Saturday, July 14, 2018

travelling in style - with hand luggage only

Summer breaks are here - and I'd like to inspire you travelling light - yet in style.

I just came back from a trip along Portugal's west coast. More than a week of visiting cities, hanging out on beaches, and travelling by train.

Does this picture look familiar to you?
Wearing my favorite travel dress at the Singapore Art Museum, becoming one with the art.
(Photo: Mimi Green)

Guess what - I did all this with only hand luggage! Not only because my cheapie-cheap flights did not include checking baggage. It seemed also more convenient travelling with a small, handy, and manageable carry on; after all, at some places, I spent only one night.

All right, this time, I've been on the road for only a bit over a week. But in the past, I managed to travel up to two weeks only with a carry-on. I should qualify this statement: It works this easily only in summer when you need one warmer sweater max - which you do not have to stuff in your bag.

I put together a complete packing list and added some useful tips and hacks how to travel light without looking like a bum - or like a tourist, which sometimes is synonymous.


What do you have to consider? If you are flying and entitled to hand luggage only, check which size and weight are allowed - this might differ a bit from airline to airline.
Usually, it's something like 55 x 40 x 23 cm (about 22 x 18 x 10 inches) and around 8 to 10 kg (18 to 22 pounds).

For a summer vacation, that's fine if you pack wisely - and are allowed an additional handbag which e. g. with easyjet is not the case.
I know that I am by far not the only person who on her first easyjet flight desperately stuffed her handbag in the carry-on suitcase since they strictly allow only one piece of luggage and a handbag qualifies as hand luggage, too.
But as far as I know, it's only easyjet, all the other carriers, even the cheap ones like Ryanair or Eurowings do allow an extra handbag.

Note: Remember that you won't be able to bring souvenirs like wine, jam, spreads like pesto or creamy and liquid cosmetics home with you. I got in major trouble when carrying soft cheese from France: Since it's creamy, it qualifies as a liquid - I wrote a post about this unexpected adventure.

Your only option is to buy them at the duty-free when leaving. They might be more expensive than at the local supermarkets, but remember how much you save on your flight when travelling only with a carry-on; this will make up for the more expensive shopping at the airport big time!

clothes and shoes

Obviously, what sort of clothes you take on a trip is the most personal and individual part of packing. But you might consider certain aspects.
What are you planning on doing?
Visiting cities and museums and go out for dinner or maybe even a cultural event?
I see all these tourists walking around the elegant shopping areas in world's metropoles wearing ugly safari shorts, tennis socks in sturdy hiking sandals, carrying a sports backpack - looking like....poorly dressed tourists.
I hate that.
When travelling, I'm basically wearing the same style I wear at home.

Very often, I wear dresses. I think that they call a dress a dress because you always look...dressed.
It's so easy: You do not have to think about coordinates - you slip on a dress, put on a pair of sandals - or sneakers - and you are ready to go; looking dressed.

Like mother, like daughter. My second time in Malaysia, I travelled in the company of my daughter Mimi.
Long skirts are not only light and airy, they are also an appropriate attire when travelling to a Muslim country.
(Photo: June Karim)

And summer dresses are light; remember - you're allowed 10 kilos max!
If I travel for a week, I pack three light dresses, one skirt with two matching blouses or T-shirts, whereby blouses are as light but deem dressier, and I'm good.
Since most of my dresses are sleeveless, I'm taking a large, but light muslin shawl to wrap around my shoulders in churches for modesty; and in climatized environments against the cold.
For two weeks, I'd add another skirt and maybe a pair of light slacks.

Since you never know, I also take a light sweater - already for the plane cabin. This doesn't go in the luggage, I wrap it around my shoulders or tie it around my waist.

In order not to look like a clown, I chose my travel clothes very matchy-matchy: One or two basic colors - I admit, yawn!, it's mostly blue and white- and maybe one more accent - like e. g. a cherry red blouse, and that's it.
The sweater and the sandals - we'll get to them later - have to go with every piece of garment I take with me.

A silken wrap skirt is just perfect for exploring a city: As light as two scarves, dressy, and you can even get in full swing in it.

If there is still space, I pack one pair of shorts for the beach destination - I'm 55 and so are my legs, I'm not wearing shorts in the historic center of New York, Rio, Tokyo.

Obviously, you need underwear and possibly some pairs of socks if you are bringing sneakers.
I pack these always for one week. If the trip is longer, I handwash them.

For the night, I take two boxers and two tank tops. The tank tops are also a nice back up if for any reason I need an informal top.
These can also be quickly washed by hand and dried overnight if necessary.

Shoes - also extremely personal preferences here. I like to have at least two pairs of - comfy! - sandals that I can wear with at least most of my clothes and one pair of light, a bit dressy sneakers.

Flip-flops - rather philosophy than shoes: The epitome of a summer vacation.

Unless I go hiking, then I'm wearing sensible hiking shoes no matter what. Walking downhill in dressy sneakers in Cabo Verde, I slipped and fell and was incredibly lucky that I did not rip a tendon - since then only sturdy hiking shoes for me.

