How to travel with carry-on luggage: packing tips and tricks

Why pay the extortionate prices for checking a bag, when you can fit everything you need into a carry-on luggage? We show you how to pack light.

Do you remember a time when packing for a trip wasn’t such a big deal? A time when checked luggage was automatically included with every plane ticket? Yes, we do too, and when faced with ever-shrinking baggage allowances in the age of budget airlines, it’s hard not to look back in frustration, wondering where it all went wrong. But the fact of the matter is, carry-on luggage is now very much a reality.

With so many airlines charging extortionate prices for checked baggage, many of us are choosing to stick to hand luggage, even for longer trips. And in a lot of ways, that’s a positive. After all, we really don’t need to be weighed down by big suitcases when we’re away. And, if you’re honest, we bet you never even wear half of the stuff you pack for your holidays. It’s clear we’re not going to be getting any more baggage allowance any time soon, so it’s time to embrace carry-on luggage fully.

You need to have a few packing tips and tricks up your sleeve to be able to make sure that you can squeeze everything you need into your hand luggage, whether you’re going away for a long summer weekend to Lisbon, a wintery week in chilly northern Europe, two weeks in the south of Spain or are headed even further afield for even longer. Before you know it, you’ll be able to head off for an extended, long-haul trip to multiple destinations with nothing but 10kg of hand luggage.

Choosing the right carry-on luggage

Wherever you’re going and however long you’re going for, you need small luggage that will do the job. The best carry-on luggage for those who prefer hard-shell suitcases are made of a lightweight material and have plenty of pockets, compartments and straps so that you can keep everything organised. If you go for soft-shell carry-on luggage, then you should be looking for similar features, as it’s all about being able to compress things down and know where everything is.

The standard measurements for carry-on luggage are 55x40x30cm, but make sure you check with your airline before you fly. Also, be sure to double check if you’re allowed an underseat cabin bag and if the weight limit includes that item, so that you don’t get caught out.

H2: The best way to pack a suitcase is to start with a list

Before you start the packing process, you should take a bit of time to figure out what you’re going to take with you. One of the best travel packing tips is to lay out all the clothes you think you’ll need and half them, and then take the amount of money you think you’ll need and double it. You can’t go wrong.

Lay out everything you need to fit in your suitcase before you start packing, and then you won’t have any nasty surprises when you realise you’ve forgotten something vital and don’t have the space for it.

Use the best packing techniques

The best packing method for travel, according to lots of people, is rolling your clothes. You can also use hair ties or rubber bands to keep them nice and compressed.

On the other hand, some people prefer vertical folding, which is a great way of being able to see your wardrobe at a glance and can work well if you’re not going to be on the move a lot.

Best packing strategies: packing cubes

If you want to save space, packing cubes are the way forward. You can divide your clothes up in lots of different ways, whether you categorise them or arrange them by what point in the trip you’ll need them.

Vacuum cubes aren’t a great idea if you’ll need to be unpacking and repacking, as without a hoover to hand they won’t do their job.

Luggage packing tips: use pouches

As well as cubes, pouches are great for smaller items. Keep your socks, underwear, makeup, charger and adaptors or toiletries in separate (and waterproof in the case of liquids) pouches.

Packing your suitcase efficiently with no wasted space

If you can’t fit separate pouches in, consider using wasted space like the inside of your shoes, the gaps between your clothes or the edges of the case for socks and underwear. Small breakables could also go inside your shoes, as they make for great padding.

Minimalist packing: bring versatile items

The key to perfect packing is to make sure that everything has more than one use. Don’t bring any items of clothing that you couldn’t pair with at least two other items of clothing.

For example, one top should go with two bottoms, and every bottom should go with multiple tops. That way, you can create dozens of different outfits. It’s normally best to stick to one colour palette so you can mix and match.

Think about outfits that can be dressed up or down to go from day to night. Sometimes, just adding a scarf, changing your shirt or even just putting on a bit of red lipstick can be enough to transform an outfit.

During the colder months, an attractive pair of boots is perfect for both exploring during the day and going out in the evenings.

Focus on versatility and get real about the things you really do and don’t need and soon enough you’ll be packing a carry-on bag for a month-long trip without so much as blinking.