Hand luggage only? Oh my!‏

As an Australian in Europe I’m still so excited about how close everything is and how inexpensive it can be to travel. Every chance I get I’m booking cheap flights to visit different areas of Europe. Of course, cheap flights usually mean hand luggage only. How do you travel on hand luggage only, and still have nice things to wear and a little bit of space to go shopping? Below are two examples, one more practical and another a little silly, of how I’ve managed this in the past. Hopefully you’ll find some useful tips for your packing during this holiday season!

Packing challenge 1 – 8 days, Summer

Month – August
Weather – mostly sunny and warm
Activities/Location – Weekend course involving sporting activities & a wedding in southern Germany followed by a week in London and another wedding the week after. Possible swim.
Luggage – standard hand luggage suitcase plus laptop, small handbag & extra shoulder bag.


Being, well, me, I of course had to take two separate outfits for the weddings. You could make this easier for yourself by using the same outfit for both weddings, particularly if (as was the case here), there will be no one else attending both weddings. Not that it should matter if there was – more on that sentiment in another post.

So what do you do?

  • As always choose a set of accessories you can wear with everything. For me it’s pearls – earrings & a necklace plus my standard rings and bracelet. I rarely take anything else.
  • Pack the smallest amount of toiletries possible. Mini containers, sachets if you have a selection of testers left over. None at all if you are visiting friends and can use theirs or if the hotel will provide them. Put makeup/toiletry essentials in smaller containers if you must have them with you. NOTE – you will have to watch your container sizes anyway because of hand luggage regulations on liquids.
  • Minimise your makeup routine. Use a mini travel set from your favourite brand if you must have lots of colour options, otherwise pick one set and stick to it.
  • Take dresses/skirts & blouses in light fabrics which roll down into nothing. This is where being a ‘dresses over jeans’ person is really helpful! Jeans are bulky and take up a lot of space, although this trip I did take one pair of pedal-pushers (http://www.unique-vintage.com/blue-pedal-pusher-cuffed-pants.html) to help in the lifting and transporting of things on the day of the second wedding. Here again, if I wasn’t so fussy I could have simplified this by wearing my gym pants instead.
  • Roll and stuff everything! I’ve heard mixed thoughts about rolling as a packing technique but I swear by it. Also, stuffing socks & underwear and scarves, whatever will fit, into shoes and wherever else it will fit!
  • Pack a bag in a bag. I knew that I was going to have a folder of course material, as well as the wedding outfit of my date from the first wedding (i.e. big man shoes) to carry with me for the rest of my trip. So I planned ahead and packed a bag into my bag which would then fit the laptop and course materials (still maintaining the hand baggage requirements) after the first weekend. And of course, rolled and stuffed said date’s pants, shirt & belt into his big man shoes.
  • Use technology – I’m a big fan of real books over electronic books, but in this case I used audio books, podcasts and the e-book apps on my iPhone to get through.

For the first wedding, I left my course in the morning, stayed overnight at the wedding location, and re-joined my course the next day. To manage this I wore a silk dress on the day of the wedding, and rolled a synthetic dress (doesn’t crease) into my handbag for the next day. I also took, as always, a merino cardigan and pashmina for when the evening turned cool.

Getting an entire week with so many different engagements out of carry on baggage is really pushing it! It helped that it was summer. In winter clothes are naturally bulkier and it wouldn’t be as easy.


Packing challenge 2 – long weekend, winter
Month – February
Weather – Cool, some rain
Activities/Location – London, visiting friends, galleries, nice restaurants and a walk on the heath.

Now this one’s a little sillier because this time I had several things I needed to take over to my friends in London, so my little suitcase was actually full of these with no room for my own clothes and shoes. To add to this I was flying easyJet who only allow you to take ONE item of hand baggage (not the 1 handbaggage plus a handbag coat & umbrella like some other airlines).

The answer?

I chose three dresses which could be layered over each other without it being noticeable, wore my black silk slip, two pairs of tights, merino knee hie socks, knee high black boots, black merino cardigan and my winter coat (purple) teemed with a black pashmina, black beret & cashmere lined black leather gloves.

This worked because one of the dresses has elastic and another is a half size too big for me. The top layer also had a neckline just that much smaller than the others keeping them hidden.

Can you tell?

In the suitcase, amongst the items I had to deliver to London, I managed to fit my underwear and some toiletries.

This time I took only one pair of boots, which I wore, and was able to borrow a pair of hiking boots from a friend in London for the muddy hike on Hamstead Heath.

Again, the packing for this trip could have been simplified by re-using items, but for me it’s half the fun of travelling to try out different outfits, so I made sure to have a different one for each day.

As above, I used the same jewellery & makeup for the whole weekend and colour coordinated my dresses to one set of accessories including the coat, pashmina, tights, cardigan, boots, tights, gloves and beret.

To have a handbag on the trip, I picked one which could fold down quite small and fit in the suitcase.

So the tips here for when you must take the absolute minimum on a city weekend trip:

  • Colour coordinate accessories so what you wear on the plane goes with everything you have.
  • Take one pair of shoes (if winter- boots) and wear them – if you’re worried they’ll get uncomfortable pack a pair of those fold away ballerina flats & a green bag to carry your boots.
  • Have a handbag which can fold away to nothing & fit in your carry on bag/suitcase.
  • Again simplify your makeup routine and wear one set of jewellery to go with everything.
  • Wear as much as you can without overheating 😉
  • Use the tips from the layering post to be prepared for cooler/warmer than expected weather.


Just because we’re all about packing this month, and as a little something extra for being on the Chic for Charity mailing list. Here is a post I wrote for my personal blog when I was deciding what to pack to travel to Germany for one year (I’ve now been here four)!


Two revisions which I would add now with the benefit of hindsight – take a pair of thongs (flip flops if you’re not Australian/British) and a small hand towel for the youth hostel showers.

I’ll be back in your inbox next weekend with the last part in the May packing series – Summer fun – so keep an eye out for that!
Till then pack light & look gorgeous!


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