Flying Cabin Baggage only - top tips from frequent flyers


Penny has taken two incredible city breaks recently with budget airlines, to Edinburgh with family, and Bologna with a friend – she reckons she has cabin baggage only pretty sorted,  but she asked the team to make sure, so here are our tips.

1.The first thing to do is read up on your airline, each one varies slightly and some allow you to bring more bags than others. Sometimes you can bring a handbag, but it needs to fit in your case if the plane is full – check carefully. A thin over the shoulder bag is great for keeping your passport and money safe while travelling, but if you need a bigger day bag for sightseeing, and the airline requires it to fit in your carry on bag, pack things inside it in your case or invest in something that folds up small. In Edinburgh we used the rucksack I used as a carry on as a family day bag. Some airlines allow you to bring a duty free carrier bag too.

Do get the tape measure out and check cases and rucksacks, it is boring, but research saves battles or disappointment later. As you can see from the picture they are all slightly different, Flybe to Edinburgh required a narrower case than RyanAir to Bologna.

Flying Cabin Baggage only - top tips from frequent flyers

2. Remember we always tend to pack more than we need, and that city breaks and holidays often involve shopping, impulse purchases or being near shops.

Penny says: In Bologna I didn’t wear any clothing I packed, bar underwear, as we happened to pop into two shops and I came out with two new tops. What a waste of space I could have filled with foodie gifts! In Edinburgh I was colder than I expected, a quickly bought thermal vest solved that.

3. Most hotels or accommodation have a towel rail, a dryer or a radiator if you need to re-wear something or kids get through more clothes than you packed, you can wash it in the sink.

4. Remember to leave room for anything you might buy, if your bag is already full before you leave, it is time to lose something!

5. Sharps aren’t allowed so tweeze before you go and be sure to take tweezers, scissors etc out of wash bags and make up bags. Losing a £20 pair of tweezers to the security bin is no fun.

6. Ditch your normal makeup bags and use small airport style plastic bags to save space, some airports insist that the bag is not overfull and can be sealed, my friend lost her deodorant to this rule. Some airports also insist you use their size bags, even if you have a clear make up bag, so leave time to decant stuff into bags. No aerosols and nothing over 100ml. Lots of places, including the airport sell travel size items, if you are flying in a hurry or want to avoid phaffing.

7. Consider what products you will realistically use while away, they may not be your habitual ones.

Helen says:  I max on hair products as hair can get frizzy and horrid on holiday, but I save space on makeup and perfume as I just don’t wear as much when I’m away.

Flying Cabin Baggage only - top tips from frequent flyers

Penny’s packing for 3 nights in Edinburgh, in one rucksack.


8. Roll your clothes to fit more in and avoid creases.

9. Plenty of loose thin layers are your friend, as are scarves, for packing light and for coping with changes in temperature.

Penny says: My Mum was right, vests are great, brilliant for layering under different outfits and keeping out drafts and for surprise hot spells.

10. Accessories are your friend, they might seem like an extravagance but they can transform your outfit.

Alison says: I take a statement necklace and glam flats as then I can pop those on with the t-shirt and jeans I was wearing during the day, for dinner/drinks at night. No need to take a whole ‘evening outfit’.

11. The pack three tops to one bottom tip works well for city breaks, for older kids and adults.

Penny says: I managed fine with just one pair of jeans on both trips, and had I needed to be really smart, a dress and tights would have been a good choice for space saving. Shirt dresses that can be worn over jeans or with tights are another great option.

12. Coats with big pockets are a great place to squirrel extra items on the journey, camera, book, sunnies, make up, kids toys, gloves, hats for cold places. You can always wear a heavy coat over a jacket if you need both.

Penny says: I thought I was an expert, until I saw a group of Nigerian ladies boarding my plane home from Bologna to London, wearing 2 hats, 3 coats and numerous belts each, they definitely gave me some new ideas for my packing arsenal.

13. Check if your accommodation has things like hair dryers or straighteners if you need them, and/or confer with travelling companions so you don’t double up.

14. For a city break you just need a pair of comfortable shoes, that work for the weather. If you take more than one, obviously wear the biggest and pack the lightest.

Penny says: I took my hiking boots to Edinburgh and never wore them, so for Bologna I stuck to waterproofing one one pair of ankle boots, and left room to bring home parmesan, balsamic and panneforte. In summer sandals or flip flops are a great solution for nights out or lazier days.

15. Choose outfits that are interchangeable, lay out all your clothes and case contents before packing so you can really analyse what works and what you truly need.

Helen says: I took cabin baggage only on a holiday to Mexico. I was impressed with myself, my top tip for planning your wardrobe would be to go with one colour scheme you can mix and match. 


Happy travels, do you have any tips to share?

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Flying Cabin Baggage only - top tips from frequent flyers

Image Credit – Shutterstock Travel