Hand luggage – I’m a big fan, a huge supporter, and a passionate user. Where possible, I even try to travel exclusively with hand luggage. Not only because the cheap airlines charge almost the same amount you’ve paid for the ticket for checking luggage.
No, it’s simply much more comfortable and so much faster. Although, since they established the security regulations regarding liquids, it has become a bit tricky.
Once I got even almost arrested at a French airport for carrying cheese.
But mostly it’s really much more handy. The longest I ‘survived’ on hand luggage were two weeks in Italy in summer; and I did not stink…
But also when you travel farther and longer and do check in a backpack or suitcase of whatever size, do yourself a favor and take in addition a sensibly packed piece of hand luggage. It will make the start of your trip so much more comfortable.
Expect the Unexpected:
Surviving some days on hand luggage
In 2003, out of 1,000 suitcases, 13 got lost. By 2015 the figure has decreased to 6.5. In addition, 95 percent of these strays show up within 48 hours.
All this is good news for you statisticians and, of course, for the airlines since the costs of about 3 billion USD for tracing, special deliverance, and restitution will decrease accordingly.
But if you are one of the 6.5 unfortunate ones, it’s of scant comfort that the other 993.5 passengers roll happily their luggage towards customs while you are filling out forms at ‘lost and found’.
So 95 percent of the 6.5 – which equals 6.175 people – are fortunate enough to have their luggage delivered to their doorstep eventually.
That’s essentially good news, but there are still two other issues. Firstly, you cannot be absolutely sure that you aren’t the remaining 0.325 until you hug your lost suitcase. And secondly, you are facing many uncomfortable hours if you’re not prepared and put all your important belongings in your checked baggage.
Don’t do that.
In Case Of Emergency
I went from Hamburg to Miami, wearing baggy jeans, a long-sleeved T-Shirt, big sneakers, and a warm hoodie. I was perfectly dressed for a comfy flight. However, this way, I was wearing kind of a sauna-suite for Miami.
On arrival, my suitcase was missing. Well, to be precise: It wasn’t missing, it was delayed.
Nonetheless, I did miss it. Also because I had nothing but the sauna-suite that I had been wearing for about 18 hours by then.
Lufthansa handed me not only a little necessaire including the…necessary for the first night. I also got a traveller cheque worth 100 US$.
I spare you the story of how to cash a traveller cheque in the current millennium.
This way, after a long flight, I had to spend the rest of the day in my sauna-suite shopping for things that I didn’t want and actually didn’t need. But I was facing a hot day in Miami waiting for my suitcase that included all my nice summery stuff.
I’m not the true-born shopping queen, anyway, all the less when I’m forced to shop. Much less when I’m forced to shop for stuff that I don’t want and don’t need. Wearing a sauna-suite.
Also, I would have preferred to keep the hundred bucks for something else.
Packing Like Going Away For a Weekend
But I’ve learned my lesson and since then I pack my hand luggage as if I’m going away for the weekend. Of course, I vary according to the climate on arrival.
So if I’m travelling to a hot, beach destination, I pack
- light clothes like a dress, a blouse and skirt, a T-shirt and shorts or the like for two days
- PJs or an extra T-shirt for the night (in case you don’t like to sleep naked)
- underwear for two days
- sandals and/or flip flops
- beach towel
- sun protection (remember to take a container of 100 ml/3.4 ounces max.)
It’s more important to be prepared for arriving at a hot place than a cold one. I assume that when you’re travelling to a cold place, you are already wearing your big sweater and warm jacket. So in this case you just need to pack two extra T-shirts and extra underwear.
What’s The Occasion?
Did you make reservation at a nice restaurant? Or do you have tickets for a concert, a theater play or the like during the first days?
Then you should put your
evening wardrobe and your
in the hand luggage, too. If your first stop is nowhere next to a beach, you won’t need the beach towel. Still, you might want swimwear if your accommodation happens to have a pool.
Not only for the first day when you are still eagerly waiting for your luggage, hoping that you are not the 0.325 person, you’ll appreciate to have your vanity bag on you. Hence, it must go into your hand luggage.
