Getting in and out of the airport with the minimum of fuss is always a priority when travelling. Packing your hand luggage well can be a great aid to this. Not only will you breeze through the check-in process with no problems regarding the size restrictions, but if you are a minimal traveller you may even be able to go hand-luggage only, which cuts out the check-in desk entirely!
Basic Baggage Rules
You are probably aware that airlines seem to be implementing ever stricter protocols for controlling what hand baggage we passengers bring with us, and in what sizes and quantities. Much of the time, the rule is for travellers to have just one piece of hand baggage. This means you may bring items such as hand bags, but they must fit inside whatever main bag you have in order to qualify as hand luggage.
Size limits vary depending on the airline. Expect cheaper airlines to have more stringent cabin luggage restrictions (though that is not to say that any airline is particularly generous). A typical weight limit is 10kg.
Finally, in the last decade there have been many new restrictions relating to which items you can actually carry. The 100ml liquid rule is still in effect, and includes toiletries as well as drinking water. Anything that flows is restricted. Needless to say the same goes for anything with a blade, including any kind of scissors.
Making the most of your space
Clearly you won’t be able to bring all the essentials of life on board with you - but you can certainly optimise what you do bring.
First of all, if you must bring clothing with you, do not fold it. Rolling up cloth items is much more efficient, and it is possible to avoid creases with care. This is great for coats, which you probably want to keep on hand but take up so much space. Using an inner bag for clothing can provide further compression. If you are carrying all your luggage on board, make sure you bring extra inner-bags for dirty laundry. Dry-bags work well for this, keeping odours well insulated from clean items.
If possible, fit your 'hard' items into the bag first. This makes it possible to fit the soft items around it, making for a better, tighter fit with fewer wasted spaces.
Electronic items are tempting to carry aboard, but think hard about which items you really need on the plane. Laptops and cameras can eat up your space and weight allowance in no time. If, on the other hand, you are travelling with hand luggage only and these items are essential, then you may want to use compartmental sacs to keep the various accessories organised. It might be a good idea to invest in some dry-bags for those delicate electronic items too, as insurance against weather conditions during your trip.
Lastly, do make sure that your main bag fits the size restrictions. There is nothing more galling than carefully packing, only to be rejected for having the wrong size bag just before boarding. It can turn into an expensive and time consuming mistake, so this really is crucial.
If you apply planning to your packing, expect to get much more mileage from your luggage. Whether you’re going on a city break or a round-the-world flight, always start with the essentials and remember that cheaper items can be bought or replaced but some items must be protected. Use inner bags to keep different types separate, tightly packed and most importantly safe.
David Anderton is a freelance writer and an avid traveller.