There was always something smug about the hand-luggage-only crowd and the way they glided off the plane and into a taxi. Yet the inevitable restrictions on sun creams, perfumes, books and shoes never made it quite worth it – until now.
Every day a new horror story emerges about summer travel chaos, with frazzled baggage handlers breaking down in tears, and passengers reeling after six-hour waits for their luggage. Staff shortages mean pilots are having to help offload bags, while thousands of undelivered and unclaimed suitcases are piling up in airports around the country.
It’s enough to make you embrace your cabin bag with open arms – although travelling light is far from simple in 2022. Low-cost airlines no longer allow free on-board luggage and if you want to bring anything you can’t fit under the seat, you’ll need to pay extra. Not that this gives you much leeway: RyanAir and Wizz insist paid-for cabin bags weigh under 10kg and EasyJet under 15kg. And, considering the suitcases themselves usually come in at about 4kg, these airlines seem to be suggesting we dress in clothes so skimpy even Love Island contestants would blanche.
The result of all this is that we have to rethink how we pack for this year’s holiday. For some that means making checklists and investing in packing cubes, for others it’s about dressing cleverly on the plane as they’re not yet at the point of weighing passengers. Here the Telegraph’s fashion team has various solutions. And none involve skimping on style…
The challenge: ‘I’ve got a four day trip with two toddlers’
Tamara wears: Inca hat, £79, lackofcolor.au; Linen shirt, £70 and trousers, £45, both boden.co.uk; Meia rib body, £16, marksandspencer.com; Taylor clogs, £175, sezane.com; Félicie basket, £170, sezane.com; Cabin S aluminium suitcase, £850, rimowa.com
When I had twins two years ago, I was told I wouldn’t be able to travel light anymore. But I love nothing more than a challenge, and this summer’s trip to Puglia in Italy is my opportunity.
The great benefit of travelling in summer is that clothes take up very little space. I won’t need a different outfit for every activity; if I’m honest, I only ever wear a handful of favourite items. I always take a travel-size tube of laundry detergent, but my Bosch Freshup, which deodorises clothes, is the lazy traveller’s answer to hand-washing.
My essentials include two swimsuits, linen trousers, shorts, three tops (including a plain white tee and a black tank) and two silky maxi dresses. I love the process of curating a capsule wardrobe that can be worn in myriad combinations.
I’ll travel in trainers or clogs; plus something long-sleeved so I don’t get cold on the plane. My beach bag doubles as a handbag, containing a nappy changing pouch and a travel wallet for passports, phone and cards. I keep beauty products to a minimum and we’ll use hotel body wash and shampoo).
Of course a lot of luggage space is taken up by nappies, toys, books and bibs, which, along with the kids’ clothes are split between the two carry-ons – rash vests, tees, rompers, shorts and hats. I’ll buy factor 50 sunscreen and snacks at duty free.
Easyjet and Ryanair will take buggies in the hold for free. Once we’re through security, we let them run around a bit, and carry them in slings when they get tired.
The challenge: ‘I’m got a glam three-day wedding in Biarritz
Melissa wears: Jacket, £203, Essentiel Antwerp; Ganni Jeans, £82, Matches Fashion; Suede sandals, £320, Dear Frances; Travelling bag, £335, Ancient Greek Sandals; Leather tote bag, £395, Coach; Suitcase, £325, Horizn Studio; Look 2: Earrings, £85, galleria-armadoro.com; Iris & Ink Cotton broderie anglaise top, £145, theoutnet.com; Iris & Ink Organic silk satin skirt, £200, theoutnet.com; Suede sandals, £320, dearfrances.com; Vivienne Westwood Sunglasses, £175, countryattire.com; Sunglasses chain, £65, tinkalink.com; Leather tote bag, £395, coach.com
“You’ve got to be joking” was my response when my husband suggested we rely on hand luggage for a wedding in Biarritz. How was I supposed to pack light for a week’s holiday and three days of events on a coastline with iffy weather?
