After travelling for almost a decade to countless places, for me packing hand luggage has almost become an obsession. How to pack hand luggage in the most efficient way is almost like an art on its own. Why hand luggage? Because unless you move country (as in moving your place of residence), it is best to travel with just a hand luggage or two that you can always individually carry and handle without anyone’s help. For me whether I travel a month or a few days, my packing is almost identical, apart from a few pieces of clothing here and there. So here are my top tips:
1. Check luggage restrictions before you buy the tickets
Every airflight has a bit of variations so the first thing you do, before you even buy a flight ticket, is to check luggage restrictions. One rolling bag and one smaller bag will do for most carriers, if not all. I always carry one rolling luggage, and one other smaller back (either a backpack or a messenger bag). To ensure they both fit into the air plane cabin, the size and the weight must be correct. You can check here for individual carrier hand luggage restrictions.
Ryanair at one point had the most ridiculous restriction to force everything into one bag (you couldn’t even have an additional bag as small as a waist bag), but I think everybody hated it, and complained, and they have relaxed that a bit now and allow 2 pieces of small bags. But in any way, it is best to double check before you buy your ticket and again before you pack, because you don’t want to end up at the airport with too much and spend 20 minutes arguing with the attendants and lose anyway.
Neglecting to check the rules may require you to check in your luggage, which means you probably need to pay extra, and you suddenly have to move things out of the bag on the spot, because there are fragile or expensive items, and then you may forget those things and have them checked in, thrown around in the belly of the plane, expensive stuff stolen, and you weep at the end of it all. Avoid drama and surprises if you can, and be prepared!
2. Put electronics and important items in your smaller bag
There are two reasons for this. First, you need to take out computer and iPad out of your bags when you go through security check, so they need to be placed where it’s easy to take them out and place back. Secondly, sometimes when everyone boards the airplane, they run out of cabin space, so at the last minute you may need to surrender your rolling bag and check it in. It is a good practice to assume that you may need to separate with your bigger bag (the one that cannot fit under the airplane seat) at one point, so it’s better to be prepared and not store any important items in it, and have them in the smaller bag that is always on you.
Check here for my older post on tips about electronic gadgets.
3. Be smart with your liquid
I love how I got to be a lot smarter with my liquid. Yes like all people there were times when I ignored the “no liquid” warning and brought them anyway and had them all confiscated by the staff. Those days are gone, and so it should too for you! You can bring liquid, but they have to be put in smaller bottles. Make sure your all your toiletries are in containers that are 100ml or less. Remember that the containers must be 100ml or less, not only the content (you cannot bring 100ml liquid in 500ml bottle). And all of them together must fit into the provided plastic bag, which probably fits around 10 containers.
You can get the travel sized bottles and containers in supermarkets and the likes, as they’re more widely available these days. Ladies, just put all your skincare into these smaller containers, and do NOT bring them in their original gigantic bottles (Please! It saves so much space too.) For body wash, toothpaste, and shampoo — those that I think most people are less fussy about compared to skincare which can be very specific, consider buying the traveling size, or just buying them later at the place of arrival — avoiding all the liquid hassle.
Above I think are the most important points. For bonus tips, get the lightest rolling luggage that you can. Because of weight restriction, it is best if your bag does not take most of the quota! I have found my perfect rolling bag and it has been with me for a long long time (probably around 7 years or more). Lately it has started to wear out, but I have not been able to find something that is both as light and sturdy as my bag, so I have to push its lifetime a bit longer. A good bag is so important, that I hope you can find your own reliable bag, like a good buddy that travels along with you 🙂
The second bonus tips is do not bring anything sharp in your hand luggage, which seems obvious, but I had a Swiss Army knife confiscated once, and a sharp comb (does it make you wonder how sharp?).
Bonus Quirky Tip
I’m going to close my tips with one question: What is the one item that you do not need to bring when you only travel for a few days, but really need to when you travel for around 2 weeks or more?
Surprisingly your nails grow by a lot in 2 weeks, and nail clipper isn’t the easiest item to find when you travel in odd countries. As I said at the beginning of the post, my packing is almost identical whether I travel for a few days or for 20 days, but nail clipper is the one item that differs when I travel for more than a week. Is it just me I wonder? I cannot stand long nails.
Let me know if you have your own tips to share! 🙂