How to Pack a Cabin Bag for Lighter, Cheaper Travel

How to Pack a Cabin Bag for Lighter, Cheaper Travel

If any of you have booked flights lately you will know how ridiculously expensive the cost gets when you add hold luggage (Note: about £38 each way per person for a 20kg bag on the airline we flew with, say whaaaaa?). Now I am definitely one of those people that overpacks. I use the classic “Oh I’ll pack this just in case…[insert your own poor excuse here].” However, things have changed, as I’ve not long come back off a cabin-bag only holiday.


Thinking ahead…


At first, I thought it was fine, easy almost. “Pshh, this isn’t even a challenge”. Then I caught myself doing a double take whilst walking past the window of TK Maxx where I saw a set of luggage and cried inside at the tiny cabin bag. Then I gave myself a talking to and reminded myself of all the times I have overpacked (embarrassingly every time I’ve been abroad). In fact a few years ago when I went to Turkey for a fortnight I packed so much in hindsight I probably could have gotten away with a cabin bag only, *looks all sheepish*.


In the lead up to my holiday, I prepared (cue training style montage). I got myself ready for the airport liquid restrictions and what that meant for my beloved makeup. I adjusted my clothing expectation, settling for a more respectable 4 pairs of shorts, not 11 (yes this has happened before, *looks all sheepish again*). And I got ready to feel like a more accomplished savvy traveller. I mean let’s face it, hand-luggage only definitely has its perks. I was definitely looking forward to cruising straight past baggage reclaim. It also meant that there’s less of a chance my bag will go missing.


So with all that in mind hopefully you’re feeling as optimistic as me at being a more minimalist packer. Here are the steps I took to ensure my mind was at ease whilst my outfit choices were plentiful.


Pink cabin sized case


  1. Check what’s included

All airlines vary both their weight and size allowances. Big charges at the airport are dished out for those who don’t stick to the rules. Therefore, make sure to buy suitcases that fit your airline’s requirements. Amazon and eBay have some great affordable options and you can search for the right size by typing in the airline you’re flying with. I actually got my bag from Primark for £10!


Now you’ve got the right sized bag, watch out for the weight. Clothes alone should not weigh too much, but electrical items can. Just ask yourselves which items can you live without if you’re planning on taking your laptop, hairdryer (I took mine but didn’t use it) or straighteners etc. You can pick up luggage scales quite cheap these days so you can be sure that you haven’t overpacked before you leave for the airport.


Lastly, check to see if any additional items are allowed. Some airlines will allow a small bag such as a handbag or laptop bag as well as your cabin bag. This is a great way to maximise space in your main cabin bag as you can put cosmetics, jewellery and other small items in your extra bag. We actually upgraded to extra legroom seats with our airline as this allowed us to take an extra bag measuring 45cm x 36cm x 20cm (without upgrading we were only allowed one cabin bag measuring 56x45x25cm). This only cost us £40 for two of us for both flights. Definitely look out for these sneaky ways to get around luggage restrictions at a fraction of the cost. 


  1. Plan your outfits ahead.

A few weeks before my holiday I wrote a list of clothes that I thought I would want to take. This helped me plan potential outfits to ensure I didn’t take items I wouldn’t need.

We planned to be out in the sun a lot walking around and exploring, so I didn’t take loads of evening wear. However, if you will be out for meal every day and spending most of your days lounging in swimwear take this into consideration


Clothing items to pack


  1. Know Security Regulations.

I also noted down what liquids I will be taking. UK regulations state that you can only take liquids that are 100ml or less (they must be in a container 100ml or less – e.g you can’t take 50ml of product in a 150ml bottle) and in total you can’t take more than 1 litre. The liquids must be stored in a see-through plastic bag measuring approximately 20x20cm. I decided to strip back my skincare slightly to fit these regulations. Some of my products are already in containers less than 100ml but others are not. You can buy travel bottles in many high street shops, including Primark, and online retailers such as Amazon.


Some items it may be worth your while buying in the airport after you have gone through security. Although you can buy travel minis of many items, some of these actually work out quite expensive. For example, we bought a bottle of suncream in the airport. Therefore buying a miniature size would have been almost pointless. If there’s a group of you going away you might decide to put some money together at the airport and buy bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel etc that you can all share so there’s little wastage and less worries about liquid regulations.


Some makeup items are also classed as liquids, such as mascara, and will also need to be put in the clear bag ready for security checking at the airport. For more information about this check out the website.


  1. Last minute checks.

Now you’ve got everything packed, you’ve got your liquids all sorted in your plastic container and you’ve moved past the thought that you need to take 30 different bikinis, it’s time to do your last minute checks.

  • Are your liquids at the top of your bag? Make sure they are as you will be required to remove these from your bag when you get to security.


  • When your bag is closed does it still fit the size requirements? This may sound silly, but if you have a bag that allows you to squeeze in so much the zip almost breaks, your now bulging bag might be over the limit.


  • Does your bag fit the weight requirement? If so, great! If not, go back and think about what’s really essential. Do you need that hair dryer if someone else you’re going with is taking one?


  • Most importantly have you printed off/ got all your travel documents together in a safe accessible place? It’s common practise these days to have to check yourself in online and print off your own boarding passes. Make sure you’ve done this and have printed any other travel documents, such as travel insurance, accommodation info etc. I recommend putting all this (along with your passports) in a folder. This makes it much easier when you’re asked to present anything important at the airport or at any other point.


  1. Enjoy!

You’ve made it! You got through security with ease, your bag slipped into the overhead lockers oh so easily and you had everything you needed with the added bonus of not lugging around 10 tons of luggage. That smug smile is definitely warranted!


Plane wing in the sky


I’d love to know if this article helped you get ready for your holiday. Let me know in the comments below!

Also, if you know anyone who would benefit from this article then let them know using one of the social media buttons below! Thanks!


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