How to Travel the World with only Hand Luggage

Travel is a wonderful thing. Long term travel is even better. Sometimes though, when you’ve been on the road a long time, there can be some downsides. Having to cart your life with you in a backpack can take its load on your back, and airport check-in/out can also be a tedious process when you have a lot of bags to process. Such is the annoyance of carrying a load on my back, these days I only take a small backpack or little case that all my travel possessions fit into, and can take anywhere as hand luggage. I did this through a number of techniques, and although it’s not practical for all trips, most of the tips here can be implemented through any form of independent travel.

Re-evaluate everything!

The first and most important rule of packing light is to decide what you ACTUALLY need to bring! Back home I may have 6 or 7 pairs of shoe’s to choose from on a night out, but on the road you only actually need 2 – the pair that you are wearing, and the pair you pack as spare. A tip I usually say to girls is pack a pair of dolly shoes. They don’t take up much space, and are multi-purpose i.e. you can wear them on a night out, at an interview, or anywhere where flip flops or more casual shoes might not be appropriate.

When packing in general I usually pack first, then go through everything in the case or backpack and chuck a whole load of things out. Even when I’m on the road I constantly find myself chucking things out that I haven’t worn much, or giving them away to make more space or room for stuff I buy along the way.

Also, rolling everything up allows you to fit more in!

Buy teeny weenie toiletries or buy stuff when you get there!

When buying anything to take with you such as toiletries, hairdryers or straighteners (flat irons), there is usually a travel sized option in the shops somewhere. Whether it’s teeny weenie sized shampoo, conditioner, shower gel etc, you can usually get a travel sized option, even if it’s not the exact brand you wanted. The only thing to consider with this is that if you are travelling by plane you may have to much liquid to bring on as hand luggage. If this is the case then you may want to consider just buying your toiletries once you get there.

Stick to warm countries!

It’s simple; the warmer the country the fewer clothes you are going to wear, and therefore the less clothes you need to pack! Obviously, this is not always practical for all trips, but if you don’t have a specific plan of where you want to go then stick to warm countries. Aside from the fact that hanging out at the beach is fun anyways, you won’t have to pack big thick winter clothing, or double up on layers. Things like bikini’s and swim wear don’t take up much room, and you can usually buy a cheap beach towel once you get there, as that’s the only thing that really takes up much room (alternatively “borrow” one from your hotel or hostel, but don’t tell them I told you!)

Chat up the airline staff!

Quite a few times I’ve had way too much hand luggage on a plane, or have been over the limit on my ordinary luggage, and would have incurred a fee. It’s at these moments where I’m glad of my baby face, and act all sorry and stupid like I didn’t know, and usually they just let me through without any hassle or payment. I’ve even seen people blatantly chatting up the airport staff just so they can get a few extra pieces of luggage in! It’s also amazing where some pleases and thank you’ will get you, and just being super polite! I remember travelling with a friend once, and we had so much excess luggage they were going to charge us an extra £40 each. She burst out crying and the woman checking us in was so embarrassed she just let us go without paying it. If you really want to squeeze on some extra hand luggage, or have excess baggage, it’s always worth using all your powers of persuasion on the airport staff. There’s no guarantee with this method, but in my experience if you’re really nice to people, and especially polite, it usually pays off somewhere down the line. It even worked with me on Ryanair once, who never let you on with extra hand luggage usually without a £30 fine!


If all else fails, sometimes the good old fashioned way is the only alternative! Preferably find a fat person to sit on your case, or have a few dinners and then jump up and down on it until it goes down enough to close it shut. In times of desperation I’ve had all 3 of my dogs sat on top of my little carry on case, plus me and my mum! Eventually with all the weight, it squeezed down just enough to get it zipped up! Unfortunately the dogs now think it’s a toy and hide their chews in it every time I come back! Sometimes though, all you can is squeeeeeeze!

2 Responses to “How to Travel the World with only Hand Luggage”


  1. […] of travellers still find themselves regularly trying to cut down on what they pack, or to only travel with hand luggage. So to help this, rather than offering a list of what you should pack, I thought it would be more […]

  2. […] many backpackers seem to face when starting out is what to take with them on their journey, and how much they should pack. Below I’ve listed some of my backpack basics, and what I carry in […]

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