Apr 28, 2014

Posted by in Trip Advice | 36 Comments

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Hand luggage tips

When going away on a city break or a short trip, travelling with hand luggage only will not only save you time, it can also save you pounds on checking in your luggage, making your break even better value for money. However, you have to be careful not to fall foul of hand luggage size and weight restrictions. Here are the benefits of employing the hand-baggage-only technique and our top tips on how to make your journey as easy as possible.

Hand luggage tips

What are the benefits of travelling light with hand baggage only?

1. Quicker - no need to join a check-in or bag-drop queue on departure and no need to wait for bags at the luggage carousel on arrival. Plus you get to the taxi queue or car hire rental desks before the rest of the passengers you have travelled with.

2. Safer - you keep your bag with you at all times, therefore it cannot get sent to a destination different to the one you are flying to. It is not going to get damaged being loaded or unloaded and it is not available for someone unscrupulous to break into and steal your personal items.

3. Cheaper - you avoid checked-in bag charges which can be up to £160.

4. Less stress - you are in control of your things, not reliant on the baggage system and you can avoid lots of queues.

Our top tips for travelling hand luggage only

1. Know your limits - ensure you know the hand luggage restrictions for the airline(s) you are travelling with, especially if you are connecting from one to another or if you are returning on a different carrier. These can vary and it will affect bag size, number of bags allowed and whether there is any weight limit. easyJet, for example, will accept any weight as long as you can lift it, whereas Ryanair allows one cabin bag per passenger weighing up to 10kg, plus one small bag.

Some also allow one piece of hand baggage plus one duty free bag – so you can buy items you may need such as toiletries, water, guide books, magazines etc to your heart’s content, and place them in one carrier bag from the airside shops. Some airports such as Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester also allow you to buy duty free and then collect on the way back – meaning that you never have to take the items on board, avoiding cabin bag weight limits altogether.

If you do have hand baggage that is over the limit, be prepared to have the bag taken from you and an excess baggage fee charged. To avoid this, always pre-book an extra bag online rather than risk being charged at the gate -which will cost you more. For example, depending on your route and the time of year that you travel, you could pay up to £70 at the gate for an extra 15kg bag with Ryanair. That same bag pre-booked online would have cost you 50% less.

BA now offers a further option for customers on short-haul domestic and European flights from London. A hand baggage only fare is now in operation which is a low cost option for those not wanting to take checked baggage. The fare allows you to take one piece of hand baggage, plus a handbag or laptop bag.

2. Buy the right bag - once you know your hand luggage size limit, ensure your bag fits within this. If you can, choose a soft bag for carry-on luggage as it will be easier to cram into overhead bins and it is lighter – giving you more weight for your items.

We have teamed up with Flylite to bring you a special discount on luggage that is ideal for travelling with hand baggage only. Not only do you save on hold baggage charges of up to £60 each way on Ryanair if you stick to the 10kg limit, you can also save 25% on the price of these excellent luggage solutions.

Choose from a range including two sizes of foldaway cabin bags, two sizes of  trolley cabin bags or a rucksack for the cabin, as well as a foldaway wheeled holdall option. All of these are made of lightweight materials to maximise the items you want to pack.

Prices start from as little as £15 for small foldaway bags excluding our exclusive 25% discount offer and you’ll get a free foldaway rucksack with any order you make.

For full details click here and quote the code TSM to obtain your discount online or over the phone.

3. Only pack what you need - the tip here is to be ruthless. The aim is to carry as little as possible and to buy items you can find locally wherever you can. Clothing is where you can make a major hit – see note below.

4. Packing techniques - there are three main schools of thought on packing techniques for small bags: rolling everything around a central item, folding everything into squares or bundling items around each other.

5. Which clothes? - always wear any heavy items you need such as coats, jeans, hoodies, boots, shoes and belts. Otherwise stick to the concept of the capsule wardrobe – essentially, a small number of pieces that co-ordinate to produce multiple outfits by all working together. The longer the trip, the more creative you need to be here, however be sure you are going to need everything you pack – if not, don’t pack it in the first place. In most places you can always buy something if you really need to get an item that you left behind quickly.

All clothes should be lightweight – many companies specialise in selling items that are light, wrinkle free and easy care. This allows for less stress when unpacking a crumpled shirt or blouse and also means they can be hand washed at your hotel and worn again. If you plan to wash items at your hotel you could use a laundry service or wash them yourself – in which case take a plug with you as most hotel bathroom plugs are poor.

6. Toiletries - you need to obey the 100ml rule at present and decant items into small bottles that fit within one plastic bag for security. You can always buy items airside or on arrival. Most hotels will give you soap, shampoo etc. Ladies (and increasingly men) should try to minimise the toiletries and make-up they take. Do you really need all of that? If so, use travel size bottles or packets only or buy locally. Toiletries can weigh far more than you think.

