How to Pack Hand Luggage Perfectly – Part One

I haven’t written a travel post (or any – sorry work is crazy but I have posts lined up!) in a while and as it is one of my passions I thought I had better put that right. This post is part one of two, this first post shares how easy it is to pack for a two week trip with just a trolley bag and the second post shares what to carry on for long haul flights.  I love travelling and I love being organised, I also hate losing my luggage and being bored so I have hand luggage travel down to a fine art. Maybe I should explain those last two statements, I hate losing luggage so unless it is a ski trip or trans-Atlantic I always use just carry on and I hate being bored so I always have a range of “projects” in my hand luggage to keep me amused… These are my top tips on how to pack for a two week break with just hand luggage 

Speaking to friends in the gym recently I was shocked to find out that most of them still take check-in luggage for a week’s trip to the continent (mainland Europe). The only time I check in a bag is if I am going to the US (because I know I will want to shop A LOT there!) and skiing (I’ve yet to figure out a way to sneak my skis, boots etc into hand luggage). Yet everybody I spoke to wished they didn’t have to check in luggage (it’s costly and you have to wait to get it back….if it comes back), they also said that they always come back with clothes that they haven’t worn so here’s how I do a two week trip with just  a carry on:

1. Outfit plan:

It is highly unlikely that you won’t know what kind of holiday you are going on; relaxed beach, city break, walking etc so plan your outfits accordingly then get out everything you thought about wearing and put it out on your bed. Once you have done that look at what goes with what e.g. does that top go with two pairs of trousers, can that cardigan/wrap go over 2 tshirts as well as a maxi dress? (obviously not at the same time! For different outfits!) If you have items that only go with one specific outfit then remove them or switch them out for something that can double up. By using this method you should be able to have 2/3 outfits per item.  You can also change the look of the outfit by accesorising it differently as accessories take up less space.

Once you have been strict with what goes with what do an outfit count – going away for a week and still got 20 outfit options? Time to nix some. Here’s an example of what clothes I would take for a week’s beach holiday with some shopping/exploring days and evening meals:

2 bikinis
Beach cover up
2 pairs of shorts
1 day dress/skirt
1 maxi dress – very versatile, good for dressing it up at night for a smart meal and easily dress down for shopping or a cooler day.
4 tops/tshirts – these would go with both pairs of shorts and the skirt.
Cardigan/blazer/wrap – whatever went with the holiday (I might travel in a blazer anyway)
Enough underwear/underwear that goes with each outfit.
Flip flops
2 pairs of Toms (I could get away with one quite easily but they pack into nothing)
Possibly one pair of heels for evening OR a pair of smart flat sandles.
Accessories: scarf, bangles, bag, belts.

If this was a pure beach holiday with very little of anything else I would nix some of the tops and a pair of shorts and sub in another beach cover up. If this was a two week beach holiday I wouldn’t take much more, probably one or two more tops or another day dress (not both) but that would be it, I would also take a small bottle of travel wash in case I wanted to reuse something/something got stained.

2. Decant, decant, nix, decant – liquids!

Apart from the volume of clothes taken the other issue I heard was with liquids, so much like the first point, put everything out on a flat surface that you think you will need and then think again. Three different perfumes? Really? 3 types of the same hair product? Nope.

Once you have narrowed down your liquids get yourself a good selection of bottles, pots and squeezey tubes and get decanting. Here’s what I will take and what I take it in:

Shampoo – My Dad sometimes uses a shampoo that comes in 100ml bottles that are almost flat, these are PERFECT to decant shampoo into. Also 100ml of shampoo goes a long way (!) I can fill these bottles up and not do it again for 5 trips (including washing hair everyday beach hols)
Conditioner – I use thick, leave in conditioner so decant it into a tub with a screw on lid. Currently an ex sample from Clinique - always keep bottles and tubs from samples for this reason.
Sun screen – I use Piz Buin once a day, as I mentioned in this post, which does come in a 100ml tube but if I have a 200ml tube (often better value) I found great squeezy tubes that make it a lot easier to get out. However another option is just to buy sunscreen at your destination, less hassle and no need to worry about running out.
Deoderant – OK I don’t decant this but most roll ons are pretty small. You can also by solid stick deos which don’t have to go in your tiny liquid allowance.
Moisturiser/cleanser/face srcub – all of these go into little sample tubs
Makeup – When I am on a sun holiday I don’t wear a lot of makeup but anything I use gets decanted. If you ever shop in The Bodyshop, you can ask for free samples of their products and they come in very very handy little pots, ideal for carrying makeup.
Toothpaste- I pick up the small sample tubes when I go to the dentist for just this reason.
Mascara – When I remember to put this in my liquids bag (naughty me) it barely takes any room.
Perfume - Decant your perfume into a very handy tiny spritzer which you can also tote around in your handbag, these take up such little space that you may even get away with taking 3! You can buy them here.


3 – Pre-pack your liquids and get your own bag

Don’t be one of those people desperately trying to shove everything into the pitiful airport bags whilst also trying to shuffle around security. Just don’t! Take away the stress by having your own liquids bag (get the right size freezer bag), I use one that has a zip lock from an airport my dad frequents a lot. Have this easily accessible so you can whip it out of your carry on and into your tray and then pop it back in. This means you can pre-pack your bag and use every inch of space then breeze through security.

4 – Pack well

A trolley bag is a LOT of space so you can fit loads into it (not that you need to). There is a lot of different advice out there about how to do it but here’s what I do:

Shoes at the bottom: I line the sides of my bag with my shoes or if the are particularly flat (like Toms and flip flops) I separate them and place them in the grooves where the handle makes a ridge. I then fill in space around shoes with less delicate items like rolled up bikinis and rolled beach cover ups.

Once I have recreated a flat packing surface I will put in long items so if you are packing jeans/a maxi dress etc now is when it goes in. Don’t fold these items at this point, place the longest section on top of your flat packing surface and leave the rest hanging over each side of your case (length wise!) Now roll the rest of your clothes and place them into your case side by side until the space is filled in, then fold the rest of your dress/trousers over this layer.

5 – Bags within bags.

Finally your top layer will be, your liquids bag for easy access, electronics, jewelry, accessories and underwear. Each of these items should be placed in a dust bag to both make them easier to pack and keep them safe. I mentioned in my 101 travel tips post that you should always put underwear in dust bags to save your blushes at security/in case of baggage disaster and this is why. If your bag gets opened and you have all your possessions divided into dust bags, it is both easier to repack if you have to have a full search and security don’t have to paw through your undies if not!

Oh and just one last thing. For the love of all that is good in the world, please do not buy your child a Trunki. Possibly the most sadistic “travel” invention ever and one that your fellow travellers (who are fed up of being bashed around the ankles and tripped) will never thank you for. Plus if you’re giving a child that much hand luggage at such a young age, they’re never going to learn to travel like a pro ;-)

No to trunkis!#saynototrunkis

Happy travels!




2 thoughts on “How to Pack Hand Luggage Perfectly – Part One

  1. Hello!
    Thank you for your good tips here Gemma :) Just want to add, I pack almost everything in zip lock bags (you get them in various sizes) and vacuum it. It saves a lot of space and also makes things easy when you unpack. – Johanna.

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