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Guide on how to efficiently pack your hand luggage

Guide on how to efficiently pack your hand luggage

Packing for a holiday can be challenging as we attempt to squeeze everything we need for our break into hand luggage to avoid paying excess fines. Read our guide on how to pack like a pro.

Patrick Ikhena
From the Travel team
minute read
posted 21 NOVEMBER 2019

How to pack your suitcase like a pro

It’s a good idea to check that your hand luggage complies with your airline’s size restrictions for cabin baggage. And check what you can and can’t take in your hand luggage.

We could all do with help from an expert, so we’ve enlisted former Royal Marines Commando James Johnson. During his service, James was trained to pack a small suitcase at a moment’s notice, so he’s the perfect person to help you pack a week’s worth of luggage into a carry-on bag. Here’s how he does it:


On 6 August 2020, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated the list of countries that are exempt from its ongoing advice against all non-essential international travel.

If you choose to travel overseas to a destination where the FCO is advising against non-essential travel at the time of your departure, then your insurance policy will be invalid, and any claim likely to be rejected.

For domestic travel, please check the local public health rules for the destination you wish to travel to within the United Kingdom.

For more information, please see our coronavirus and travel insurance page.

Prioritise packing your essentials

  • Separate everything into two piles: one for essentials and one for ‘nice-to-haves’. Pack your essentials first and nice-to-haves if there’s space.
  • Limit the number of shoes you take.
  • Make sure anything large is collapsible.
  • Think about whether packing a towel is essential. Will there be one at the hotel or can you buy a cheap one when you arrive?
  • Leave any non-essential bulky cosmetics at home.
    Be strict and limit the amount of clothes you take.

Bag everything up

  • Pick a hand luggage bag that’s comfortable to carry as well as spacious.
  • Dispense any toiletries and anything that could leak into a small clear bags – it’ll make things easier when you go through customs.
  • Pack your flight essentials in a go-to bag at the top of your luggage. This can include your passport, any paperwork, a phone charger and a book for the flight.

Roll your clothes up

  • Rolling your clothes not only saves space, it helps to prevent them getting creased.
  • Try to keep everything roughly the same size, as it’s easier to fit them next to each other in your bag.
  • Roll each item as tightly as possible, and if you use the Ranger Roll method – which you can see in our video – you’ll be able to secure any rolls with excess fabric.
  • You can also use rolled socks to secure items.

Make the most of the space

  • The best way to pack a hand luggage bag is in reverse.
  • Firstly pack bulky items that you won’t use until you arrive.
  • Leave anything you might need – like baby wipes or snacks for the kids – on top.
  • Then treat all your bulkier rolled items like the bricks of a wall and the smaller items as mortar, which will fill the spaces in between. It’s all about filling in the unused spaces.
  • You can pack valuables in your shoes or small zipped compartments. This will make the contents less prone to shifting around during the flight.

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Once you’ve nailed your hand luggage packing with military precision, you can compare travel insurance deals to find the right deal for you.

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