The Art of Packing Light : How to pack with just hand luggage

I don't know about you, but I LOVE holidays, and just to make it even better the run up to holidays usually involves 2 of my other favourite things - organising and shopping.

Just to satisfy my travel cravings I try to fit in  a couple of shorter haul breaks a year and as I'm not the greatest flyer - although a couple of bellinis in the airport helps - I like a short hop skip and a jump to another country without the 10+ hour travel time. This summer we've set our sights on a couple of sojourns - one beach holiday and one city break - but with the same question... how to pack for a holiday with only hand luggage?

Some of you will be thinking 'what's all the fuss about' and others will be thinking 'what the...?! it can't be done'. If you'd spoken to me a few years ago I'd have been firmly with the latter, but having travelled almost solely with hand luggage for the last few years, I can tell you it can most definitely be done, and with an air of smugness you can flit from plane to passport control and straight to your transfer without even stopping to think of all those other passengers waiting and hoping their suitcases come off the other side. Plus you'll often save yourself £££'s on the cost of your flights.

I'm not claiming to be an expert on this, but I am getting better, and so this year I'm seeing it more as a liberation, than a bloody hassle! So, here's my tips for packing light and a little guide as to what I'm taking on each trip in case anyone else needs the inspiration.

1. As with almost anything in my life planning is key! I am totally a list person but there is nothing worse  than arriving at your destination and realising your only pair of shoes are the ones on your feet and you only brought bikini bottoms and no tops (true story). So, plan out what outfits you would like to wear on each day, accounting for outfit changes, then list all of the items you need to make up those outfits. Where you can, scale down - you may only need 2 bikinis instead of 5, or maybe 1 pair of shorts would do instead of the usual 3. And always check the weather before you go, Berlin was 32 degrees last year - I was so glad I'd prepared and taken shorts!

2. Shoes is where it gets hardest, well for me it does, so try to imagine what kind of activities you'll be doing while you're there and plan accordingly, then wear your chunkiest pair to fly in. For example, for our city break we were exploring by day and eating/drinking by night, so comfortable shoes such as trainers were a must and a pair of not too high shoes or boots for evening. I even squeezed my gym trainers in as extra. I wore my boots to travel and packed the others because they sat flatter in my bag. Similarly for our beach holiday I took a pair of daytime sandals that I can also wear on casual balmy evenings, and a pair of more dressy sandals or shoes as well. I'm also taking some trainers for walking and managed to squeeze some lightweight flip flops in. And remember you might love all 3 pairs of flip flops you own but you don't need them so pick the pair that will go with most - black, white or metallic are always good choices.

3. Another sticking point - toiletries. I always found this bit hardest. I love my creams and make up so sizing this down is tough. I bought myself a clear zip top bag within the size limits and make sure I fit everything in, but remember it is liquids you need to be careful of so even though you might want everything packed neatly together keep your brushes and powders separate to save room. Decant anything you can in to smaller pots and bottles, and look at alternatives - for example we'll take a gentle soap (Dove soap is the best around) that can be used for cleansing and all over washing so you don't need separate cleansers and body washes, or an oil cleanser in a travel sized bottle will mean you don't need separate facial cleanser and eye make up remover, it does the lot - just pack a muslin cloth or small flannel for removing. If all else fails take the bare minimum and once you're through security buy your shampoo/conditioner/sun cream on the other side (all flights now allow you to take a regular sized duty free bag plus your hand luggage), or even buy it at your destination.

4. Roll. Seriously - rolling your clothes saves so much space. I didn't believe it until I tried it, but it does. Roll carefully to avoid too many creases, and pack your hardier stuff (jeans, shorts etc.) on the bottom and lighter stuff such as T-shirts and vests on the top. Anything else such as dresses you can fold and pack on top last. Just make sure your toiletries are at the top and easy to reach for going through the scanners, and stuff your underwear and socks into any shoes which you should pack around the edges of your case.

5. Always check if your accommodation has a hairdryer and force yourself to only take one appliance. For me its my heated brush because it acts as a hairdryer and styling tool. But equally, straighteners can be used for curling and straightening so choose wisely!

6. Finally - wear everything else. I'm not kidding. If you're taking a hat, wear it. Belt? Wear it. Chunkier jackets or knitwear? Wear it. Sunglasses, scarves, jewellery? Wear them. Sounds crazy and you may have to take it off to go through security but it will save so much space in your bag, plus it will force you to be more picky about the ones you do take. Also most airlines won't let you take an additional handbag so make sure you pack one that folds small and make sure it fits before you get to the gate - from experience even the smallest ones might have to be shoved in a bag before they'll let you through!

So, what am I taking?

For our Berlin city break I felt fairly savvy about what to take because we'd been before. You can be quite casual there and fit right in so I wasn't worried about massive heels and short dresses! I checked the weather before we flew and planned for the rain and sun that we got both of but for a city break (we went for 5 days) I took:
  • 2 pairs of jeans (Wear one to fly)
  • Denim shorts
  • Plain black skirt - will work for night or in the day with trainers
  • A couple of dresses that can be worn day or night
  • Various t-shirts and vests that can be mixed and matched for day or evening
  • A jumper in case it gets chilly
  • A leather jacket that I'll travel in and will go with everything, and a kimono jacket for warmer days or for evening
  • Black boots, casual trainers and my gym trainers
For our beach holiday we've just come back from a week in southern Spain and as beachy outfits tend to be skimpier I think I was able to take quite a few more options:
  • Jeans to travel in that can also be worn in the evening with heels (although it ended up being too hot for these)
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • Black skirt (again, can be worn in the evening or in the day)
  • Loose trousers - I wore these in the evening with dressy sandals and then over a bikini
  • A couple of dresses that worked for day or night, though I ended up in shorts or a beach cover up most days
  • A kimono jacket to wear at night over plain tops and dresses, and then over bikinis
  • Various tops that can be mixed and matched
  • 2 bikinis was the plan but I had space for an extra one
  • Flat sandals for day or night, low heeled sandals for evening and trainers for day wear which I travelled in to save space
  • I also wore a large light cotton scarf to travel that doubled as a sarong
  • I bought my sun cream once we were over there as I need plenty and it saved masses of space, we were also lucky enough to not need beach towels but again you can buy them there, they're usually not that expensive
One last thing - if you need any more inspiration, try Pinterest. I'll pin outfit ideas and even packing tips and use them to put my own lists together, I can spend hours on it!

Any other tips very welcome...

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