7. Pockets - use the pockets of your clothes to take heavier items on board which you can transfer to your bag once you are on board (eg phone charger, camera, books, and toiletries). Use pockets as well for travel documents such as your passport, tickets, travel insurance, driving licence and money.

8. Phones/iPods/Laptops/Notebooks - these often start to add weight especially if you have multiple items and multiple chargers. Be smart – can you download guide books/info/entertainment/games/music etc onto one item and just take the one with you? Notebooks are smaller than laptops and if you are travelling for only a few days then you may not even need the heavier and larger items.

9. Don’t pool your hand luggage - most airlines will not allow you to pool your hand luggage allowance across a party of people, so ensure that each bag is not over the limits where a weight limit applies.

Provider Free hand luggage weight allowance Hand baggage size
Jet2 10kg in one bag 56x 45 x 25cm
Ryanair 10kg in one bag plus one small bag no bigger than 35 x 20 x 20cm 55 x 40 x 20cm
easyJet No limit but must be able to lift into the overhead locker unaided. One bag allowed 50 x 40 x 20cm will guarantee your bag can travel with you in the cabin. Hand luggage no bigger than 56 x 45 x 25cm is allowed, however it may have to go in the hold
British Airways One bag up to 23kg plus either a handbag or a laptop 56 x 45 x 25cm
Wizz Air No limit but bag must fit under the seat in front of you 42 x 32 x 25cm. A larger bag measuring no more than 56 x 45 x 25cm can be taken on board, but you will be charged a fee for this
Virgin Atlantic One piece up to 10kg plus a handbag 56 x 36 x 23cm
Norwegian Air 10kg in one bag plus small handbag or laptop 55 x 40 x 23cm
Monarch EITHER 10kg in one bag OR 10kg across two bags with a combined size no bigger than 56cm x 40cm x 20cm 56 x 40 x 25cm
Flybe 10kg in one bag 55 x 40 x 23cm
Aer Lingus 10kg in one bag plus a small ladies’ handbag/gents’ satchel/Duty Free shopping bag 55 x 40 x 24cm
Thomson – Flight Only 5kg in one bag 55 x 40 x 20cm
Thomas Cook – Flight Only 5kg in one bag 55 x 40 x 20cm

Last updated: April 28, 2014.

  1. Binta Kaur says:

    I’m flying with Ryanair my cabin case fits their dimensions but the small wheels and stand is outside those dimensions will that be ok for travel. The Ryanair website does not specify whether the dimensions should include wheels or not?

    • Paula says:

      If it is a It luggage cabin case (55x40x20cm) which is right borderline for Ryanair you should be fine I have read many reviews where people have taken this on board and been fine with it :)

  2. If your suitcase doesn’t fit in the basket at the check in desk they
    Will make you pay the fee to put it in the hold.
    My advice as above is soft bags so you can “ram”
    Them in the baskets… Sometimes they won’t even bother checking
    But if your case looks larger they will make you try!!
    Hope this helps! I’m going with ryanair on Saturday and I’m taking a rucksack
    As my suitcase exceeds by the wheels too!

  3. I was travelling to Ireland last year (Ryan Air). In the departure lounge the flight staff checking baggage sizes were visibly excited to find the girl in front of me had a bag too big for the measuring basket thingy.
    They were a bit miffed when I pointed out to the girl that she could just wear any extra jumpers etc. stored in said baggage and it’d then be smaller.
    It worked and she avoided extra charges.

  4. I love your tips about hand luggage! I had problems myself iwth checked baggage in the past, and then I picked the best lighweight carry on luggage here: http://www.bestcarryonluggageblog.com/best-lightweight-carry-on-luggage/. It’s way better – I don’t have to pay for checked bags and my new carry on works wonders.

  5. Hi there,

    Any idea on how strict Jet2 are on the ‘one bag only’ even if both fit in to the requirements?

    It’s only because we are flying out with Jet2 then back wit Ryanair so slightly different requirements.


  6. I’m flying ryanair and plan to take hand luggage only. Ie 1 10kg carry on and 1 small handbag – however the handbag is a couple of inches bigger than allowance, however if it is not full and I can fold bag in to the size will it be ok?

