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Cars & travel.

Updated: 12 Jul 2021

Five ways to make the most of your hand luggage allowance

Whether you fly British Airways, easyJet or Ryanair, Which? Travel experts reveal how to maximise your cabin bag allowance.
Which?Editorial team
Cabin Luggage 2

There are many reasons to fly with just hand luggage. You might be trying to keep costs down, going on a short break, or perhaps you’re worried about losing your luggage in the hold.

But it’s not always easy to decide what and how to pack to maximise your often tiny cabin baggage allowance. Here are five tips, with a handy annotated illustration, from the experts at Which? Travel.

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1: Measure the size of your cabin bag

There’s no standard hand luggage size, so unless you're sure of the restrictions, you risk your bag being chucked in the hold for a rip-off fee. Check the airline’s accepted baggage size, and then measure your case from the wheels to the handle, including any expandable pockets in the depth.

Don’t forget to check your weight allowance too; while some airlines such as British Airways and easyJet are generous (23kg and no limit respectively), others are stingy. Norwegian, for example, strictly enforces its 10kg limit (which includes the weight of the case).

2: Pack heavy items at the bottom

Pack heavy items, such as shoes, at the bottom where the wheels are. Pack items that are easily creased, or that you’ll need quick access to (such as your liquids) at the top.

If you can, wear your bulkiest clothes, such as jackets and scarves, on the plane. This will also help if it’s a bit nippy on board.

3: Make temporary swaps

You can trade those little 100ml bottles of shampoo and shower gel for hard soap bars that won’t use up your liquid allowance. You can also go manual rather than electric for your razors and toothbrush. Why not go one step further and do your bit to minimise landfill waste by making plastic-free swaps

Consider buying an ebook reader to replace heavy books. And buy a USB splitter, which means you’ll be able to charge electronics from one USB plug rather than taking multiple converters.

4: Maximise space

Fold, then tightly roll your clothes. You’ll save space and avoid creasing them. If you have larger items such as long dresses, layer them: lay them flat in the base of the bag, then fold over the top when you’ve finished packing.

You should also stuff your shoes with socks and place them toe to heel.

5: Plan your wardrobe

With limited luggage space, planning is key. Taking the time to plan your outfits day by day means you won’t waste space on unworn clothing.

Bring clothes that you can mix and match to get more than one wear from, so that you don’t need a new set every day

Looking to change your cabin bag? Make sure you read our list of the best cabin bag brands to buy