For the beach - and for walking around at the hotel - I pack a pair of flip-flops.

In general, make sure to pick shoes with non-slippery soles.

beachwear and accessories

I tend to take too many bikinis with me when travelling.
Going to Portugal, for the first time in my life, I limited myself to one. Guess what - it was totally sufficient.

What's crucial is a sunhat (mainly to shield my eyes when I'm reading) and of course sunglasses.

To stretch out, a light sarong is perfect - you can also use it as an informal skirt or dress on the beach.

If you don't have a sarong - or a canga, as they call it in Brazil - you can purchase one right on the beach.

Travelling light, you probably won't have a convenient beach bag with you.
I used a light canvas tote bag.
Unfortunately, the fabric doesn't protect your stuff against the fine sand dust, so you should wrap at least your phone and your camera in a plastic bag or put it in some case.


Now, this might seem like the biggest issue especially since you are limited to a container size of 100 ml / 3.4 ounces max. As we all know, you have to carry it in a transparent ziplock plastic bag - which is good because this spares you an extra toiletries bag. You can take up to 10 of these containers (which probably never fit in that bag, anyway).

Cosmetic companies are making a lot of money by selling their products in 'travel sizes' which is a total rip off since they are far more expensive. And unless you are going away just for a weekend, they are pointless, too. Let's break it down:

You have to remove makeup and clean your face: Use facial wipes = No liquids, no problem.

You use day and night cream: The regular sizes come in 30 to 50 ml / 1 to 1.7 oz = Goes in the ziplock.

You brush your teeth: Regular toothpaste comes in 75 to 100 ml / 2.5 to 3.4 oz = Goes in the ziplock.

Your toothbrush = No liquid (see, you've learned something new here).

You are taking showers: Instead of shower gel, take a nice bar of soap with you = No liquid.

If you insist on a gel, you'll probably get some at your hotel, anyway, or you buy one at your destination.

The toiletries I found at the Mercure's bathroom and my facial care in total harmony.

You are washing your hair: If you stay at a hotel, use their shampoo and conditioner; or buy a small bottle of a combined product at your destination if you don't like the one you find in your hotel bathroom.

You are using body lotion: Buy it at the duty-free shop after you went through security or at your first destination (depending on the product, I need 200 to 300 ml / 6.5 to 10 oz per week).

You use deodorant: The regular sizes come in 30 to 50 ml / 1 to 1.7 oz = Goes in the ziplock.

You need sun protection: Buy it at the duty-free shop or at your destination (depending on how many days I spend on the beach, I need 100 to 200 ml / 3.4 to 6.5 oz per week).

Tip: Usually they don't have these good yet middle-priced brands at airport duty-free stores. They have rather top-shelf brands so that what you don't use shouldn't go to waste. You might consider taking or buying 100 ml plastic bottles for the rests so you can take them home with you.

Even if you need your foundation, mascara, lipstick, and nail polish - it will still fit in your ziplock: According to the above list, there's hardly anything in it.
Oh, to remove nail polish, you can also use wipes that come in small packs, so no liquid here, either.


Guys, I think you're almost set for your one- or two-week summer trip. Now you need some good read - which you'll probably have on a Kindle while I'm smuggling the big book with me. Everything else will be stored on your phone, don't forget your charge cables, your power bank, and headphones. Take your computer or tablet - or, if you don't have to work, you might as well leave it at home.

No matter how little space - a travel blogger without a notebook is like a cowboy without a horse. Yeehaw!

For more ideas and inspiration, check my post on additional carry-on and on things I find extremely helpful when travelling (although some of them cannot be carried in your hand luggage).

I wish you a light and carefree summer trip - and don't forget to send me a postcard!

If you wish to pin this post, please use this picture:


  1. Awesome tips! I usually try to travel with only hand luggage as well :)

  2. Lovely pictures! I love traveling with hand luggage only but I am always a bit scared that I took too much cosmetics to fit in the plastic bag :)))

  3. I am a BIG fan of carry-on only travel! It's so much easier when moving thru a city - lugging things in and out of trains, taxis, up/down stairs, etc. The more I travel, the more my shopping has changed - I suddenly notice the weight of clothes and how big or small the can pack down! It makes a big difference when packing!!

  4. I am always impressed how other people manage to travel so lightly. I always overpack, because I overthink everything and pack for every eventuality. But your list is a starting point for my next short trip.

  5. Oh well. My traveling packing is centered around my camera and lenses. They re so big and heavy, that I hardly have more space in hand luggage.

  6. Got 2 bags - one about 40L that fits a lot of things and is our "small" bag while backpacking the world. And another smaller 15L or so shoulder bag that has become my go-to bag for city sightseeing and airport ready bag. It fits in the bigger and is easily to grab!

  7. My husband and I usually only travel with carry-ons . . . it's amazing what you can fit in those sizes of bags! I agree about bringing dresses. It makes less dirty laundry and you always look pretty nice, plus they're comfy!

  8. We have always travelled with quite a lot, but we leave for a round the world trip soon so your tips are really handy as we have hand luggage each and one checked baggage between us, plus lots of tech gear! It's the least we have ever travelled with, but for the longest time! We need to make sure out toiletries are compact and that I don't try and take too many pairs of shoes!

