How to travel with only cabin baggage


Imagine travelling overseas, for 10 days, with only cabin baggage. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought it possible. But now, not only do I know its possible, on certain trips I prefer it!

Arriving at the departure lounge and enjoying your holiday with only cabin baggage has some serious perks. Keep reading for my top tips on how to pack light!

4 Perks of only taking cabin baggage

Perk 1. It saves money… meaning you have more to use in your destination

The most obvious benefit of only taking cabin baggage is the cost saving. Many short-haul airlines charge additional fees for having hold baggage nowadays, anything from £25 – £50 per bag *each way*. If theres a few of you travelling, each wanting a bag, then it soon makes those bargain flights pretty expensive!

Perk 2. Its easier to travel between destinations when you’ve less to carry

Both bags - cabin baggage only

Rucksack on my back, handbag on my shoulder… what more could I want?!


If you’re moving around during your holiday it can be a pain un-packing and re-packing a large case. Then, theres also carrying/dragging it.

On our ten day Italian trip last summer (where we stayed in three locations), I found having one rucksack so much easier than a full case! Here I am walking through Rome carrying EVERYTHING I took for a 10 day holiday. Of course most of the time the luggage is in your room, but on the days you’re changing hotels its so much easier if you’re able to carry your luggage.



Perk 3. Less waiting in the airport

Without hold luggage theres no need to get to the airport super early as you can head straight to security and avoid the bag drop. At your destination, theres no need to hang around the baggage carousel either.

On our trip to Dubai last year, where we did take a suitcase, we waited an hour for the luggage to be taken off the plane and onto the carousel! I’d have much preferred to have spent that time by the pool or exploring downtown Dubai.

Perk 4. Less washing when you get home!

I find even when travelling light theres items that don’t get worn and come back clean. But then they usually end up going through the washing machine anyway to freshen them up! By taking less, the un-packing when you’re home is much easier and so is the washing and ironing!

So, leaving the hold luggage at home makes travel cheaper, easier and faster!

What bag(s) to take?

Cabin bag:

My cabin baggage

Check with your airline in advance of your flight their rules for cabin baggage. Each airline allows different dimensions, weights and has different rules on guaranteeing your luggage wont be put in the hold (even if it is put into the hold, you shouldn’t be charged so long as you’re within the dimension and weight limits).

Next you should consider whether you want a pull along little suitcase or a backpack. If I’m staying in one hotel for the entire trip, then I’ll usually take a small carry on case. Whereas I find backpacks are best if you’re likely to have your luggage with you for long periods.

Mine is a Herschel ‘Little America’ backpack (see pic). I’ve used it on day hikes in California packed everything into it for a 10-day trip to Italy, used it as my main bag when visiting family in the Canaries, as well as for UK weekends away.

Extra bag?

Most airline allow a separate handbag as well as your cabin bag, but always check with your airline before you go! I take a small handbag with me that has a long strap so can go across my body. Then I use this as a day and evening bag when on holiday.

Fossil Bag

Again, try to take outfits and shoes that mean you can use the same bag each day and evening, cutting down on items you need to pack. This bag is probably 3 years old now, but you’d never know it! Its from Fossil and made of really good leather. I take it on all my trips as its the perfect size to fit in essentials (phone, matching purse and sunglasses).

My top tips for packing light

Packing light isn’t easy if you’re used to taking a 20kg case! Here’s my top tips for packing light:

Limit your shoes: Often they’re the bulkiest items you need to pack. Typically I take a pair of trainers (for exploring/walks and working out), flat sandals for the day time and a pair of shoes for the evening. Pick evening outfits that all go with one pair of shoes (or your day shoes). Wear your bulkiest pair, often trainers, on the plane to save even more room.

Take items that can be re-purposed and mix-matched. I find cami tops really versatile when visiting hot countries. I’ll often wear one in the evening one night for dinner and then with shorts the following day. This limits the amount of clothes you need to take.

– Choose items that don’t crease so easily. This is especially important if going for the backpack option. I find its better to roll clothes when packing a backpack, but they can still crease. Packing clothing that doesn’t crease so easy will always make travel easier. As an alternative, straighteners can be used as an emergency iron if the room doesn’t have one!

-Don’t pack a hairdryer. Check in advance, but most hotels will have a hairdryer in the room. This saves so much space and weight from your cabin baggage. I have long hair and have always found that hotel hairdryers have been adequate enough. I do always pack my straighteners though as I’m yet to find a hotel that provides them. Thankfully they take up much less room.

Limit your liquids – you’ll only be allowed to take a small liquids through security and they must fit into a resealable plastic bag. Get all you’re essential liquids together as you pack (foundation, mascara, face wash, moistouriser etc), ensure they’re under 100ml and put them into a plastic bag. You’re allowed 10 max. Put these into the top of your luggage last, as you’ll need to get them out at airport security. Anything that doesn’t fit into the bag buy when you’re through security; shampoo, conditioner, deodorant etc. Be sure to leave a little room in your luggage for these.

– Ask yourself ‘Do I really need it?’ If you’re not sure that you’ll wear something, you probably don’t need it. Leave it at home and thank yourself later 🙂


When NOT to travel with cabin baggage only

There’s the occasional trip where I wouldn’t advocate travelling only with cabin baggage… winter holidays! If you’re visiting the slopes or hoping to see the Northern lights, chances are you’ll need numerous jumpers, layers, thick coats and scarves. These are never going to fit into your cabin baggage, so its worth shelling out on a hold bag. Thats just what I’ did for my trip to Iceland ✈


Hopefully, if you follow these tips you’ll find packing light a breeze and be enjoying easier, faster travel in no time (and with extra £$€ to spend as a result!)



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