The Best Hand-Luggage Packing Tips For Short Holidays

The recent 3-day weekend has left me thinking about short trips around Europe, as I’ve been looking at last-minute summer travel inspo. However, if I can’t squeeze any mini trips into my already-hectic September schedule, I’ll write about my hand-luggage packing tips instead. You know, something like ‘How to pack hand-luggage for a 5-day trip to Spain’. If there’s one thing I’m confident about, it’s maximising space…

This post follows from the recent stories of delays on baggage carousels, and the dreaded lost luggage compensation forms. A huge factor in my decision to travel solely with a cabin bag lol. Hand-luggage-only travel isn’t as daunting as it may seem. It’s a case (no pun intended) of small minimalistic changes which I’ll share below. I’ll also include the travel essentials I wouldn’t be without.

Most of my travel experiences have been around Europe, hence why my packing techniques are aimed mostly at short European trips. However, I recently tested out the hand-luggage option for a week in Toronto with no issues!

Pink sunset in Spain above the ocean

5 Simple Capsule Wardrobe Essentials For Travel.

The concept of a capsule wardrobe becomes key for getting your holiday outfits into hand-luggage. Essentially, you’re looking at timeless clothes which pair well in multiple ways. Now, as someone who has somewhat of an interest in fashion, there are 5 items of clothing I’ll always travel with. Socks and underwear aside, I’ve got cycle shorts, an oversized shirt, a satin top, a pair of cargo trousers and a waist belt permanently glued into my brain. These items are non-negotiable, and form the basis of my holiday wardrobe, meaning I have space for additional items.

For a complete style guide, I’ll link you to my content on styling a capsule wardrobe for travel. To demonstrate, I’ll walk you through how I styled an oversized shirt during my time in Barcelona.

How To Style An Oversized Shirt Multiple Ways:

Once you view clothes as foundations for various outfits, you’ll see just how much space you can save when travelling. A shirt goes with anything, after all.

  1. Oversized Shirt + Belt + Platform Shoes.
  2. Oversized Shirt + Shorts + Top + Belt + Platform Shoes.
  3. Oversized Shirt + Cycle Shorts + Crop Top + Sliders or Trainers.
  4. Oversized Shirt (rolled up) + Dress + Sliders.
  5. Oversized Shirt + Swimwear + Sliders.

Essential Household Objects You Need To Pack For Travel.

A lot of things could go into a list of useful travel objects, but I’m going back to the most basic of basics. That’s right, the items which are often left behind when you REALLY need them.

  1. Paintbrush for getting sand off your feet at the beach. A complete game-changer. The best part? The item takes up virtually zero space.
  2. Sellotape, for when you don’t have a lint roller. Just wrap around your hand and you’re good to go.
  3. Wrinkle-releaser spray for clothes. Yes, such a creation really exists. There’s nothing that makes you feel more put together than non-wrinkled clothes. Certain fabrics, like satin, tend to crease easily but I avoid this in photographs by spraying the formula throughout the day.
  4. Various zip-lock bags for laundry, coins and passports. You’ll find these complimentary bags at most airports if you don’t have any at home. You know, the ones you’d usually put your liquids into.
  5. Sachets. If I’m being specific, sachets of laundry powder and porridge. I’ve always got a few in my bag, just in case any spillages occur whilst I’m away from my accommodation. The latter of the two sachets is self-explanatory but has been crucial for times when I’ve had a long layover, or when airports have limited food options.

How To Maximise Hand-Luggage Space With Cosmetics.

Recently, I’ve got my friends hooked on taking samples instead of near-full cosmetics, lotions or toiletries. The problem with such products is that it’s the thing which really weighs down your bag. Not to mention all the room bottles and jars take up. That’s why I store all samples of lotions, sun cream and perfume in a plastic wallet until departure. Of course, there are some products which simply can’t be replaced with a sample. However, if makeup falls into this category then I try to bring items which double up well, such as a cheek/lip tint.

Where To Get Free Cosmetic Samples From:

-Department Stores. When you purchase fragrance, staff usually throw a handful of perfume samples into your bag. Keep hold of these! If no samples are added, ask the assistant if there are any scents which are similar to what you’re buying. This -should- open up the chance to get a few samples added in.

-Complimentary services at airports. Most offer beauty services at duty-free stands, whether that be a mini facial or a makeover. Take advantage of the session by asking if you could have a sample of whatever has been applied to your face. A few mini tubes of foundation, for example, mean you don’t need to lug around that glass bottle you have at home with the same product.

-Gift sets with larger bottles of perfume. The tiny 10 ml containers that come with perfume boxsets can be used up and thrown out when you’re abroad. More room to bring back cool holiday finds.

-Magazines. You’ll find samples between the pages of some beauty magazines, but annoyingly these are almost always on a card.

Additional Travel Essentials You Might Need To Work Abroad.

For days when I’m filming something for social media, or want a better light in an unflattering hotel room, I’ll use a clip-on ring light. These palm-sized gadgets are a complete treat to travel with because they can just be clipped onto your bag handle, ready for whenever you need them. The length of the battery is also pretty impressive. I’ll link you to my exact ‘Amazon Selfie Ring Light’ if you wanted to have a browse.

The best travel backpack I’ve found is from a company called ‘Rains’. Not only do bags from this brand look stylish in a simplistic sort of way, but they also fit a whole load of stuff into them. Like, a lot. I’m talking laptops, notebooks and multiple pairs of shoes. You wouldn’t think it though, at first glance. This unofficial safety feature is always welcome when I’m travelling, or transporting work documents. Rains bags mostly feature a waterproof-like material too, making the process of cleaning your backpack a total dream.

The question I’m probably asked about most frequently is how I balance travel with a full-time role. For advice on travelling when you aren’t a nomad, I’ll point you towards information on how I’ve found time to fuel wanderlust whilst working in the corporate world. Check out my piece on how to travel more when you have a full-time job.

Sharing Is Caring!


  1. Loved this article! It’d taken me a couple of years to learn about putting toiletries into sample-sized bottles, although instead, I bought <100mL bottles that were meant to be for travel (if that makes any sense?). I do my hardest to squeeze all of my liquids (toothpaste, lotion, facial soap, etc) into these small containers so that I avoid the hassle of checking in bags (and choosing instead carry-ons…). Definitely saves time and effort to check (and re-check) in luggage!