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Fed up with waiting in airport queues for hours on end? Want to travel as lightly as possible? Then, consider taking only hand luggage on your next trip!  

Travelling with hand luggage alone has all sorts of advantages. Once you arrive at the airport, all you have to do is go through security, and from then on, it’s smooth sailing. You can go straight to your gate without any hassle! Not only does this save you the trouble of hauling a heavy suitcase around, but it also makes the packing process a lot easier. Since carry-ons are usually half the size of checked bags, you’ll be more selective and only pack what you need.

However, there are still a few things to keep in mind, such as the specific guidelines you’ll have to follow for carry-ons. In this article, we’ll explain these various rules, what type of carry-ons are the best to take, and share our tips on how to pack like a pro.

What’s Considered Hand Luggage?

The most popular types of hand luggage are backpacks and small suitcases. However, you can pretty much use any kind of bag, including duffel bags, crossbody bags, and regular handbags. That said, luggage can get shaken around quite a bit during flights. Make sure your bag is durable and doesn’t have any holes!

Whether you can take one or two pieces of hand luggage depends on the airline and the type of ticket you booked. But if you want to take more than just a small suitcase, don’t worry! You’re allowed to take one additional personal item, such as a small handbag or backpack for your passport, wallet, etc. There’s no need to choose between your handbag and suitcase. 

This is because the term ‘hand luggage’ is used to describe cabin bags, which are larger pieces of luggage stowed in overhead lockers. Personal items, on the other hand, can be kept with you in your seat on the plane and don’t have an additional charge. 

Personal items include:

  • Handbags
  • Small backpacks
  • Bum bags
  • Laptop bags

Those travelling with babies or children can also bring baby carriers or car seats in addition to one of the previously mentioned items. 

Just to clarify, one piece of hand luggage includes one cabin bag and one personal item. Hence, for two pieces of hand luggage, you can bring two cabin bags as well as two personal items.

Hand Luggage Restrictions

Size

Be sure to research any size restrictions for hand luggage before travelling, as their dimensions can vary between airlines. In terms of the personal items, they don’t really have any limits except being smaller than cabin bags. 

Be sure to check the weight restrictions for your airline! Most airlines let you carry cabin bags that weigh up to 8 kg and are 55 x 40 x 20 cm (length x width x height).

Liquids

Liquids can only be carried in containers that hold 100 ml or less, such as small bottles or jars. A word of warning, this guideline refers to the capacity of the containers, not the amount of liquid inside them. For example, you wouldn’t be allowed to take a half-full 200 ml bottle of shower gel.

All liquids need to be removed from your hand luggage and placed in a clear plastic bag for the security screening. You’re limited to one bag of liquids per person, which can’t be more than 1 litre. In other words, one person can take up to ten 100 ml bottles of liquid. In fact, the best way to stay within all these regulations is to buy travel-size or solid toiletries. This way, you won’t have to use a plastic bag and will avoid any problems with security. 

Some exceptions to this rule are baby food and medication. In both cases, you’re allowed to carry containers of more than 100 ml. However, if you’re carrying liquid medicine, you’ll need a prescription or a letter from your doctor. Solid medication, like tablets and pills, usually doesn’t cause any problems.

You’re welcome to carry empty bottles or flasks in your hand luggage. To avoid expensive airport food, you could also pack your own snacks for the journey. As long as they’re solid, you’re allowed to take them through security. This includes sandwiches, apples, nuts, or chocolate. To be on the safe side, you can also put your food in a clear plastic bag or a lunch box.

Sharp and Dangerous Items

Generally, sharp and dangerous items are prohibited in your hand luggage. 

These include:             

  • Firearms or self-defence sprays (e.g., pepper spray)
  • Explosive or flammable substances (e.g., fireworks)
  • Work tools
  • Sports equipment (things like baseball bats or hiking poles can only be carried in your checked luggage)

Exceptions apply to the following items:

  • Lighters and safety matches (only one lighter or one pack of safety matches per person is permitted; these have to be kept on your person)
  • Razors (only disposable razors with fixed-cartridge razor blades are allowed; safety razors or straight razors are not permitted)
  • Knives and scissors (only those with blades no longer than 6 cm)
  • Walking aids (e.g., walking sticks)
  • Small foldable umbrellas (large stick umbrellas with pointed ends are only allowed in your checked luggage)
  • Small musical instruments (large musical instruments are also only allowed in your checked luggage)

Nonetheless, it’s always good to double-check and read the guidelines again before your travels.  After all, the rules can differ between airlines and the country you’re travelling to or from.  

Electronic devices

Electronic devices containing lithium batteries must be carried in your hand luggage. This is because sometimes they can get too hot and potentially explode or catch fire; taking them on board with you will minimise the risk of an accident. Some airlines also limit the number of lithium battery-powered devices you can carry, so remember to check your airline’s guidelines beforehand.

Devices containing normal batteries, like torches or medical devices, are allowed in carry-on bags without any restrictions. Power banks under 100 WH can also be carried in your hand luggage. However, they are limited to two per person. 

Electronic devices permitted in hand luggage include:

  • Mobile phones and smartphones
  • Laptops
  • Tablet devices
  • Portable gaming consoles
  • Cameras
  • Smartwatches
  • Electrical health and beauty tools (e.g., hairdryers, razors, and toothbrushes)
  • E-cigarettes
  • Charging cables
  • Power banks
  • Other battery-powered devices that fall within the guidelines

Your Hand Luggage Packing List

Now that you’ve familiarised yourself with what you can and can’t take on a plane, you’re ready to start packing! If you’re still a little confused about the rules surrounding liquids and electronic devices, don’t worry. We’ve compiled a packing list to help you travel as safely and comfortably as possible. 

As previously mentioned, carry-ons are usually smaller than regular suitcases, meaning there’s much less space for your belongings. While this might make you a little sceptical of travelling with hand luggage at first, it’s a blessing in disguise. With less space, you’ll stick to the essentials and won’t overpack.

Typically, it’s better to keep all your essential items or documents in your smaller, additional bag or on your person. This’ll save you from having to rummage through all of your clothes just to find your wallet.

Some of these essential items and documents include:

  • Travel documents (e.g., passport, boarding pass, vaccination certificate if required, and other flight documentation)
  • Wallet
  • ID
  • A jacket (in case you get cold on the plane)
  • Snacks
  • Any electronic devices you want to use during the flight
  • Possibly also a book or a magazine to pass the time 

When it comes to hand luggage, liquids and electronic devices tend to cause the most problems. In fact, we encourage you to take as few electronic devices as possible. This way, you’ll not only avoid issues with security, but you’ll also experience the benefits of digital minimalism. Also, it might be worth swapping out your toiletries for their solid alternatives. Bar soaps, stick deodorants, and toothpaste tabs work just as well as their liquid counterparts – the only difference is their form. With liquid-free hand luggage, you won’t have to worry about spillages or putting your products in a plastic bag for security.

Conclusion

Even though there are quite a few things to consider when flying just with hand luggage, it’s definitely worth a try. Not only will you travel lighter, but you’ll also skip the long queues at check-in.

So, what are you waiting for? Start packing your carry-on and make your next trip as light, simple, and stress-free as possible!

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