Hand luggage only packing tips
If you want to get in and out of the airport with minimum faff (not to mention expense), then avoiding baggage check-in desk and flying with hand luggage only is the way to go.
But with fiddly security rules and weight restrictions to take into account, a little advance prep can go a long way to smoothing your airport experience.
Here's some advice on how to keep travelling light as stress-free as possible, plus a baggage allowance guide.
The one-bag rule
Nowadays, airlines that allow only one bag really mean just one bag and can be stringent enforcing it. This means your handbag, changing bag or any duty free must all fit in one carry-on bag.
So, tempting as it is to pick up a couple of bottles of wine or some chocs, make sure you can fit them into your carry-on hand luggage, otherwise you may be forced to abandon your purchases at the departure gate.
And make sure you can remove anything you'll need during the flight from your bag easily, or dress accordingly with lots of pockets.
Luggage weight restrictions
Once you've crammed your whole life into a single bag, the fun's not over - weight restrictions mean you should be prepared to have your bag weighed (though the likelihood of this happening varies depending on the airport and airline).
If you'd like to be completely prepared, Mumsnetter mouseyfledermaus recommends investing in a home travel-scale. It's also worth checking how much your bag weighs empty; some wheeled-bags weigh a couple of kilograms before you've even started packing.
Mumsnetter Ivykaty44 offers her pared-down packing method:
• Pack three outfits, plus one for the evening
• Pack your flip flops, and one other pair of shoes
• Stuff your toiletries and underwear inside the shoes you just packed
• Wear your fourth outfit to fly in (if you turn up naked at check-in, they may object)
If you're going for the one-bag approach, how do you maximise the amount you can fit in it? The secret is to be a smart packer, as demonstrated by this ultra-savvy guide from the New York Times on fitting a veritable catwalk of clothing into a single bag.
But if this is beyond you, Mumsnetters recommend other tips and tricks, such as taking bras without underwires because they roll smaller, using small vacuum bags to compress your clothes and taking microfibre instead of normal towels because they're less bulky.
The infamous 100ml liquids rule is still with us, which means you'll be forced to discard any liquids in your carry-on bag that exceed 100ml, even if the bottle isn't full.
Check before you travel - you don't want to be the person at security having to chuck their almost-new 125ml bottle of perfume.
And be clear what toiletries constitute a liquid - for instance, lipstick, deodorant and toothpaste are all counted. Directgov has a helpful guide to taking liquids in your hand luggage.
Remember, all your 100ml containers have to then fit into a single one litre plastic bag. Some Mumsnetters have a stock of resealable clear freezer bags or pencil cases – worth considering, especially since several airports charge you £1 for the plastic bags. But make sure your bag is definitely resealable.
Baby milk and food are exempt from the 100ml rule, but you're only allowed to board with 'sufficient for the trip' (there's no set rule on how much this is) and you may be asked to taste it when going through security.
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Finally, medicines and tablets are all fine to take through security (as long as they're not over 100ml) but you can't take anything sharp on to the plane (although razors are OK), so check children's pencil cases for scissors.
Getting through security can be one of the most irksome parts of flying, but savvy packing can make it less stressful.
If you're bringing an iPad or laptop on to the plane with you, for example, make sure you haven't carefully buried it under three or four layers of tightly packed clothes - security will make you dig it out to place in a separate tray when scanning, meaning you face a repacking nightmare once you're through.
And while it may be a smart move to wear your clumpiest boots through the airport to save on your weight restriction, be prepared to take them off at security. If they've got fiddly laces, it might be worth unlacing them while queueing.
Airline baggage allowances
Here's a rough guide to what some of the main airlines will and won't allow, but double-check before you fly, as these may change.
|Handbag allowed?||Weight limit
||Size limit (cm)||Fees for excess|
|Ryanair||No||10kg||55 x 40 x 20||£50/€50|
|EasyJet||No||None||56 x 45 x 25||£25-£40|
|British Airways||Yes (and laptop)||23kg||56 x 45 x 25||£34-90|
|Virgin Atlantic||Yes (no laptop)|| 6kg
|56 x 36 x 23||£40-£50|
|Thomas Cook||No||5kg||55x 40 x 20||£40|
|Aer Lingus||No||10kg||55x 40 x 20||£12-£45|
|Monarch||No||5kg||56 x 45 x 25||£50/€60|
Data correct in July 2012
What Mumsnetters say about travelling light
- It's worth wearing something with pockets to slip a paperback in. mirry2
- Look in TK Maxx and Matalan for a a smaller, lighter suitcase. If you will fly regularly it will save you loads in excess baggage charges on budget airlines. Girlywhirly
- Use rucksacks not suitcases, they are a lot lighter, or those very light holdalls. joanofarchitrave
- Think about what you can buy at the airport - toiletries, nail scissors, all sorts that you can't pack can be bought without limit once you're through security. theas18
- We have two Trekmates travel towels, which fold up really tiny and only weigh 230g. girlywhirly
- I got caught out by my nasal spray inhaler for my asthma. I hadn't thought about it being a liquid and got delayed. mummymeister
- The plastic bag for your liquids has to be resealable. I just use the small freezer bags with a 'zip' top. A woman in front of me at security was sent off to buy a different plastic bag, as she had a regular freezer bag which didn't seal. shrimponastick