Tips for travelling hand luggage only

If you’re a serial over-packer like me, the prospect of travelling hand luggage only will inevitably fill you with dread. But with climbing ‘ancillary revenues’, or charging-passengers-for-pretty-much-everything fees, it has become a necessity to learn the craft of packing light. UNiDAYS are here to show you how to get the most out of a teeny tiny suitcase.

1. Buy or source the perfect hand luggage

Picture this: you’ve crammed everything you need into a miniature suitcase, only to find that your luggage holdall is too big. Hand luggage is usually limited to dimensions of around 56cm by 45cm by 25cm but do differ slightly for each airline. Make sure you stick to it or you could find yourself paying a large fee to check it into the holdall (all that cramming for nothing?!). Check out to find out the dimensions permitted by your airline. We recommend a softer bag as it will be lighter to carry and more pliable, so you can squeeze it into any space in the overhead lockers.

Easyjet said “We check bag sizes before you board. If they’re bigger than the maximum 56x45x25cm (including handles and wheels), they can’t go in the cabin and we’ll have to check them into the aircraft hold for a charge.” So BEWARE!

Once packed, make sure your bag doesn’t exceed the weight allowance for luggage or you’ll be paying fees! Hand-held luggage scales could save you a fortune in excess charges.


A lot of airlines limit passengers to one cabin bag on board. DON’T make the mistake of bringing one hand baggage and an additional handbag or laptop bag, ladies and gents! It won’t be allowed. And there’s nothing worse than having to squeeze your cute holiday handbag into your baggage only to find it is a crumpled, distorted mess at the other end.

To give you some perspective:

Ryanair now only allow priority boarding passengers to take two cabin bags on board free, for us other peasants it's an extra £5 per bag. Check-in bags cost from £35 to £25 per bag.

Easyjet only allow one cabin bag on board, however, there’s no weight limit - it just has to fit in the overhead locker. In a similar vein to Ryanair, you can only bring an additional under seat bag if you’re an easyJet Plus cardholder, FLEXI fare, upfront or extra legroom customer, or if you’re travelling with an infant (under two) on your lap.

BUT, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and some other airlines do allow a cabin bag and additional handbag/laptop bag. So check this before you fly.

3. Check your restricted contents

100ml only people! Liquids cannot exceed this, so avoid having to throw away that brand new luxury face moisturiser you treated yourself with only the other day. What a lot of people don’t remember is that all bottles must be stored in a plastic bag that holds no more than ONE LITRE in total. A lot of airports even restrict passengers to the contents of one small plastic bag only (provided at airport). So be super selective with your liquids and try to buy what you can when you’re through security - it’ll still likely be cheaper than paying for check-in baggage! As expected, sharp items are not permitted. Avoid having your baggage opened in front of an airport packed with people and rifled through with underwear flying about just so security can prize out that one pair of toenail scissors you forgot to leave behind. It’s not cute.

4. Off on a trip that requires lots of gear?

Even if you’re mountain climbing, camping or skiing you can still travel hand-luggage only by buying or hiring specialist kit on arrival. You can avoid baggage fees and help the local economy! What better?

If you must take your own gear, pay to store it in the hold on the outward journey, then hook up with a local good cause via and donate the things you won’t need anymore to schools and orphanages in the area rather than bringing them home.

5. Pack SMART

We all have that one friend who has no concept of packing. Instead, they just stuff as much as they can, crinkles and all. Besides this being messy, it prevents you from fitting in the maximum number of items possible.

One way to pack smart is to pack clothes into neat squares that will fit together like building blocks and avoid any air spaces that could be used for valuable packing space. It’s the one time being neat is an absolute necessity.

Even more savvy packers will roll clothes together. This prevents space inefficiency and reduced creasing. Lay jackets, shirts, trousers and T-shirts on top of each – in that order – alternating the thickest parts of the garment as you layer so you don't get an uneven bulge. Once piled, place a bag of socks or similar in the middle, and wrap each item round this core in turn. Who knew there could be such a science to packing?!

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