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The Debate: Hand Luggage vs The Suitcase

The Debate: Hand Luggage vs The Suitcase

I have just recently come back from a long weekend away in Poland, 3 nights, 4 days and it was the most amazing experience – just breath taking. The scenery, the city of Krakow was just stunning. What I took away from this short break is that I take all of my things on the aeroplane with hand luggage – yes you read that right, a woman saying that they can quite happily take just ONE, very small bag with them on holiday. If I’m being honest…I was forced to fit everything into one bag – we could only take hand luggage with us! So let me take you back to two days before I flew to show you how much preparation is required to travel free and easy!


I had my suitcase laid out on the bed ready to start packing when I suddenly had an awful feeling, I checked our flight confirmation on my booking email and to my horror it said in bold letters ‘HAND LUGGAGE ONLY.’ Oh god. My stomach turned. I have never taken just hand luggage on a trip – not even for just a weekend, let alone a four day trip! The panic set in. Eventually I calmed myself down enough to look for a small bag which would class as hand luggage. I found one, weighed it, and 2kg seemed ok.

The next step was to check who I was flying with, Ryan air outward and EasyJet inbound – this was starting to get complicated…Ryan air allows two hand luggage bags; one cabin bag per passenger weighing up to 10kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm (a small bag, the wheels and handle had to be included), plus 1 small bag up to 35 x 20 x 20 cm (for me this means my hand bag doesn’t need stuffing in to the luggage bag). Perfect I thought, I can take a small wheelie suitcase and a hand bag with all the stuff I’ll want throughout the airport and the flight – without having to dig around and dislodge my packing!

I then checked EasyJet’s policy; they allow ONE item of cabin baggage per passenger. If you bring ONE piece of cabin baggage no bigger than 50 x 40 x 20cm including handles and wheels, we guarantee it will always travel with you either in the overhead locker or, if necessary, under the seat in front of you. Well this certainly put a spanner in the works, not only did I have to fit in all of my clothes, shoes, make-up, make-up remover, numerous toiletries, hair dryer, straighteners, hair products, a book, a camera – I also needed to include all the stuff that you normally just have lying around in your hand bag in case you ever need it. Like, hand cream, gum, floss, nail file, deodorant, small hair brush etc. – the list goes on. As you can imagine I started to panic again at the thought of having to cull so many essential items.  I had to fit everything into this one tiny bag, weighing overall less than 8kg because the bag itself took up the other 2kg. Let’s just say, I certainly couldn’t bring any presents home!

After rushing down to Tesco and buying a miniature hair-dryer and straighteners in a feeble attempt to save space, I started packing.

For four days I was planning on taking:

Day one, day time – travelling – Leggings, a thin jumper and a leather jacket and some converse trainers

Day one, evening – going out for dinner once we arrived; a pair of jeans, a casual top and some dolly shoes

Day two, day time – out and about – jeans, a thin jumper, leather jacket and converse trainers

Day two, evening – again we were going out for dinner, a skirt, a casual top

Day three, day time – sightseeing – jeans, a pair of comfortable shoes, and a casual top or jumper

Day three, evening – a thin dress/or jeans and a casual top

Day four, day time – travelling home in the same clothes that I travelled there in

The Debate: Hand Luggage vs The Suitcase


Once I had culled down what I was going to take and had rolled them into tiny rolls and squeezed them in my bag, it came down to toiletries. At this stage I was very aware of how much weight I didn’t have spare for liquids, even 15 items all under 100 ml adds up to a hefty weight, which just about ruled out everything I owned. Before I set off in a mad dash to the local Tesco I checked once again online about Ryanair and EasyJet’s restrictions on liquids, and this is what they had to say;

Ryanair: Liquids in hand baggage

When passing through airport security screening:

  • Liquids carried must be in a container of no more than 100ml (3.4 ounces).
  • All liquids should be carried in a single, transparent, re-sealable plastic bag of up to 20cm x 20cm with a total capacity of up to a litre
  • You must be able to completely close the bag and be able to fit it in your hand baggage.
  • The bag of liquids must be taken out of other hand baggage to be screened separately.
  • Baby food and milk:  If you are travelling with an infant you are allowed to carry as much baby milk, powdered milk, sterilised water and baby food as required for your trip, even if this exceeds the usual limit on liquids. These do not need to fit in the transparent bag but you should have them ready for inspection by airport security.
  • Liquid medicines: You are allowed to carry liquid medicine as required for your trip. The medicine does not need to fit in the transparent bag but you should have it ready for inspection by airport security.

