Hand luggage tips

When travelling on a city break or a short trip, taking hand-lugage only will not only save you time, it can also save you pounds on checking in your luggage. However, to get the best value for money, be careful not to fall foul of hand luggage weight and size restrictions. Read our tips below...

Man putting a small suitcase into the overhead carriers on an aeroplane about to go on holiday

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What are the benefits of travelling light with hand baggage only?

1. It's quicker – no need to either join a check in or bag drop queue on departure and no need to wait for bags at the luggage carousel on arrival. Plus you get to the taxi queue or car hire rental desks before the rest of the plane you have come in on.

2. It's safer – you keep your bag with you at all times, therefore it cannot get sent to a destination different to the one you are flying to. It is not going to get damaged being loaded/unloaded and is not available for someone unscrupulous to break into and steal your personal items.

3. It's cheaper – you avoid checked-in bag charges which can be up to £130.

4. You'll experience less stress – you are in control of your things, not reliant on the baggage system and you can avoid lots of queues.


Our top tips

1. Know your limits - ensure you know the hand luggage restrictions for the airline(s) you are travelling with, especially if you are connecting from one to another or if you are returning on a different carrier. These can vary and this will affect bag size, number of bags allowed and whether there is any weight limit. eg  easyJet for instance will accept any weight as long as you can lift it whereas Ryanair is strict on the one piece, maximum weight of 10kg rule. Some also allow a piece of hand baggage plus one duty free bag – so you can buy items you need such as toiletries, water, guide books, magazine etc to your heart's content and place them in one carrier from the airside shops. Some airports such as Gatwick, Manchester and Heathrow also allow you to buy duty free and then collect on the way back – meaning that you never have to take the items on board, avoiding hand bag weight limits altogether. If you do have hand baggage that is over the limit, be prepared to have the bag taken from you and an excess baggage fee charged.

2. Buy the right bag – once you know your hand luggage size limit, ensure your bag fits within this.  Always choose a soft bag for carry on luggage (easier to cram into overhead bins) and it is lighter – giving you more weight limit for your items.

3. Only pack what you need – the tip here is to be ruthless. Make a list of everything you have to take and then be absolutely ruthless. The aim is to carry as little as possible and to use items you can obtain/find locally wherever you can. Clothing is where you can make a major hit – see note below.

4. Packing techniques – there are three main schools of though on packing techniques for small bags: rolling everything around a central item, folding everything into squares or bundling (where you bundle items around each other item into bundles).

5. What clothes? – Always wear any heavy items you need such as coats, jeans, hoodies, boots, shoes and belts. Otherwise stick to the concept of the capsule wardrobe as demonstrated for ladies by Gok Wan. Essentially a small number of pieces that co-ordinate to produce multiple outfits by all working together. The longer the trip the more creative you need to be here, however be sure you are going to need something – if not then do not pack it in the first place. In most places you can always buy something if you really need to get an item fast that you left behind. All clothes should be lightweight – many companies specialise in making/selling these and wrinkle free/easy care. This allows for less stress when unpacking a crumpled shirt/blouse and also means they can be hand washed at your hotel and worn again. If you plan to wash items at your hotel, you could use a laundry service or wash yourself – in which case take a plug with you as most hotel bathroom plugs are poor.

6. Toiletries – you need to obey the 100ml rule at present and decant items into small bottles that fit within one plastic bag for security.  You can always buy items airside or on arrival. Most hotels will give you soap, shampoo etc. Ladies (and increasingly the men) should try and minimise the toiletries and make up they take. Do you really need all of that? If so then use travel size bottles/packets only or buy locally. Toiletries can weigh far more than you think.

7. Pockets – use the pockets of your coat/jeans etc to take heavier items on board which you can transfer to your bag once you are on board eg phone charger, camera, books, and toiletries. Use pockets as well for travel documents such as passport, tickets, travel insurance, driving licence and money.

8. Phones/iPods/LapTops/Notebooks – these often start to add weight especially if you have multiple items and multiple chargers.  Be smart, can you download guide books/info/entertainment/games/music etc on to one item and just take the one with you?  Notebooks are smaller than laptops and if you are travelling for only a few days then you may not even need the heavier larger items.

9. Don’t pool your hand luggage – most airlines will not allow you to pool your hand luggage allowance across a party of people, so ensure that each bag is not over the limits where a weight limit applies.

Hand luggage allowances

 Provider  Hand luggage weight allowance  Hand baggage size
Jet2  10kg in one bag  56cm x 45cm x 25cm
 Ryanair  10kg in one bag  55cm x 40cm x 20cm
 easyJet  No limit but must be able to lift into the overhead locker unaided. One bag allowed  56cm x 45cm x 25cm
 British Airways  No limit but must be able to lift into the overhead locker unaided. 
 Passengers may take one bag plus either a handbag or a laptop bag.
 56cm x 45cm x 25cm
 bmi  No limit but must be able to lift into the overhead locker unaided.
 Passengers may take one bag plus either a handbag or a laptop bag
 55cm x 40cm x 23cm
 Virgin Atlantic  One piece up to 6kg plus a handbag  56cm x 36cm x 23cm
 bmibaby  10kg in one bag  55cm x 40cm x 20cm
 Monarch  10kg in one bag  56cm x 45cm x 25cm
 Flybe  10kg in one bag  50cm x 35cm x 23cm
 Aer Lingus  10kg in one bag  55cm x 40cm x 20cm
 Thomson - Flight Only  5kg in one bag  55cm x 40cm x 20cm
 Thomas Cook - Flight Only  5kg in one bag  55cm x 40cm x 20cm

Please note: Any facts were correct at the time of writing the article.

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