Travel Tips

Tips on travelling with just hand luggage

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We all know life is supposed to be more about the journey than the destination, but when it comes to travel, we’re all about the destination. Let’s face it, the getting-there part is usually the least fun bit of the trip. Luckily, you can make your journey infinitely more enjoyable if you pack so lightly that hand luggage is all you need to take. That feeling of being able to hop off the plane, skip the baggage carousel entirely, and go on your merry way is hard to beat. Plus, if you’re travelling around during your time away, the freedom of being able to zip about without having to lug around a heavy suitcase or backpack will convince you never to travel any other way.

Adopt a minimalist mindset

Less is more when you’re on the road, but you’ll need to plan ahead. Before you pack, lay out several outfits for day and night on your bed. Make sure each item is lightweight, easy to launder and able to be layered to suit different temperatures and occasions. Aim for a capsule wardrobe of neutral colours that can be mixed and matched with ease to create different looks.

Love your luggage

A high-quality, lightweight carry-on suitcase that behaves as it should is a worthwhile investment. Look for one that has a handle that pulls up and locks in easily, wheels that roll and pivot smoothly in every direction, and one that’s well-balanced so it doesn’t tip over – all these things are good for your mental health, especially if you have to endure a long-haul flight with stopovers.

Go multipurpose

Items that can be used in various ways are a dream if you’re trying to travel lightly. Pack convertible clothing if the weather is questionable. Europe in the spring, for example, can be cold and rainy one day and warm and sunny the next. Take a jacket with removable lining, pants that can be converted into shorts, dresses that can be styled for day or night. A sarong or scarf is a must no matter where you’re going. It can serve as a scarf or beach cover-up, blanket or towel, or even a makeshift bag.

Get smart on tech

Using technology to your advantage can save a whole lot of space. Download the language and navigation apps you’re likely to need before you go to translate the local lingo and get around on public transport. Take pics and video on your phone (watch some YouTube tutorials on how to make the most of all your phone’s camera features so there’s no need to take an SLR) and choose whether you’re going to bring a tablet, laptop or e-reader. Do not, we repeat, do not attempt to bring them all. Don’t forget to pack a compact charger with adaptable plug.

Rethink your toiletries

No matter how committed you are to a particular brand, if it comes in bulky or breakable packaging, it’s going to need to stay home. Instead, think solid soap bars that double as shampoo and conditioner, and travel-sized, reusable containers for any liquids you can’t live without. Multi-use make-up products are ideal (lip balm that doubles as rouge, foundation with built-in sunscreen – you get the idea). Be sure to take a travel-sized microfibre towel that dries quickly – these are easy to find at outdoor/camping stores.

Pro packing tips

Rolling rather than folding your clothes takes up less room. We don’t know why but it just does. Plus, your clothes end up far less wrinkled at the other end. Packing cubes can keep your clothes sorted and compressed, and ziplock bags for toiletries can prevent disaster. Be sure to make use of every nook and cranny in your carry on (stuff socks in your shoes, for example).

Wear it on board

If you’re going somewhere tropical – think Bali, Fiji or Thailand – wear your sun hat on the plane to save it from getting crushed, or clip it to the outside of your carry-on. If temperatures are likely to be on the chilly side, wear your bulkiest items to save having to pack them. Stuff your gloves and beanie into your jacket pockets, wear your hiking boots, and loop your scarf through the handle of your handbag or daypack.

The good news is, the more often you travel with just hand luggage (and enjoy the benefits), the better you’ll get at it as you figure out what you really need and what you can do without. Happy travels!

Should I consider travel insurance for my luggage?

Nothing beats travelling the world but, when moving around from A to B in unfamiliar surroundings, you may find a few luggage items have gone missing. Travel insurance can help take the sting out of replacing or repairing luggage items that have gone astray.

Coverage is included automatically with Travel Insurance Direct however; sub-limits do apply and vary depending on the type of luggage item and chosen plan. You can check these sub-limits in the PDS applicable to your plan.

Find out more about the coverage available here.


I grew up in the US, Germany and Australia, so it feels more foreign for me to stay in one place than to move around. Since then, I’ve called Boston, London, Seattle, Brisbane, Madison and Sydney home for study and work as a journalist, travel writer and photographer. I specialize in adventure travel, social issues and interiors/architecture. Home is now an 1890s cottage in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. I traveled to my seventh continent last year – an action-packed expedition to Antarctica – and have memories galore of my travels. Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies, galloping with gauchos in Chilean Patagonia, trekking through Japan, and camel riding in Jordan are among the most memorable. My least favourite travel hiccup was being stranded in Cameroon when I should have been winging my way to Paris for a little me-time. You win some, you lose some.

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