  9. Annemarie LeBlancJuly 17, 2018 at 12:54 AM

    Years of traveling experience has taught me to pack light, just like you. I always refer to my travel itinerary so I only take with me the right clothes for the destinations and activities that have been planned.

  10. Great tips! I wish I had seen this before I just paid for two 20kg suitcases for our holiday this year! I am such an over packer!!

  11. Wonderful tips. I have always tried to travel light but I have never ever traveled with only hand luggage unless it is just 2-3 days. This post inspires me to do better.

  12. I love the idea of just taking hand luggage and travelling around living out of one bag! It sounds like the easy life.

  13. Travelling hand baggage is just amazing for getting out of the airport zand enjoying your destination so much sooner. One other tip: They sell travel sized toiletries after security at all UK airports, good brands as well so you don't have to worry about taking any liquids through & save your tiny plastic bag for lip gloss :)

  14. Yes, great article! I love travelling light and carry-on only saves LOTS of valuable spending money!! It's true that the gadgets always seem to take up space and add tons of weight - yikes. Thanks for this!

  15. Geraline BatarraJuly 17, 2018 at 3:04 PM

    Wow! This is such a great post and very informative. Loved the way you twist on how to do traveling with light luggage.

  16. I loved this. I often travel hand luggage only and it really shows how little you need. I love using up all my travel size products/samples too!

    Ami xxx

  17. I love the travel tips here. Packing dresses to go away is so smart. You don’t need to bother about extra pieces.

  18. What a delightful post. I have had both experiences - travelling with full allowed luggage limit... sometimes exceeding too :( and travelling with only hand baggage. And the latter one has always been more happy experience. You post is a reinforcement. and the tips are very helpful to manage it all.

  19. I travel with hand luggage most times except for very long haul flights. I plan outfits so that I can wear them on multiple days to save on space and I carry a large enough handbag for extras because women's handbags are not considered luggage.

  20. So many great packing tips. I love packing for summer trips because the clothes are lighter and my summer wardrobe is brighter :) Winter packing is a challenge for me!!

  21. Great tips and traveling light makes the trip all the more fun and is something I also prefer

  22. Super great tips. I always try to have light luggage but end up with more. I think i'll try this out on my next travel.

  23. Oh How I wish we can travel with just a hand carried luggage. If it's just me, then maybe. But with the kids always coming with us, we have at least 3 checked in luggages and 5 more hand carried items for a one week trip.

  24. I mostly only ever travel with hand luggage, but it hasn't always been like that! I think travelling light comes with experience and style of travel. I certainly don't think I have mastered travelling light, but I went to Bali for two weeks with 7 kg hehe.

  25. Some great tips here! I'm getting better at travelling light. I was very proud of myself that I managed to travel around India for a few weeks with only 9kg in my backpack. :-)

  26. I always travel light like you. I hate stuff. My friends are always shocked when I even go out for a day trip with next to nothing. All I need is my phone and wallet! Thank you for informing others that they can do it.

  27. I can see why packing for just carrying hand luggage would become challenging. Lots of things to think about there.

  28. I've recently gotten into traveling with carry-on luggage only. It's so much easier to not have to keep track of a giant suitcase. And I LOVE not having to wait for my stuff after getting off an airplane!

  29. Traveling by carry-on only is such a great way to go. A good friend of ours can travel for a week or more with only a small gym-sized carry duffel and his laptop. Impressive. Unfortunately, with all our camera gear, tripods, video gear, laptops, smartphones, cables and other assorted electronics, carry-on rarely happens.

  30. I find shoes a challenge to pack into a small carry on since like you said, you basically need a pair for hiking then for the beach and of course for every day wear as well. But I loveeeeee dresses too for how easy they are! You literally get an outfit out of one piece of garment only and it's basically a guarantee that you'll look fab for any occassion hahaa.

  31. Nice read. Hand luggage travelling has always been my thing as I don't like my stuff going in the hold.

  32. I did this on the last trip I was on! I was gone for 6 days and got away with just a carry on. Although it was SO HEAVY. Lols!!

  33. I always take hand luagge! I have the perfect rucksack from ikea that fits everything x

  34. Yes, the first time I heard Rick Steves mention traveling with only one personal carry-on item, I was shocked. His trips are longer than mine!

  35. You taught me how to travel light. Thanks for your lovely tips. Will try to follow them in my next trip. Hand luggage only travel would be such a bliss.

  36. My husbands moto is the bigger the bag the more you pack, the smaller the bag the less you pack and can learn to travel with! Love this!

  37. I can imagine that you are travelling and you have only one hand luggage is an amazing feel. This is because you have less items to manage an dcarry and honesly less to worry about unpack and pack. Loved your post.

  38. If only I could carry light with just a travel case. I always end up taking everything but the kitchen shop when travelling.


For the required assignment of the comment personal data will be stored, namely name, e-mail and IP address. By submitting the commentary you agree with it. More in the privacy policy in the sidebar.