  7. Hi there, I’m going to fly with CityJet next 6th of Aug. I see that for my hand luggage the measures are 55 x 35 x 25 and 12kg of weight. I was wondering if it’s the same if i bring with me a really soft hand luggage, that is 33 x 35 x 59 cm, but I’m not going to fill it completely so the final measures will be very similiar to those for the rigid one, i think. What do you think about ? I’m flying from Florence to London. Thank you very much :)

  8. Caitlin says:

    Hi I am travelling with Ryanair next month to the UK from Germany. I am going to be taking a small case as my carry on luggage but I also want to take my laptop with me. Can I carry both on board or will the laptop have to go inside the small case? I know the weight limit is only 10kg and I am worried after I have put my laptop in the case I wont have much weight left. Thanks

  9. Hi there

    I.n flying with jet 2 next week and am only taking hand luggage. In addition to the small case, can I take a handbag too?


  10. Hi I am flying jet2 and just want to take a suit bag with me but it measures 50cm x 50cm is this too big ?

    • Hi there

      You don’t say if this is for hand luggage or hold luggage. For hold luggage you would be fine as long as you have pre-booked it and the item does not weight more than 22kgs. Hand luggage is 10kg weight maximum and must fit inside the hand luggage gauge which measures 56x45x25cm. If you can fold it into the gauge then you should be OK, however the two measurements given mean taht at least one of them is over without folding.


  11. It is cabin luggage x

  12. I’m flying with Jet2 for an outward journey and then Ryanair on the return. I have a small case that fits within the 56x 45 x 25cm for Jet2 although I am concerned about Ryanair! The bag is soft, so will squash down. Should I be worried about Ryanair?

    • As long as the bag can be squashed into the Ryanair gauge you will be fine.

      If its too big then you run the risk of being fined for an oversize bag at the gate.

      Have a great trip.


  13. Wendy says:

    I’m travel felling with my twin granddaughters that have trunkis on Ryan air they are very slightly outside the side by 1/2 cm will they charge me extre for the hold or do ryanair have a heart with kids

  14. Neville Fleming says:

    I wouldn’t risk it as Ryanair would charge Michael O’Learys Mother if she was slightly over the permitted measurements! Downsize the luggage or definitely you would be the looser!

  15. Linda Klein says:

    I’m flying home to the UK from Paphos, Cyprus, with Thomson, for the first time, in November. I usually use Easyjet, who allow you to take a bag of airport purchases (two bottles of spirits in my case, no pun intended) into the cabin as well as your hand baggage allowance. Do you know if Thomson allow this too?

  16. Caroline Bell says:

    I’m travelling on Flybe in October and I’m confused by the hand luggage. It is 10kg in just 1 bag or will I be allowed my lap top bag too ?

    • Deborah says:

      Hi, I’m travelling on Flybe too in a couple of weeks – on a “Just Fly” ticket. On that ticket and also on the “Get More” ticket you can have a max of 10kg in one bag only. Laptop bag/handbag have to go inside that 10kg bag. It’s only if you’ve bought a ticket in the most expensive “All In” category that you can have a laptop bag/handbag as well as a cabin bag. Considering that you also get a 20kg hold allowance with the “Get More” and “All in” category tickets then there shouldn’t be a problem in keeping the cabin luggage below 10kg but on the “Just Fly” I think it’s going to be a bit of a squeeze getting my handbag into the 10kg max cabin bag and also within the dimensions allowed. A challenge but I’m sure it can be done!

    • Hi there

      It is just one bag in hand luggage unless you have bought an ‘All in’ fare with hold luggage as well. On that more expensive fare you are also allowed a lap top bag.

      Check what type of fare you have, unless its ‘All In’ then you can only have the one cabin bag.

      Kind regards


  17. Hi me and my family are goin on holiday using Ryanair soon we have hand luggage but my young daughter (2years old) has a Disney princess pull along case which has small lights in the front of the case! Will this be allowed on board or not?

    • Hi there

      You should have no problem with this as long it fits within the size limit and the lights can be turned off if required.

      Enjoy the trip.


  18. I’m travelling by Ryanair with hand luggage only. I have a soft cabin bag with wheels size 54x35x20. Is the fact it has wheels going to be a problem?

    • Hi there

      As long as the wheels sit within the bag dimesnsions and it will go into the luggage gauge then you will be OK. Don;t overpack it and you should be fine.

      Good luck


  19. Marium says:

    M travelling to swtizerland via easyjet ..can i take hand bag with hand luggage …m not sure about it

  20. Howard Stapleton says:

    Warning to all Gentleman,

    If flying German Wings Gentleman you will be charged for an umbrella.

    Ladies don’t worry about your handbag, on the flight I was on this seamed not to be a problem.

  21. Hi I am travelling with Ryanair next month with my 8 months daughter and husband. We will be carrying cabin bag only. However I have read you are allowed to carry 5kg extra in another small for baby stuff. Does that mean I can carry my small handbag plus baby’s 5kg cary bag aswell? Also can I carry an umbrella as well?

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