Keep Calm and Carry-On: A Hypocrite’s Guide to Travelling Light


In January, an 18-year old blogger, Jordon Cox, proved that it has never been cheaper to fly when he saved £7.72 by opting to fly home to Essex from Sheffield via Berlin rather than taking the train. Budget airlines and cheap flight deals have opened up a range of possibilities for low-budget travel; so, an Easter break is not out of reach even on that student budget. Yet, with hold luggage costing almost as much as the flight itself in some cases, what initially appears to be a great deal can quickly see costs spiral. However, all is not lost. Spurn the cost of hold luggage and travel with just a carry-on and your travel dreams can become a reality… 

My friends will laugh at me for writing this article; as I am known for being a serial bad packer. From leaving it to the last minute, to packing way too many shoes – I have committed every packing offence in the book. This hasn’t been too much of a problem, until last year when a friend and I decided to keep the costs of a short-break to Florence low by travelling with just a cabin bag. The idea initially filled me with dread; but it’s a great way to save money and means you can skip the queues at check-in and baggage reclaim. So, as a reformed bad-packer (for now at least) I will hopefully be able to share a few pearls of wisdom on how to travel light.


1.) Invest in a good suitcase. Firstly, see the airline’s cabin baggage allowances to check the maximum size bag permitted. Then there are all sorts of choices to make: hand-held or pull-a-long, 2-wheeled or 4-wheeled, hard shell or soft-sided? I’d recommend a 4-wheeled hard case; because, although, they’re slightly heavier and have less give when it comes to squeezing in the last essential item, they’re generally more robust. Many also come with guarantees so look out for these to get the best deal!

2.) Check the airline requirements for both the size of bag allowed and for prohibited items. EasyJet allow one cabin bag with a maximum size of 56 x 45 x 25 cm including handles and wheels. EasyJet Plus customers can also have one additional under seat bag (e.g handbag or laptop bag). Ryanair’s requirements state you can carry one cabin bag weighing up to 10 kg with maximum dimensions of 55 x 40 x 20 cm plus one small bag up to 35 x 20 x 20 cm in size. Finally, British Airways allow for one handbag or laptop bag of under 40 x 30 x 15 cm and one additional cabin bag of under 56 x 45 x 25 cm. Also, note that all airlines require that you take no more than 100 ml of liquids through security.

3.) All airlines state that it is not always possible to fit everyone’s cabin luggage on the flight and that on busy flights you could be asked to put your carry-on in the hold; so, to avoid this happening get to the gate early. Note: this can get extremely competitive!

4.) If possible do take a separate small bag for essentials items you may need on the plane/in the airport as this avoids annoying fellow passengers by constantly getting up to open your case in the overhead compartments. My trick to beat the baggage rules here is to buy something in the departures lounge duty-free, ask for a plastic bag and then put your small bag of essentials (for me this includes a Biro & Sudoku/crossword puzzle book…) in that!

5.) To save space in your case, commit whatever fashion faux pas necessary and wear your bulkiest clothes and shoes on the flight.

6.) Now for the difficult part, deciding what to pack. Take a ‘capsule wardrobe’, just a few items that will go together and that you’ll actually need – don’t fall victim to the ‘what if’ mentality. With just cabin luggage, although, you may be tempted to pack the kitchen sink, you can’t, so be brutal. The general rule of thumb is put in your suitcase everything you want to take and then take out a 1/3.

7.) When it comes to packing to save space use the ‘fold and roll’ technique and put heavy items such as shoes (which you should stuff with small garments so they keep their shape) near the wheels.

8.) When travelling with just cabin luggage you need to remember the 100 ml liquid restrictions. Don’t pack that 150 ml bottle of perfume or after-shave or you’ll have to make some hard decisions just before security! Buy small containers for shampoo and conditioners from Boots or Superdrug; buy what you need in the departure’s lounge; or once you arrive at your destination.

9.) If all else fails and your carry-on is bursting at the seams/won’t close at all, then invest in one of those coats with lots of pockets and literally wear your possessions. The odd looks you might receive at having a pair of flip-flops poking out of your pocket will be worth it when you’re soaking up the sun and culture abroad!

Flying with just a carry-on makes travelling not only more affordable; but also much easier. You won’t be burdened with lugging a heavy bag around and, thus, will be in a better position to say ‘yes’ to opportunities and adventure! So, next time you’re planning a trip follow these top tips and you’ll be travelling like a seasoned cosmopolitan in no time…


News Editor 2016-2017 and History student. Lover of travel, fashion, adventure, good books and 'bad' food.

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