me, no more loitering waiting for luggage, no more lost luggage and best of all you can touch down and get straight on with your trip! I’ve learnt a lot on the way, so here I am sharing the ultimate hand luggage packing guide…

hand luggage packing tips

If you’re a hoarder of a packer, this might be a tough one, but take a deep breathe, grab a large drink and let’s begin! Trust me, if I can do it, you can too!

I’m just back from Toulouse and this year I am also going to Berlin & Lisbon so this is exactly how I pack and hopefully these hand luggage packing tips will help you too!

Ask yourself – will you really wear/use/need that?

If you are going away for a week, think honestly about how many different things you wear at home, do you wear a completely different outfit in every way, every day? Most likely not! So why do it when you go away. So think carefully about what you NEED to take. Same goes for accessories, shoes, bikinis, products, make up etc. If it helps, here is a list of things I took with me for a week in southern France.

  • Pair of jeans – that I travelled in 
  • Cashmere jumper – that I travelled in
  • White Converse – that I travelled in 
  • Denim jacket – that I travelled in 
  • Pair of light, linen trousers
  • Black, lightweight shift dress
  • Two t-shirts – one black, one white
  • Off the shoulder lightweight top
  • Two bikinis
  • Flat sandals
  • Underwear – pants for each day, two bras

These few items fitted perfectly into my luggage and along with a small bag of make-up only weighed 7.2 kilos – usually 9-10 kilos (worth checking with your airline about size/weight/allowance)

hand luggage packing tips

These items made up the following outfits;

  1. Jeans, t shirt, flats
  2. Jeans, t-shirt, converse
  3. Jeans, off shoulder top, converse
  4. Jeans, off shoulder top, flats
  5. Dress, converse
  6. Dress, flats
  7. Linen trousers, white t-shirt, flats
  8. Linen trousers, white t-shirt, converse
  9. Linen trousers, off shoulder top, flats

THAT’S NINE OUTFITS! You can then of course add the cashmere jumper/jacket to the outfit for chilly evenings.

Things you do not need for a week away include but are not limited to; 4 pairs of heels, a bikini/swimsuit for each day, a variety of handbags, more than 1-2 versions of anything. Sure if you want to take more that’s all good, but think about what you NEED not what you want!

Say no to travel toiletries

Travel toiletries are a swindle, cost a fortune and are pointless! Rather than spend 80% of the price of a full size one for something a 1/3 of the size, simple buy yourself a set of small online pharmacy ambien travel bottles and fill them with your products from home. Not a groundbreaking tip, but seriously saves you tonnes!

hand luggage packing tips

Amazon £5.99 | Boots £5.00 | Poundland £1 (obviously!)

It’s worth remembering that unless you are going to the far reaches of the world, there are supermarkets and pharmacies where you can buy deodorant, sun tan lotion, aftersun etc. No need to cart that all with you!

Rolling is NOT your friend

Some clever sod, a few years back, decided to spread the rumour that rolling your clothes takes up less space, they are WRONG!

Neatly fold your clothes, they take up less space that the same items rolled, trust me I have tried so many different ways to fully utilise the space I have and not once has rolling been more efficient!

Pack outfits, not just clothes

This might sound simple, but as you can see from point one, if you pack with outfits in mind you are more likely to pack a lot less. I would say that every item that you pack has to go with 2-3 other items in your luggage.

Think about what you are doing whilst away and pack outfits for that. If you are doing heaps of sight seeing you DO NOT NEED 4 PAIRS OF HEELS! If you are going to be doing loads of water sports, take more sports items and less dressed up evening ones.

Choose your luggage wisely

You’d like to think that hand luggage size and weight requirements would be universal across all airlines, but just as with women’s clothes sizing, it’s a minefield! So be sure to check with your airline for sizing and weight limits – these are the main ones;

Jet2 – up to 10 kg of hand baggage, restricted to one item per person. The item must not exceed 56 x 45 x 25 cm.

EasyJet – Size allowance is 56 x 45 x 25 cm, including the wheels and any handles. There is no weight limit on cabin baggage

British Airways – The maximum size of the handbag/laptop bag is now 40cm x 30cm x 15cm. Additional cabin bag should be no larger than 56cm x 45cm x 25cm . Both bags can weigh up to 23kgs (51lb) each.

Ryanair – 10kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm, plus 1 small bag up to 35 x 20 x 20 cm.

Then it’s up to you what kind of bag you go for. If I’m having to wander around before settling at my hotel or apartment then I always go for a roll along hard case. However, if I’m heading straight to the venue then I really like soft holdalls like the ones below.

hand luggage packing tips

Rose Gold Pull Along | Tan Holdall | Silver Hardcase | Black Moc Croc Holdall 

So there you have it, my ultimate hand luggage packing guide. So next time you’re stressing about paying a fortune for hold luggage, or what on earth you’re going to pack, stop and consider just taking hand luggage!

Let me know if you have other hand luggage packing tips!

Happy Travels!


  1. Mrs _moons
    22nd June 2017 / 7:40 am

    Fab tips!

  2. Ah this is such a good post, Emma! I too have decided to travel with hand luggage only and have done so for several years now. I just hate waiting at the airport for my luggage to come through when I could be on my way. I do sometimes struggle with what to pack though, even if I do manage to fit it all in, I take way more than I need. I’m lucky most of the stuff I take is thin and lightweight other wise I’d be screwed. The other year, I even went to Oz for 2.5 weeks with just hand luggage so long trips can be done too! I’m definitely going to take your advice of packing outfits though, it’s something I haven’t quite cracked yet but I’m determined to do on my next adventure!

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