EasyJet: Liquids in hand baggage

  • The liquid is in a container with a maximum volume of 100ml
  • All containers must comfortably fit into a transparent, re-sealable 1 litre plastic bag, measuring no more than 20 x 20cm
  • This plastic bag must be removed from the hand baggage and shown separately to airport security

There are a number of rules to remember about what to put in your hand baggage and what to leave at home. Importantly, the word “liquids” has a wider meaning than you would perhaps think in the first instance. For example: lip balm, lip sticks, hand creams, deodorant, and hair spray are all considered liquids in this context.
The size of the bag only really enables you to take up to about 10 small items.  I had miniature shampoo, conditioner, shower gel (which I later found out upon arrival at the hotel in Poland that it was in fact men’s shower gel), tooth paste, deodorant, moisturiser and a mini perfume – all under 100ml! I also needed to put Vaseline, mascara and foundation in the bag – it only just shut ok! You can get the plastic bags from the airport but they often cost about £1! I have a see through toiletry bag which happens to be the right size, and this seemed to work fine on this occasion, although I wouldn’t be surprised if on a future visit I have to buy one of their specified little bags!

Friday – Monday 

I bet you are now waiting for the part when I say I had forgotten something (which normally always happens), but I hadn’t! I had absolutely everything, I double and triple checked before I left. I think because I was so careful on what I was packing due to the weight and size restrictions that I had to make sure at every single stage that I had all of the basic amenities. You know what? It was really nice not to have to carry such a huge heavy bag around!


The packing part was very stressful, I don’t know if that’s because I had never just taken hand luggage before, or because it just doesn’t offer the flexibility to take whatever you think you might like to. However, I have to say that it was brilliant! No queuing at the gate upon arrival and either end of the airports, no waiting around at the carousel waiting for your case to come around – yes it was a little annoying having to find space in the overhead storage and shoving my bag in, but it saved me tremendous amounts of time and the envy on people’s faces when I happily strolled out of the airport back into my chauffeur driven transfer from Stansted whilst they were left behind by the carousel.

I chucked away all my miniature toiletries at the end of the trip so I didn’t have as much rubbish to lug back with me, I wore every single thing that I packed – normally for a week’s holiday I take 6 pairs of shorts and 12 tops ‘just in case’ when really you don’t need it! Haven’t we all taken about 10 pairs of shoes and ended up wearing our favourite 2 pairs the entire time? You should have seen my packing when I went to South Africa for 5 weeks!

Top Tip

–          Yes, you have to check the weather before you go and plan your outfits wisely, as there’s not much room for waiting to see what you fancy wearing on the day! But it’s easily done and if you are going somewhere hot, then the packing is even easier as you won’t having to worry about jeans and jumpers!!

Without a doubt I will be taking just hand luggage with me on my trips more often. I’m off to Greece with my partner in a few weeks for a week and I’m attempting to only take hand luggage, a few bikinis and I’ll buy my towel and sun-cream out there and chuck them away afterwards – it saves so much hoarding! And with suitcases sometimes costing £40 these days, if spending £5 when you get there on cheap essentials works, it’ll save you money as well as effort.

Invest in the lightest hand luggage wheelie bag you can – the hard top ones are the best, they are light weight and you can squish more in! Good luck to all of you who are going to try going on holiday with just hand luggage, just make sure you know what your airline allows and stick to it! Make sure you always carry an extra £50 with you as if you are over the weight limit or the dimensions then you’ll need to be prepared to pay!

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