Tips and Tricks To Pack Everything You Need For A Holiday In Your Hand Luggage

Updated 7 November 2019 | by Nakita Mason

The benefits of only using hand luggage only for your holidays are endless. Not only is it so much easier to have one bag to cart around as you make your way to your villa or apartment, but it’s also cheaper, safer and saves you from the seemingly endless unpacking ordeal when you get home!

But can you really go on a substantial holiday with JUST hand luggage?

Sure, and with a little bit of can-do attitude and a whole lot of harsh culling of clutter, you too can delight in the joy of a hand luggage only life!

Trick 1: Choose The Right Bag


This is a biggie. Choose the wrong bag and the rest of this list may as well be used for fish and chip paper (assuming that’s a metaphor we can still use in a ceaselessly digital world?), so choose wisely. The main thing you’re looking for is a soft bag. Soft, material bags allow for squidging and stuffing, they’re forgiving of our plight and make room where there shouldn’t be room, much like Mary Poppin’s Bag did so diligently back in the day.

Personally I like a classic holdall with side pockets and a long strap, leaving me hands free and fancy, but the nifty hybrid bags that can be both holdall and backpack are also perfect for travelling and are well worth considering.

Trick 2: Don’t Let Those Chunky Beach Bags Seduce You

woman with bag

I know they’re pretty and I know you’re imagining yourself cutting quite the figure, with large sun hat on your head and that tropical-patterned bag slung over your shoulder, but just back up a second (or should I say BAG up a second....ok I'm going to assume you're laughing).

Anyway, the thing about your trendy beach bag is it’s likely heavy with chunky material and if the aim of the game is to have all you need in your hand luggage, then this is space that’s seriously being misused. Now don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you just throw a bin bag in there and call it quits, but what I am saying is there is a pleasant middle ground here.

And that, friends and neighbours, is the classic tote bag. They can be large and strong, with cute designs, and fold up as small as a pair of thongs in your bag. Magic, right?

Trick 3: If You’re Packing A Towel, Make It A Travel Towel

hedgehog in towel

Towels have a lot to answer for, they are obnoxiously large and take up room like it’s their job. Often, in a fit of despair I have been known to fling mine against the wall during packing and declare “who needs to be dry anyway! You don’t see seals worrying about being dry every time they leave the water, do you? Well do you?!

Of course, this is crazy talk. 

Thankfully, it need not be this way. Travel towels have come a long way since the early days of having the absorbency of a hedgehog not to mention the same level of scratchiness. Nowadays travel towels are small, absorbent and a joy to use.

Trick 4: Forget the ‘Just In Case Items’

woman and wellie

Look, if you aren’t going to wear those extra short shorts now, you sure as snot aren’t going to wear them in sunny Spain. Just like you won’t wear the dress you think makes you look like a cabbage but you can’t bear to throw away and just like the top that’s so your colour but practically suffocates you every time you sit down in it.

No, just don’t bother. It’s a fact, universally acknowledged, that you end up in the same three garments on holiday no matter how many ‘just in case items’ you pack.

What you need in reality is one jumper, three tops, some shorts and maybe a dress or two if that’s your style and some swimwear. Plus the more multi-use these items are, the better.

And let’s not forget footwear. Footwear is the biggest killer to your packing plans so be frugal. As with all your bulkiest items, they should be worn on your way to your destinations, so if you must take knee high boots, then they need to be on your feet during takeoff. As for trainers and flip flops, they can get squidged into your bag.

Oh and pants. Lots of pants. The rule of thumb is three pairs for every one day of holiday, though the reasons to this are scant, all we know is it is a law to be adhered to.

Trick 5: Just Roll with It


Until you try this, you’ll be sceptical. I quite understand, but the time for that is over, because if you want to make your hand luggage stretch to a two-week jaunt, then rolling is going to be a vital part of your plan.

If you’re a camper as well as a holiday lover, you’ll notice that all camping equipment comes in rolls. Your tent, your sleeping bag, waterproofs. All rolled to make them as small as possible. The camping community did away with folding items back in the stone ages, along with enjoying a solid roof over their head or eating anything other than beans from a travel-tin.

But I digress.

The point isif you roll all your garments when packing then you’ll discover two magnificent things. Firstly, creasing becomes much less of an issue (hooray) and  secondly you can fit a shed load more into your bag (double hooray).

To fully make use of this, be sure to pack all your solid items first as this allows you to fit your cloth rolls around them snuggly, making the best use of the space.

Trick 6: Ditch The Make Up Bag

too much makeup

As someone who has an armada of products on a normal day, I’ve come to realise I don’t care for makeup at all on holiday beyond the basics and even then, it’s rare. So while you MIGHT need that glitter tube for a night out, or three different types of primer, or seven different shades of eyeliner gel, the truth is a good chunk of this will lay dormant for the entirety of your trip because you’re too busy necking pina coladas to care about doing a full face of makeup every day. And honestly, that’s the joy of it.

If you’re like me and can’t fully be parted with your warpaint though, then stick to a few basics, foundation, mascara, blush and perhaps an eyeliner if you’re feeling fancy. More important here is to use the space for things you really would miss, like moisturiser and cleanser.

Loads of room saved plus your skin gets a break too, hurrah!  

Trick 7: The Important Bits

crazy woman

To make sure you breeze through security and make all your hard work worth it, make sure toiletries and electronics etc, are easily accessible and already in transparent bags where necessary. There’s nothing worse than to be frantically rifling through your meticulously packed bag in search of your toiletries and having your pants fall out everywhere and your neatly rolled clothes unravel about the place.  

For the exact same reasons, also have your travel documents in an easy to reach place, because if there’s one way to have a flight of self-loathing, it’s to hold up the queue as you shout “Hang on! It all fits in honest! I read this blog and it told me how to make it possible, you should read it too in fact, it’s fantastically informative and useful”…

Or so we imagine anyway. Happy travels!

Ready to go? We have holiday properties worldwide