Getting your hand luggage packing list together can be a daunting task, especially if you’re new to packing light! I remember the first time I ever had to pack hand luggage, did I have a clue what to put in there or how to get my giant bottle of suncream stashed in under 100ml? Nope!
The whole liquids situation is what makes things truly difficult, but with a little bit of compromise and a lot of creativity, you’ll be able to master packing hand luggage liquids in no time.
Now, packing for hand luggage can be tricky for many different reasons and it really depends on what climate you’ll be jetting off to. I often travel to Europe with hand luggage, as many of the budget airlines require a ridiculous amount of cash for checking bags. Plus, when you’re travelling on your own, you want to be free to move around quickly and easily and not be weighed down by a giant suitcase.
That’s why I’ve created two different hand luggage packing lists (yes, I’m just that helpful). There’s one for those of you heading to colder climates and one for those who are travelling to those sunny and warm places. So, take a look at my two hand luggage packing lists to start to master the art of packing hand luggage only!
Warm weather – Hand luggage packing list
When it comes to packing for warm weather, it’s not the clothing that’s the issue, as things tend to be small and light, it’s the liquids that cause a problem!
Top tips for packing liquids in hand luggage
Remember, many liquids will go a long way and a lot of things you can buy cheaper when you get to wherever you are going. As I’m extremely pale, I always make sure to get the Piz Buin 1 Day Long suncream, because it means I don’t have to remember to constantly apply it throughout the day. It is honestly a pale person’s dream, as all it takes is a few hours of forgetting to re-apply suncream and I’ll be blistered for weeks.
Having this suncream that I only have to apply once in the morning means I don’t have to take a lot of it with me, and 100ml is more than enough to last me 5-6 days away in the sun. For other liquids such as moisturiser, face wash and body wash, I like to put these in very handy and space-saving stackable jars. Remember, for things like body wash and body moisturiser, you can always buy travel versions of these when you get there or in the airport after you’ve been through security!
What clothes to take in your hand luggage
Packing for hand luggage only requires you to really think about exactly what you’ll need. This means fighting every instinct you have to put in a few nice tops so that you have ‘options‘. Let’s not kid ourselves, we all have our favourite items of clothing that we feel completely comfortable in, so just be honest with yourself and pack only the things you know you’ll end up wearing.
As for shoes, you want to make sure you have 1 pair for the day, something that goes with every outfit and that are comfortable to walk around in. Then, a pair for the night time. Most people will go for a nice pair of sandals, as they can be worn either during the day or dressed up at night. Versatility is key here people!
Should you take electricals?
I have to take my straighteners with me or I look like Monica from Friends when she goes to Barbados. Just a huge amount of hair flying all over the place. My straighteners are light, thin and easy to pack, my hair dryer, on the other hand, is a different story. I tend not to take one with me, simply because I know I can wash my hair the night before and let it dry naturally. Or, if push comes to shove borrow one off the hotel or hostel I’m staying in!
As for laptops, I don’t take mine when travelling for a holiday, but for work, I will keep it within a backpack, which usually I can take separately from my main hand luggage. Many laptops these days will fit in a hand luggage suitcase, so just make sure it’s properly protected from any bumps and hits it might take.
Keeping healthy and safe
Make sure you also have a small first aid kit with you, which has a supply of plasters, blister plasters, aftersun or aloe vera gel, antihistamine cream (in case those mosquitos get you), Imodium tablets, paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets. These are the essentials and will cover you for anything you may come across.
Cold weather – Hand luggage packing list
Now, for cold weather, the issue tends to be clothing, as our winter clothes are a lot bulkier and heavier than our skimpy summer wear. That’s why you have to be a bit more creative when it comes to choosing your outfits!
Tips for packing winter wear in hand luggage only
Think layers, lots and lots of layers. Depending on just how cold it is, you may want to take one warm coat, which you’ll wear on the plane rather than pack in your hand luggage. Make sure this coat is something you can layer up underneath, but also wear with your nice evening outfit and still be warm. Things like woolen coats are perfect for this, but if you’re going skiing, you may need to think about how far you’ll be travelling on your nights out!
If you desperately want to take an evening jacket with you, choose something like a leather jacket or something that is windproof, that you can layer up underneath and pile on a load of scarves.
Long sleeved t-shirts and thermal underwear are perfect base layers and are usually form-fitting enough that you can easily layer over the top of them, so make sure you’ve got a few of those in your list. As long as you have these base layers, you’ll be able to opt for lighter and thinner knit jumpers, rather than space swallowing chunky knits.
Stretchy jeans and leggings are a great combination as they are easy to fold and layer on top of each other (obviously the leggings underneath, not the other way around).
Accessories like gloves, scarves and hats can all be worn on the plane or carried in a handbag or easily stuffed in your hand luggage. Only take one pair of each, you don’t need options for this!
What shoes should you take in hand luggage?
I recommend wearing a pair of warm and comfy trainers for travelling in, this means that you don’t have to try and squeeze them in your case and gives you room for a good pair of boots. It also makes it easier to get through security, as a lot of airports only make you take off your shoes if you’re wearing boots.
I always take my Doc Martens when I travel to colder countries, as they are super warm and very comfy to walk around in. They are very chunky, but because the top part is flexible and can be squashed flat, I never have a problem fitting them into hand luggage.
Evenings out in the cold
Planning your evening outfits for the colder weather is not easy. Just make sure that you don’t sacrifice warmth and your health just to look stylish. Choose 1-2 outfits that can easily be layered up and swapped over. For example, a pair of jeans that goes with both tops or a dress that can be worn with leggings etc.
Don’t be scared to reuse items of clothing that you’ve previously worn as a top layer. You’re not going to smell, clothes don’t get that dirty that quickly unless you run a marathon in them, which I highly doubt you will be doing.
If you’re that worried about cleanliness, take a small bottle of hand wash with you so you can wash your base layers in a sink and hang them up to dry.
Do you have any extra tips on packing for hand luggage only? Have you mastered the art of packing light and want to share your wisdom?