Here I help you avoid expensive baggage fees by sharing some tips and a hand luggage only packing list for a one-week trip in varying climates.
Hand luggage only packing tips
- Find clothes and accessories that mix and match. If a T-shirt only goes with one pair of trousers, it’s a no-no
- Multipurpose “dress up, dress down” clothes are a godsend
- Roll your clothes rather than fold them. It really does take up less space
- Laundry is not a dirty word. You can wash your undies and the odd T-shirt when you’re away
- Layers are genius, and help you prepare for temperature changes when you land back home
- Wear layers, your coat, and your clumpiest pair of shoes to the airport
The case study: one week hiking and exploring in Gran Canaria
Four days hiking in the mountainous interior of the island, and three days exploring the capital, Las Palmas. I wanted to be warm when hiking and – in the capital – not dress TOO much like a tourist.
I flew with Ryanair and Monarch from/to the UK. In both cases their carry-on hand luggage allowance was 10kg, and I was allowed a small handbag too. Info about exact dimensions of allowed luggage, weights etc, are on the airlines’ websites.
Hand luggage only packing list
Clothes – bottoms
1 pair not-too-smart, not-too-casual jeans
1 pair casual long casual trousers for hiking
1 pair three-quarter length cotton/linen trousers that work for either hiking or the city
1 pair shorts (remained unworn)
Clothes – tops
1 biker-style jacket for blending in in the city
1 long-sleeved fleece top for hiking
1 x thin wool jumper/sweater for hiking or the city
1 x thin cotton jumper/sweater
1 x long-sleeved T-shirt
4 x short-sleeved T-shirts (I only wore 3 of them)
Clothes – underwear
6 pairs underwear
3 pairs socks
Shoes and accessories
1 pair hiking boots (you can substitute for other closed-toe shoes/trainers as needed)
1 pair sandals
2 scarves for accessorizing and/or warmth, 1 of which could double for a sarong/beach towel
2 costume jewellery necklaces
1 pair gloves and 1 woolly hat. I always need ‘em!
1 bikini (unworn)
Guides / books
Assorted novels, chapter of the Lonely Planet Canary Islands guide (all on e-reader)
Pocket Spanish dictionary
2 x UK/EU adaptors
Apple Mac laptop and sleeve – hopefully you won’t need to take a laptop on your holiday!
Chargers for phone, E-reader, laptop
Small digital camera with fully charged spare battery
Toiletries and other – sometimes girlie – essentials
Toiletries, including small sunscreen, all in small bottles and in sealed plastic bag. Apparently the bag needs to be around 20 x 20cm (this was news to me – I’ve been flying with a bigger bag for years without anyone saying a word). However, if it’s a slow day in the airport some security folks can insist yours measures up (yup, I discovered this the hard-way. Jenga-style re-packing of my toiletries followed).
Basic first aid kit of plasters, antiseptic wipes, antihistamines, imodium, rehydration sachets
Small bottle of liquid laundry detergent (to wash underwear and socks)
Make-up (foundation, eye liner, lipstick, blush)
Hand luggage only bags
One small carry-on suitcase. Mine was similar to this one, by Antler.
Day pack rucksack for hiking purposes (you can swap for a larger bag or handbag for non-active holidays) and which needed to fit in the carry-on suitcase
1 large bin liner (good to sit on for impromptu hiking picnics, can be a makeshift kagool in case of a downpour)
Small handbag for evenings and for travel
Small purse/wallet with Euros and credit card, passport, European health card, travel insurance policy number and phone number, drivers licence
Bag for dirty laundry
What to leave at home – but which you could take when not travelling hand luggage only
Swiss army knife, razor – these aren’t allowed by security when travelling hand luggage only
Camera battery charger, microfibre travel towel, light waterproof kagool – to save space
Hair straighteners – I figured no-one up a mountain in Gran Canaria was really going to care if I was having a bad hair day
Extra copies of paperwork – eg a full copy of my travel insurance policy document, spare paper copies of passport photo page. I took a photo on my e-reader instead.
When not to attempt travelling hand luggage only
- A girls’ holiday. You’re gonna want a wider choice of shoes. And hair straighteners. And probably a variety of outfits for every casual / smart / glammed-up scenario. In all these cases, it’s waaaaaaaay simpler for a couple of you to pay for and share one check-in bag, and then each have a small carry-on case too. This also gives leeway for a girlie shopping extravaganza.
- Your first holiday with a new boyfriend / girlfriend. Ditto. You probably don’t want him/her to see you wash your underwear in the sink just yet. Or have a hissy fit at security because they want to confiscate your best make-up / favourite aftershave.
- A business trip of more than 4 days if your day job requires smart clothes. Trying to fit smart clothes, evening clothes, casual clothes, laptop and work files all in one carry-on is nigh on impossible. I’ve ended up taking more stuff on a 4-day business trip than I have on a 7-month round the world adventure.