Tips for travelling with hand luggage (only)

With prices in excess of £40 to carry 15kg of luggage in the hold – it makes sense that many of us are figuring out how best to avoid excess baggage charges by packing light. Hand-luggage-only is no longer reserved for the business travellers and weekend getaways. With these 5 tips, you’ll soon be carrying your week-long holiday “haul” in one 10kg carry on case.

Purchase the correct hand luggage case

Luxurious hard-shell cases are all the rage right now, but let’s get one thing clear – hard-shell cases aren’t for the traveller who is desperately fighting to cram their week's get-up into a 10kg weight restriction. So, ditch the fashionista within you, and opt for a soft-sided case, that is still within luggage restrictions. Soft-sided cases allow you to fit more into your case, with room to expand, and also weigh considerably less than their hard-shell counterparts.

Make sure you check with your airline about their restrictions prior to flying, as hand luggage limitations vary from airline to airline. However, as a general rule of thumb, follow this guideline when choosing your carry-on case: maximum length 56 cm, width of 45 cm and depth of 25 cm, including wheels, handles and external pockets.

What to pack in your hand-luggage

Packing light often doesn’t register with the vast majority of us when heading on holiday. We’ve all fallen prey to packing far more than required, hairdryers and extra sandals somehow sneak their way into an already overflowing case of useless assortments. Ask yourself, honestly – do I really need all those swimsuits. The short answer, no – no you don’t!

Just follow this simple list of packing essentials which will fit into one 10kg carry-on case.


Driving licence
Boarding tickets
Bank cards
EHIC card


1 x flip-flops/sandals 
2 x shorts/skirts
1 x belt (wear on the plane)
2-4 x tops/shirts
1 x hat (wear on the plane)
1 x trainers (wear on the plane)
2 x dresses 
1 x jeans (wear on the plane)
1 x jacket (wear on the plane)
2 x swimsuit 
7 x undergarments 
3 x socks 
1 x dressy shirt 
1 x dressy trousers


Camera (or just use your phone)
Mobile phone + charger + earphones 
First aid kit 
Plug adaptors 
Essential makeup
Beach towel

Things like maps and guide books may very well be essential and if you’re concerned about not being able to get the correct guide content at your resort – then take photocopies of the pages you require at home and only take the pages you need. However, many maps and guide books will be available to purchase at your resort saving you both space and weight in your case. 

As you are only allowed to take containers of up to 100ml of liquid through airport security in your hand luggage, (up to a total of 1,000ml), then leave liquid cosmetics at home and purchase these either at duty-free once you are through airport security – or at your resort. Things such as shampoo and conditioner, sun lotion and toothpaste are all items that can be purchased once through airport security.

Fitting it all in

There’s a knack to fitting a week-load of clothes into a carry-on case, and that’s having a plan in place before you even contemplate the packing process. It goes something like this:  

Don’t fold clothes into squares like you would at home, it takes up too much space and ultimately increases creasing in your clothing. Rather, you should roll all of your clothes. You can fit more items of clothing into your case this way and it’s been proven to reduce creasing. 

Pack fragile items in the middle of your case so that they are protected by more durable items around the outside of your case, like shoes and towels. 

Wear your bulkiest items of clothing on the plane. Things like trainers, coats, jackets and hats. Airlines don’t weigh humans – so ultimately you can place as many of your items on your being and get through security without any hiccups. But remember, coming back from your vacation may not be as easy, wearing that same coat to the airport in 25 degrees doesn’t sound so clever now, does it? So really, what we’re suggesting here is only take what you genuinely need while abroad. Keep the coat in the car for when you get back!

When passing through security you must place all of your electrical items in a separate tray to be scanned. So, when packing you case, keep all of these items close to the top – so that when it comes to security checks you can easily remove them from your case without having to empty the whole case and repack again once through checks.

Weigh it up

Before leaving for the airport, make sure you have weighed your carry-on suitcase and checked the dimensions are in line with your airline’s restrictions. There are hand luggage holds before security to make sure your luggage meets the requirements – if you find it’s bulging in a few areas – then have a quick rejig of your items to make things fit in more compact. (You might have to wear a few of your items just to get through security.)

The cons

Recent articles have suggested that when travelling with hand-luggage-only, and in the case where the aircraft cannot fit any more cases in the overhead compartments, you will be required to check your luggage into the hold. In this circumstance, your hand-luggage may not be covered by your travel insurance. When travelling with hand-luggage-only the likelihood of your luggage having to be checked into the hold has increased significantly in recent years – with a Ryan Air Boeing 737 able to seat 189 passengers, but only able to fit 90 cabin bags in their overhead lockers. With this in mind always check with your travel insurance provider that your hand luggage will be covered in the case of it being placed in the hold.

Final tip

To start your holiday off the right way – park your car with Help Me Park.  We are passionate believers in great customer service, with the aim of providing the best possible Gatwick meet and greet service. We are pioneers of the welcome text you will receive when arriving at Gatwick Airport and the Help-me-park money back service guarantee is unique to the industry. Just drive your car to your terminal forecourt where your driver will be waiting for you in clear identifiable uniform. Hand your keys over and rest assured your car is in safe hands in our Park Mark safer parking accredited car park. 
See you when you get back!