Hand Luggage Essentials

Whether it’s a short hop over to France or a 22-hour flight with stopovers, packing your hand luggage so it’s within height and weight restrictions is an art form. It can be so easy to overpack (who DOESN’T need 10 books for a four hour trip??) and as a travel agent, we feel our expertise could be of help here!

Firstly, the bag itself – I personally find a backpack is the easiest and comfiest option, leaving your hands free to deal with your holiday documents, grab a cup of coffee etc. Getting one with nice padded straps is essential, and preferably with two compartments: the main part of the back big enough to pack clothes, toiletries and entertainment, and a front pocket to store your phone, money and documents that require quick and easy access.

Obvious choice is obvious! You’ll need the holy trinity to even make it through to security – Passport, boarding pass and visa confirmation. I also like to carry a copy of my trip itinerary and confirmation from my booking agent/tour operator, making sure it has a 24-hour emergency helpline should anything go wrong. My ticket wallet from Paperchase is probably the best purchase I’ve ever made, find your own and more here: http://www.paperchase.co.uk/gifts/bags-and-travel/travel-accessories

Another obvious choice, but you’d be surprised how many people pack their money on their suitcase, thinking they’ll get a meal and drinks on the flight so won’t need to buy anything until they reach their destination. What if you’ve forgotten something urgent? What if your flight is delayed and you need food? What if there’s an entry tax at your destination that you weren’t aware of? Always make sure you’ve got your money to hand, you never know when you’ll need it!

If I’m travelling with something expensive or anything of sentimental value, I try to put it into my hand luggage (weight/size/restrictions permitting). It feels safer to keep the important things nearby.

I know you can’t make calls etc. on a plane, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need it at the airports on either side! Always keep your phone handy, even if it’s just for those last minute goodbyes and plane selfies before take-off.

ALWAYS travel with important medication in your hand luggage, and remember to bring a note from your doctor. Take enough in your carry on for a couple of days – If there’s a delay or your suitcase is lost, you might need that supply. Over the counter medication is usually fine without a note, but make sure you check the security restrictions with the airport first or it might be confiscated. I get a headache on long flights 99% of the time, so paracetamol and ibuprofen are musts!

If you’re on a long flight you may want something to satisfy cravings in between the in-flight meal service, but on shorter journeys any kind of food on board can be expensive, so save a bit of money and grab a Boots meal deal before you board. This is especially important when travelling with children – it helps to keep them occupied and stops them causing a nuisance.

If I’m travelling to a hot country, I like to dress in layers so I can be prepared to change in the toilet cubicle before landing. Same if it’s a cold country – keeping a cardigan or scarf in your hand luggage is a handy way to battle whatever the weather is at your destination. I also try to pack a spare top, leggings and some underwear too, just in case my case is delayed/lost and I need to get changed the next day.

Take it from someone who had a 9-hour flight to Canada with nothing to do because the in-flight entertainment system was down. Yes, 99% of the time there’s no issue with the entertainment on board, and with hundreds of movies, TV shows and games you can easily pass the time, but that 1% of the time you can just stare out of the window… Mind melting! Entertainment essentials for me would be: headphones to use with in-flight system or mobile phone (see point 4) – I download a couple of movies and a Spotify playlist to keep me going, a book or magazine, a notebook and pen, and maybe a stress ball or something if you like to keep your hands active. The last time I flew I took an adult colouring book, which helped pass some time also.

Because travelling on a plane is gross, and it’s the best you can do without a shower handy.

See above – After a 20-hour flight and a few glasses of wine on board, I like to clean my teeth when we’re about an hour away from the destination, makes me feel fresh again.

Or men, we’re not here to judge! Always wanting to look your best, but struggling to get round the liquids rule? I find the following, along with the face wipes mentioned above, are all you need to step proudly into your destination airport:

-Hand cream: Because flying really dries out your skin
-Lip balm: See above
-Suncream: If you’re travelling anywhere from the UK, you can almost guarantee the sun will be out when you arrive, so don’t get caught! Many facial moisturisers now have SPF protection – perfect for hydrating and protecting the skin after a long trip
-Mascara: Not essential per se, but if you’re meeting someone straight at the airport and want to look your absolute best, a bit of mascara is all you should need to look human again
-Deodorant and perfume: Deodorant speaks for itself surely! And for perfume, as long as it’s under 100ml, you can take whatever fragrance you wish. Lots of perfumes already come in either 50ml or 100ml, but it’s easy to find smaller bottles to decant into if necessary

Having a see-through make up bag is a lifesaver when it comes to getting your bag through customs, as it saves you having to unpack and repack. This set of three from Superdrug are fantastic and great value – I usually use the medium-size one for my make up essentials: https://www.superdrug.com/Superdrug/Superdrug-Make-Up-Bags-Clear-x3/p/202319

What else would you normally pack in your hand luggage?


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