Already since during the flight or at layovers, you will enjoy a cat lick with some wet wipes, rehydrate your skin with some nourishing cream, brush your hair and your teeth.
Usually, facial cream, as well as toothpaste, come in containers smaller than 100 ml/3.4 oz. Consequently, there’s no need to buy the much more expensive travel sizes.
If you’re not very picky, it won’t be necessary to put your hair- and body-shampoo in your hand luggage. Basically every hotel and even hostels supply you with these toiletries.
So here is what goes in a transparent bag with a zipper :
- facial cream
- wet wipes (also for your face)
- deodorant* (ideally in a plastic container since they are lighter and do not break)
- hairbrush (preferably foldable)
- small soap (bar – just in case)
- sun protection* (already stated above, but since it’s crucial…)
*in this list, only these four items are liquids
These are just the basics, you can complete this list according to your personal habits and necessities.
Don’t forget that also your foundation, lipstick and even mascara are considered liquids. Hence, they have to go into your zip lock bag.
Have a Good Flight:
Prepare For Comfort
The other day, I read on another blog the great advice to wear something comfortable on a long flight. Do you really need me to tell you not to wear your tightest jeans, a delicate blouse, and stilettos? Do you?!
I think for a flight up to four hours you can wear whatever you please. It’s the longer flights that require some better planning in order to arrive at your final destination in good shape.
You’ll probably need one pair of long pants on your trip, anyway, so you should wear them on the flight. I find some cool, thick leggings the best option: they are soft, warm and comfy and you have the widest range to chose from. Many styles are so sassy that they will make you look rather like a fashionista than a hobo.
I like to wear a long sleeved T-shirt on the flight. Often it’s the only long-sleeved shirt I’m taking with me when travelling to the tropics. On top goes a casual T-shirt-dress.
Hence, I absolutely need a hoodie: here too – soft, warm, comfy, yet stylish. And I love to pull the hood really deep over my face and practically disappear in my sweater. My hoodie is my castle.
I often fly to tropical destinations during cold seasons so that I need warm clothes for the way to the airport and possible at a layover destination – and then again only weeks later. Therefore, a foldable jacket is the best option (packed in its own bag, it also makes a soft pillow).
Crucial tip for the ladies: wear a really comfortable bra on a long flight, anything else will kill you. I like to wear sport bras or bustiers – not only on the flight, but during the whole trip. They are much more comfortable and even if the straps show under tank tops or dresses, they don’t look necessarily like underwear.
I assume that you’ll wear comfortable shoes like sneakers or hiking boots on the flight anyway, since they are too big and heavy for the luggage.
But also think of socks – preferably compression stockings and in addition a pair of big, soft socks. If you don’t like to walk around in them on the plane – especially when going to the bathroom – a pair of disposable slippers (those you get at hotels) are more comfortable than taking your shoes on and off all the while.
Wrap It Up
I tend to get very cold on flights: often I have to get up really early, I’m all excited, they turn the air condition high – I’m freezing. So in addition to the long sleeved T-shirt and the hoodie and the jacket I like to have a big scarf on me that I can wrap around my shoulders or my neck or use as a light blanket.
If you pick one made of a light cotton material, it also serves the purpose of a beach blanket, a sarong, a seat cover…come on, just pick a cotton one.
Make Yourself at Home:
How To Enjoy Your Flight
Whether you like it or not (I do), you are stuck for hours in this big metal thing, only now and then allowed to move – just relax and make the best of it.
By the way, that’s the reason why I like it: I’m forced to sit still and relax – that’s like buddhist therapy.
How To Rest
To make sleeping on the plane – and during jet lag – easier, you can take Melatonin. I don’t know if it’s for everybody, but I know that it helps me a lot with getting a good night’s rest. Usually, I’m taking one pill on the flight and then for three or four days to fight jet lag. Although in the US you can buy them at every supermarket, they should not be popped like candy.
I never ever travel without ear plugs. I use the old fashion wax kind that hermetically shuts my ears against any noise. Conversely, I don’t really need a sleeping mask since I’m crawling into my hoodie. Hence I know that many people appreciate it.
