On a recent trip to the other side of the world we took the bold step to break free from the restrictive world of heavy bags and travel with just hand luggage only. We explain why, how, the benefits and drawbacks of carrying on all your travelling needs in one bag.

Travel Light Carry On Carry Off

How many times have you packed your suitcase or cases for a week in the sun only to find on your return that you have only used a fraction of the stuff you stashed?

We have and we were determined that on our 4 week trip to New Zealand that we would try to travel as light as possible.

It’s not something we would recommend for Thomas Cook flights to Turkey with their measly 5-6kg carry on allowance. But for other flights hand luggage only is a liberating way to travel as we will explain.

When Light is Right

There are many advantages when travelling by air when you do not need to check in hold luggage. If you have to pay for hold luggage then their is a financial saving.

But you can also save yourself time by not queuing to check in or wait by that always chaotic carousel to pick up hold luggage at your destination.

When you are getting to, between and around your holiday destination hand luggage is easier to move saving your back and temper.

And then there is the security of always knowing you have your stuff close to hand…ever had your hold luggage go astray? Then you’ll know the inconvenience of that.

When done properly, it can be easy to pack for a week or even longer, using just hand luggage.

Check out our experience below to see how you could comfortably fit all your belongings into your carry-on hand luggage.

Getting Ready

We needed to do a bit of research before throwing out the hold luggage completely.

But luckily there are plenty of travelling bloggers and other experts on the Internet who have successfully ditched hold luggage for a lighter travelling experience.

The first job was to choose the right container to carry our stuff in. That needed to be strong, light, the right dimensions to carry as much as possible and practical.

Our research identified that many bags are just not designed right to maximise capacity (rounded, pockets sticking out etc that take away valuable space).

Cabin Zero

My partner opted for the UK designed ‘Cabin Zero’ case (the red case in the picture above). It may look small but it is one of the most efficient bags out there fitting the exact dimensions for most airline carry on luggage with no waste. It can be worn rucksack style or carried. The quality of the bag is fantastic and during our travels it was automatically accepted as hand luggage. We bought it online for around £45.

IT Luggage

I chose the IT luggage roll along suitcase. It may look bigger but is the same size. These cases come in all different sizes and are widely available retail outlets. They pride themselves on producing light and durable luggage.

I opted for the hand luggage sized case that weights just 1.6kg. The case looks bigger than it really is so be prepared, as I found, to be regularly challenged over the size and weight of the case, more on that in the next article. I paid £35 at a retail outlet centre.

Hand luggage made easier
A well packed bag that’s light, compact and holds all I need

Be the Suitcase

Obviously, the warmer the place you are travelling to, the less space you will need for clothes as they will be lightweight and there’ll be no need for coats fleeces and the like.

But if you are going somewhere that could get cool make sure you wear your heaviest clothes when travelling.

A jacket with plenty of pockets will also allow you to carry more stuff on you….an added bonus to save on your baggage weight.

In the Next Article

In part 2 of this article we will run through our packing list and how our first leg of our journey travelling with just hand luggage to New Zealand for 4 weeks turned out.


  1. Don’t forget…

    • Thanks for that Keith. You can take liquids in your hand luggage under current rules but no more than 100ml in separate clear containers that must be declared when you pass through security. Hope that helps.