Tips and Tricks: How to pack and take cabin (hand) luggage only on holiday

A guide to travelling light, by a girl who never does!

You’re looking forward to your holidays, thinking about what you’ll wear, what you’ll do while away and then it dawns on you…you have to pack!
It seems like a good idea when booking flights to choose hand luggage. Especially if only for a few days. How hard can it be?! And look how much you saved! But in reality, once you’ve chosen your favourite outfits, getting it into the tiny suitcase is much harder than you imagined.
You’re only taking 3 pairs of shoes, but they take up most of the space!

Okay, I must confess, I am awful at travelling light. I want everything with me, all of the time!
If I go somewhere for the weekend, even just to stay at a friend’s, I will bring a suitcase. A small one, but not as small as cabin luggage.  I have started managing with a large weekender (okay, it’s a holdall on wheels) plus a large handbag.

However, after booking cheap flights to Hungary without adding luggage allowance, I was determined to learn!
It was a great holiday deal, a 4-6 day trip, very cheap (check out so I didn’t want almost half going on extra luggage.

I’m very pleased to tell you that I managed it, with space to bring back more!

It was a 6 day trip, but 2 days were mostly travelling to London and then to Hungary itself. However, I still needed clothes for that! It was right in the middle of Winter, so I needed some warmer, space-taking clothes.

Firstly…the best thing I did was buy the right sized case. From now on, I can use this, and save on each journey. You can find luggage dimensions on the flight website for your journey.

I started by laying everything out on my bed that I’d like to take. Loads!
I had another look, and made sure that clothes would mix and match with each other, trying not to bring anything unless it was versatile. I put outfits together so I had a clear image of what was needed and the things I could leave behind. Except dresses, they’re allowed! The worst thing is shoes, I have to bring heels to go out at night, flats for walking around, boots possibly as it was cold, and I usually bring trainers in case we do anything active.

Okay, so deduction done, tbut I still had absolutely loads left to fit into a teeny tiny, Ryanair-worthy cabin bag (55cm x 40cm x 20cm – 10kg).

Even though I always bring large bags (because I bring so much), I am actually alright at packing, but this was a whole different challenge!

  • Roll your clothes – a tip learned and practiced for years. It stops the creases half way down your clothes and you will wrap them tightly, and manage to fit much more in than if neatly folding.
  • Make use of every space – if you are bringing boots, fill them first with underwear or t-shirts, or other light items.
  • Shoes in first – once your shoes are in, you can work around them, but if you put them in last, chances are you will need to rearrange. I know you think you need 5 pairs of shoes, but realistically, you need one nice pair and one pair for walking around in the day. However, I still brought 3!
  • Share – if you’re going with someone, I’m guessing you’d know them pretty well. So why not share things like shampoo, sunscreen, maybe even clothes that you can mix and match if you are similar sizes.
  • Toiletries – keep these in a separate clear bag, and make sure it is the last thing you put in the case, so that it is easy to get to at the airport. Do the same in a separate clear bag for jewellery, just in case, so you don’t have to go digging through your neatly packed suitcase/bag.
  • Wear lots! – in true ‘Cool Runnings’ fashion, wear as much as you comfortably can, especially when winter packing, as jumpers take up a lot of space in a small case. You could probably deal with 2 neutral jumpers or cardigans that go with a lot of outfits. Wear one on the plane, you can always take it off if hot. Also, wear your coat and a scarf. Even chunky jewellery – every bit helps! If you do want to bring a chunkier item, rather than rolling this one, leave it until last and fold it over the top, as if a cover for your clothes. This will flatten and take up extra spaces left over when you close the case, without ruining the shape. The same goes for a blazer or nice shirt.
  • Bring a spare bag – I use a canvas one, but it could be a carrier bag. This is for dirty clothes and washing. These don’t need folding nicely, but people tend to do it anyway when repacking to go home. If in a separate bag, you don’t need to worry about them and they will squish into most shapes
  • Bring a travel iron – I didn’t have one of these, but if you do have some room, and wear a lot of shirts or easy-crease clothes, it would definitely be worth bringing a travel iron or hand held steamer for a quick refresh.
  • Keep electricals at easy reach – I actually used my extra handbag to keep some wet2dry straighteners in (which are incredible by the way, hairdryer and straighteners in one!). I also put my charger, etc in there.
  • Use a plastic wallet for documents – You can use any folder really, but a plastic wallet is splash proof and see through so you can easily find documents. In here I put all boarding passes and information, transfer bookings, bus times for the journey, and my passport. It was in the front pocket in my suitcase (I locked both parts) so easy to grab. Especially when you need it every time you try to purchase anything in the airport – I just wanted some food!

In my handbag (check you are allowed one, and the size requirements first):
Wet2dry straighteners
Best jewellery – select few
Phone charger
Extra portable phone charger (see below)
Travel plug socket
Food for the journey – may not be allowed on the actual plane
Spare t-shirt – just in case of clumsiness or anything else!


Make use of your smartphone/tablet/iPad
I couldn’t choose just one book, and when I did manage, it took up some space in my bag. Space I didn’t want to lose. I found the Kindle app on my phone really handy for this. I didn’t want to take my tablet either, so just read, listened to music on Spotify (free if you don’t mind not picking the song!), and communicated using my phone.

Worried about battery life?
I travelled on a bus to the airport, which luckily had sockets – can you believe buses have sockets now, I’m still not used to it! BUT, I also have a very handy portable charger.
It is a Forward charger, a small black tube, fits easily into a bag or pocket, and works from a USB cable. Just charge it before leaving the house. When I’m out and my battery is going, I can get almost a full charge from it.

Take a picture/copy of your passport
I was very savvy and organised somehow, very unlike me, and took a picture of my passport – the picture and information part, obviously – just in case there were any mishaps. Losing a passport seems like something I could very easily do.

Especially important if travelling alone
Try to let somebody know whereabouts you plan on going or where you are each day. Keep people updated, even if it’s the reception staff.


Please share any of your own tips!
Travel light, be safe, have fun!

T x

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