And, of course, you should have an inflatable pillow to rest your neck whether sitting or laying down. By the way, I sleep best with my head and upper body resting on the table. Since I’m tall, it’s not working with the table right in front of my seat. However, the table next to me is fine.
No, of course, I’m not doing that when someone is sitting in that seat, what are you thinking!?!
Can’t sleep on a plane? Poor you. I hope you’re at least travelling with an airline that supplies you with great entertainment like e. g. Emirates or British Airways.
On TAP, the national Portuguese airline, there was Mr. Bean on – for everybody. Mr. Bean – since he doesn’t need to be translated…
So if you happen to travel with an airline whose only entertainment program is dumb – and this on so many levels – Mr. Bean, you better make sure to have your own entertainment. Whether it’s a book – paper or on a device, music, your favorite series downloaded on your tablet or even phone.
If you read or watch something on your phone, chances are your eyes are getting uncomfortably dry, particularly in the dry atmosphere on the plane. So you should have eye drops on you (drops=liquid, hence put them in your zip lock ‘vanity’) and instead of contact lenses you should wear reading glasses.
Make sure to store them thoroughly in an adequate case – my experience is that after one hour of flight every seat on the plane is a mess with papers, candy wrappers, blankets and extra blankets and spare pillows flying around so you risk to find your glasses in this mess by hearing the cracking noise once you sit on them.
Talking ’bout candy wrappers: I like to eat on the plane (actually I like to eat anywhere and any time; but especially on a plane) – only exception here was again TAP where they just slapped a little trough down on the table – no explanations, and of course no questions about preferences or allergies asked. But maybe you like snacking between meals or you forgot to order your special diet. In this case it’s good to have some snacks on hand.
I personally don’t need snacks, but I need vitamins. Usually my diet is so good and healthy that I don’t take any supplements. But over the past years when I kept getting colds and rashes because my immune system went down from the stress of travelling, I took up the habit to pop vitamin capsules daily from about one week before leaving over the entire trip; and it’s getting better.
Omnia Mea Mecum Porto:
Keep Your Valuables Always Close To You
“All that is mine I carry with me” – Bias of Priene, who according to Cicero said these words, was a pretty smart cookie.
And although you don’t need to carry everything that is yours with you, you sure should follow his lead when it comes to valuables.
By valuables I don’t mean only jewelry – if you take any with you at all; however, it shouldn’t be of commercial value – cash and credit cards, your passport and your vaccination certificate*.
No, in addition, you should put all documents needed in your hand luggage, all necessary medication you need to take.
If you have a guide book, it might come handy to have it on you from day one.
Even if you have addresses, directions, and booking confirmations on your phone – it doesn’t hurt to have them printed out, too.
Then you should have copies of all your documents, especially your passport and vaccination certificate. One set of these copies should be in your carry on luggage and another one in your checked baggage. But be very careful with sensitive info like your credit card numbers.
Another copy should be left at home with your family including numbers of all your credit cards, albeit, no PINs!
Ideally together with your banks’ emergency numbers.
Of course, all your electronic devices such as your phone, tablet, laptop, camera belong all this time with you. Don’t forget the charging cable(s). Also, it might be a good idea to carry an additional, fully charged power bank. On the road, it’s sometimes easier to obtain Wifi than power.
Even in these digital times, you might have to fill out immigration forms or customs declarations. Therefore, it’s always good to have one or two ballpoint pens on you. To write quick notes, larger sticky notes are very handy for multi-purpose. I always have a small block on me.
You’ll probably have a little cash on you, anyway, but I always make sure to have at least 10 US$ in small bills to tip people. Although the €uro got really well accepted around the world, the disadvantage is that small amounts are in coins; so US Dollars it is.
I think that I wrote all the necessary down. But if you happen to have further questions – or maybe an additional suggestion! – I’d be very happy to hear from you.
In this post I’ve listed a couple of items and gadgets that became indispensable for my travels.
*If you are uncertain which vaccination you need, check my WORLD’S MOST COMPLETE TRAVEL INFORMATION where you find this info no matter from where to where you are travelling as well as all other relevant information.
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Note: I am completing, editing, and updating this post regularly – last in May 2021.
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