Travel with hand luggage only

Hand luggage only - Backpack

On a recent trip to South Africa I wanted to see if I could pack for a week using hand luggage only. I did this successfully using a cabin sized backpack and a small carry bag. British Airways hand baggage allowance allows you to travel with 2 pieces of luggage. The handbag/laptop bag dimensions are up to 45cm x 36cm x 20cm and the cabin bag dimensions are up to up to 56cm x 45cm x 25cm. The older I get, the less “fashion conscious” I’ve become. That doesn’t mean I no longer like to dress nicely, it just means I’ve learnt to travel with less and with clothing that’s more versatile and multi-purpose. The reason I’ve learnt to travel smarter is particularly for European flights as the budget airlines charge fees for checking in luggage. I know these packing tips may not be applicable to everyone so if all else fails then check in your luggage. The tips I have learnt can also be applied to packing for weekend trips.

How to pack for a weekend trip or 7 days

  • Check the weather forecast in advance so that you can plan your wardrobe
  • Before packing, lay out your clothing so that you can see what you’re thinking of wearing
  • Choose outfits only for the required number of days and maybe one extra top or t-shirt if there’s space. Sorry – no space for “just in case, what-if’s” anymore 😉
  • Choose lighter clothes rather than heavy clothes
  • Choose your footwear to go with the outfits. If you’re packing for a beach holiday you could probably get away with 2 or 3 pairs of sandals. If the shoes are bigger and heavier then besides for the pair you’ll be wearing to the airport you’ll probably only be able to pack another 2 pairs of shoes. I am aware this is dependant on your shoe size.
  • If you know there’ll be laundry facilities available then you could pack less clothes as you’ll be able to wash dirty undies and clothes
  • Roll the clothes up rather than fold it before packing. You want to reduce the amount of gaps and air in your bag.
  • Fit socks into shoes
  • Don’t take a hairdryer with you if you’re staying at a hotel or if you know that there’ll be a hairdryer to use at your destination
  • Use travel size toiletries meaning bottles or containers less than 100ml
  • Don’t take every lotion and potion that you own. Only take the required toiletries. Or otherwise wait till you get past security then you can buy a few extra items.
  • Place your travel size toiletries into a standard size ziploc sandwich bag. You’ll probably only be able to fit about 8-10 bottles into it.
  • Use a passport wallet to hold all your travel documents, cards and foreign currency in one place. I find this a lot easier than having to scratch through my handbag at the airport.

Hand luggage toiletries

My basic packing list for this recent trip

  • 2 pairs of jeans, 1 black and 1 dark blue
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 8 t-shirts/tops
  • Socks and undies for 7 days + an extra pair of bottoms and socks
  • A thin cardigan
  • A fleece zip up top
  • A denim shirt for layering
  • 2 pairs of tackies(sneakers) and 1 pair of heels/pumps
  • Occasion dress
  • GHD – hair straightener
  • A small cross body bag
  • Phone charger and international plug

Packed backpack

Packing in smaller luggage means

  • You can go straight to security and the departure gates if you’ve already got your e-ticket
  • You unfortunately won’t be able to take gifts for people or buy extra things which prevents you from spending unnecessarily
  • You won’t have to wait for your luggage upon arrival meaning you’ll get out of the airport quicker and on your way to your destination sooner 😉

Obviously your travel destination also influences your clothing decisions and so this may not be possible for cold weather destinations where you might need a lot of bulky and thick clothing. This does work well for beach holiday destinations. If checking in your luggage is unavoidable perhaps my suggestions may at least prompt you to think about travelling with less. After all why not try travelling lighter and smarter!? 🙂


  1. 19th July 2016 / 8:02 AM

    Awesome…..I have a few trips planned and this will be my go to list when I’m packing. Cheers 👍🏼

    • 19th July 2016 / 8:18 AM

      I’m glad you found the post useful! 😃

  2. 20th July 2016 / 4:37 AM

    Completely agree with you! We travelled to the States last year for three weeks on hand luggage alone – it wasn’t easy, but it IS very doable! Walking all those streets and rushing to jump onto subways and busses is not fun with heavy bags. We packed very light and followed most of your tips – including rolling clothes, stuffing socks into shoes, etc. The only thing I wish I’d packed was a warmer jacket for those days walking over bridges… even in the middle of summer, you just never know. Such a great list – thank you for sharing. 🙂

    • 20th July 2016 / 6:29 AM

      Hi Melanie, now that is impressive – travelling for 3 weeks around the States with hand luggage only! Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

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