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Your Guide to Packing Hand Luggage

Elle Croft

Elle Croft

Long journeys can be awkward and uncomfortable at the best of times, but you can make life so much easier for yourself if you take care with packing your hand luggage. Experienced traveller Elli Croft has endured many a long journey and learned much along the way, and has put together a great guide to packing hand luggage to ensure the smoothest journey possible.

Suitcases

Packing the right hand luggage is really important as it determines your level of comfort on a flight and it becomes your emergency kit if your checked luggage happens to go missing (hopefully this will never happen to you but it’s better to be prepared just in case it does).

With airlines becoming more strict about hand luggage allowances these days, efficiency has become more important when deciding what to check and what to carry on.

Here’s my guide to what is essential, what you might consider packing and what you can definitely leave behind:

Essentials:

Don’t get on a plane without these necessities!

  • Passport (for international travel) and any other important travel documents
  • Personal essentials: keys (if you need them when you get off your flight), wallet, phone. Don’t keep these in your checked luggage in case they get lost or delayed, leaving you stuck in the airport at your destination.
  • Entertainment: whether it’s a book, Kindle, iPad, iPod, puzzles or magazine. Just don’t forget to charge your electronics before the flight.

toiletries

  • Toiletries: you really just need the basics; toothbrush & toothpaste, deodorant, lip balm, mascara and face wipes to freshen up. Remember to buy travel-size versions of whatever liquids and gels you want with you so they aren’t confiscated at security.
  • Spare clothes: I’ve had my suitcase waylaid without any spare clothes in my hand luggage, and it’s not a fun experience. Pack some spare underwear and at least one complete change of clothes appropriate to your destination, climate and customs, and you’ll be able to get by even if you have to go for a few days without all of your belongings.
  • Fragile electronics: Laptops, iPads, SLR cameras and other fragile electronic items you will definitely use when travelling. If you’ve seen how your baggage is handled, you’ll see why!  As with anything else though, unless you are certain you’ll need it, just leave it at home.
  • A pen: You’ll need a pen for filling out those landing cards before you leave the plane; you don’t want to be the person at the back of the immigration queue because you didn’t have a pen.
  • Toiletries: you really just need the basics; toothbrush & toothpaste, deodorant, lip balm, mascara and face wipes to freshen up. Remember to buy travel-size versions of whatever liquids and gels you want with you so they aren’t confiscated at security.
  • Spare clothes: I’ve had my suitcase waylaid without any spare clothes in my hand luggage, and it’s not a fun experience. Pack some spare underwear and at least one complete change of clothes appropriate to your destination, climate and customs, and you’ll be able to get by even if you have to go for a few days without all of your belongings.
  • Fragile electronics: Laptops, iPads, SLR cameras and other fragile electronic items you will definitely use when travelling. If you’ve seen how your baggage is handled, you’ll see why!  As with anything else though, unless you are certain you’ll need it, just leave it at home.
  • A pen: You’ll need a pen for filling out those landing cards before you leave the plane; you don’t want to be the person at the back of the immigration queue because you didn’t have a pen.

Consider Packing:

These aren’t essential, but might make your trip more comfortable.

  • Travel pillow: Travel pillows are light and easy to carry, so if it’ll make your flight more comfortable, pack it.
  • Slippers: I don’t travel long-haul without my slippers; they keep my feet warmer than socks and I can relax much more than if I’m wearing my shoes. The smaller and more flexible your slippers, the better for saving space
  • Snacks: Hands up if you like plane food… Exactly. If you’d prefer to snack on something other than reconstituted cardboard, pack some snacks like chocolate bars or flapjacks to get you through the flight. Just make sure you’re adhering to any applicable customs laws before you take any food on board (chocolate bars purchased in the departure lounge are usually a safe choice).

Leave Behind:

Pack these items in your checked baggage, or leave them behind altogether.

  • Large containers of liquids: Years after the liquids laws came into effect, I still see people trying to carry on huge bottles of cosmetics or alcohol. Save yourself the money (and embarrassment) and leave these in your checked baggage.
  • Your entire makeup bag: No one looks glamorous getting off a flight (unless they’re lucky enough to spend the flight on a flatbed), and I’m yet to meet someone who can apply a full face of makeup in one of those awful airplane bathrooms. Take the basics: moisturiser, lip gloss and mascara, and check the rest.
  • Multiple books: I have boarded long-haul flights with an arsenal of reading material for whatever mood I might find myself in, but inevitably I will read a few pages of one book before falling asleep or being distracted by a film. Pack just one book or magazine; you’ll save precious space and weight.
  • Excess anything: your hand luggage isn’t the place to pack excess shoes etc. that wouldn’t fit in your suitcase. Remember, you need to carry this with you through airports, during long layovers and until you reach your end destination. Packing light is always a better idea.

Expert Tip

Pack the items that you know you will use on the plane within easy reach. No one wants to unpack their luggage in the aisle of a plane just to find their slippers!

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