How to Pack for a Holiday with Just Hand Luggage

Gone are the days when a trip with just hand luggage was only for business travellers or short city breaks! With a few simple packing hacks, it's surprisingly easy to head off for a week (or even longer!) using just hand luggage. Check out our tips to see how you can comfortably fit everything you need into your carry-on.

There are many advantages to going on holiday without checking any luggage into the hold. Most of our package prices give you the choice to add hold luggage or not, so you could save yourself money by not checking in any additional suitcases... you could even use that bit of your budget for an airport lounge or extra legroom, or even an upgrade and really get your holiday off to a great start.

Taking just hand luggage also saves you time at the airports. You'll probably be checking in online anyway, and without hold luggage you can avoid the desk and bag-drop queues altogether and head straight to security. Then, once you land at the other end, there’ll be no need to wait for your cases to appear on the baggage carousel. And, apart from anything, the less you take with you, the easier it is to get from place to place. Nobody wants to feel like a packhorse on holiday!

Use the Right Bag

Suitcases in the airport

You might be tempted to take hard-sided, wheeled cases for your hand luggage, but these can often be quite heavy. They also don't have much 'give' for fitting more of your essentials in, or squishing them into a restricted cabin space on the plane. Instead, opt for a soft-sided bag such as a hold-all or, even better, a soft-sided bag on wheels.

Be sure to check the size and weight restrictions for the airline you are travelling with. Lots of airlines have different cabin bag options too, which is perfect if you want a bigger hand luggage allowance – for most of the flights we sell, you can pick from what's available when you're making your booking. And remember, if you're flying with more than one airline, they're likely to have different limits, so check both and work to the smaller of the two!

Wear Your Heaviest Clothing

Obviously, the warmer the place you're travelling to, the less space you'll need for clothes as they will be lightweight and you won't need to take any thick-knit jumpers. But if you're going somewhere that could get cool either in the day or, more likely, in the evening, travel in trousers or jeans (which can weigh a bag down), a hooded top and a jacket if you need it.

Bonus hack: your jacket will also be handy for carrying items in the pockets – especially heavier things that could weigh your luggage down. Airlines might weigh your luggage, but they don’t weigh you!

Roll, Don’t Fold

To save space and avoid creases, it’s best to roll clothes instead of folding them – you’ll be surprised at how much more you can fit in. Plus, tuck underwear and swimwear into the corners of your bag and put rolled-up socks inside shoes to save even more space.

Be Ruthless with Clothing

Whatever clothes you get out ready to pack for your holiday, get rid of at least a third of them – you just won’t need them. If you are travelling somewhere hot, chances are you'll spend a lot of the time in your swimwear, so you won’t need a pair of shorts and a clean top for every day. It’s okay to wear clothes more than once if you only have them on for a couple of hours in the first place. Nobody is going to judge you, especially not on holiday!

Don’t Pack Unnecessary Items

Packing for a holiday

Don’t pack things that will be provided for you at your destination, for example, a hairdryer or towels. There’s no point carrying extra weight and using up valuable space for things that are easily available to you once you reach your destination.

The hotel is also likely to provide shampoo, conditioner and shower gel too, which will also help you with liquid restrictions. Speaking of which, remember you'll only be able to take 100ml bottles of liquid, sealed in a clear plastic bag in your hand luggage, so either take travel-size bottles or buy things such as toiletries and sun cream once you get to your resort. (It's often cheaper to do this anyway.)

Suggested Packing List for a Week in the Sun


– Passport (of course!)

– Travel insurance details

– Tickets/booking confirmations – flights, accommodation etc.

– Bank cards, cash and holiday money


– Hoody/cardigan/light jacket for cool evenings (can be worn to travel in)

– Scarf/overshirt – can be used for warmth in the evenings or as a cover-up at the beach

– Trousers x 1 or 2 – men are likely to need long trousers for evening meals (can be worn to travel in)

– Closed-toe shoes (can be worn to travel in)

– Sun hat (can be worn to travel in, to avoid damage)

– Shorts x 2

– Day tops x 4

– Lightweight evening outfits x 5 – non-crease dresses or shirts

– Swimwear x 2

– Underwear x 7 – these take up little room, so there's no need to cut back on such essentials!

– Flip flops/sandals

– Socks x 3 – only if you need them for the shoes you're taking

– Nightwear x 1

Toiletries and Medication

– Toothbrush and small toothpaste

– Small roll-on/stick deodorant

– Hairbrush/accessories

– Make-up if you wear it – cut it down to a capsule selection

– Razor (make sure yours complies with cabin bag rules)

– Small moisturiser with SPF

– Diarrhoea treatment

– Paracetamol

– Antiseptic cream

– Plasters

– Any personal medication

Provided by the hotel or to be bought in resort: Shampoo; conditioner; shower gel; sun cream; after sun; bug repellent if needed.

Everything Else

– Mobile phone/tablet/charger/headphones

– Camera/charger

– Travel adaptor

– Sunglasses

– Pen/paper

– Book/magazine/e-reader

– Day bag/handbag

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Sadie Geoghegan

About the author

Sadie Geoghegan is a freelance travel writer who, when she’s not exploring the world, can be found writing at home with her dog in Cambridge.