My airline’s cabin bag limit is a meagre 10kg, so I have to make my airport outfit an extension of my wedding wardrobe. I plan on layering an Essentiel Antwerp emerald jacket over a slip dress for one of the wedding dinners – the dress is easy to pack, but the jacket isn’t, so I’ll wear it on the plane.
Everything should be reusable – the silk skirt will be worn with a swimming costume for seaside lunches, my cotton shirt is a beach cover-up but also works for a casual dinner outfit when paired with jeans and gold jewellery, while my travel tote doubles up as a beach bag. The orange cross-body bag will store my passport and wallet for the flight.
Finally – shoes. French weddings tend to be more dressed down than British ones, so I’ll wear these low-heeled Dear Frances mules on the plane and to all the events, and throw a light pair of beach flip flops in my bag. The result, to my triumph and irritation, is that my husband has now asked if he can put some of his clothes in my case…
The challenge: ‘I’m on a city break with variable weather’
Michael wears: Orlebar Brown Linen and cotton blend trousers, £225, mrporter.com; Mr P. Cotton and silk blend jacket, £295, mrporter.com; Outerknown Cotton twill shirt, £135, mrporter.com; Linen shirt, £105, playalondon.com; Leather trainers, £210, axelarigato.com; Linen shirt and t-shirt Michael’s own; Centenary Carry-on leather suitcase, £1,495, globe-trotter.com
Left to my own devices I’m a terrible packer. After a big night at the Baftas one year followed by a 6am pick-up the next day I went skiing with 12 (very nice) jumpers, one black Bond-esque Fusalp all-in-one but absolutely zero trousers for the entire trip…
Luckily, a few hundred short-haul trips later I have learnt a trick or two. Firstly, overpacking is not cute. Ignore the inner voice urging ‘Oh, that case is only half-full, whack a few more bits in there just to make sure – and yes, this might be the time you wear that unworn Versace shirt that you bought in the Harrods sale three years’. Secondly, rolling each item means that not only do your belongings emerge relatively un-creased at the other end, but you’ll save loads of space. For footwear look to the holiday holy trinity – a pair of pool slides, white pumps and simple black leather sandals.
Put belts around the inside edge of your suitcase, and your ratio of tops to trousers and shorts should be 2:1. For carry-on toiletries I use an Initially London clear leather-trimmed bag. Always wear your hat or carry it. Oh, and freshen up shirts by putting the shower on its hottest temperature and steaming them in the bathroom for a few minutes.You’re welcome.
The challenge: ‘I need to go straight from the plane to dinner’
Lisa wears: Silk cotton dress £250, meandem.com; Straw hat, £65, allsaints.com; Sandals, £69, charleskeith.co.uk; Cashmere silk scarf, £220, beggxco.com; The Carry-On Pro suitcase, £425, carlfriedrik.com; Sunglasses Lisa’s own
A key tip of mine is to always dress smartly for the plane, in case the flight’s delayed and you have to go straight out to dinner. A loosely cut dress (this one’s looks good belted as well as unbelted) in non-crease fabrics, a smart jacket (make sure it’s one you can wear for the rest of the trip) and comfortable flatform sandals are ideal. I add my trusty, generously sized Begg x Co scarf in an ultra fine but warm cashmere and silk mix, which can be worn round the neck or draped around the shoulders, and I’m prepared for that blast of air con on the plane.
I like this smooth glider suitcase from Carl Friedrik because it has a neat zip-up compartment outside - perfect for laptops, chargers, a small jewellery box with dangly earrings and the spare pair of shoes I’ll change into for the restaurant. In the main compartment: 2 pairs of linen flared trousers from Asceno.com for that glidey, Italian palazzo vibe and four linen shirts – good for night or day – and one more dress. Not forgetting three swimsuits, neoprene shoes for rocky beaches and, if I’m going somewhere that gets chilly at night, a fine ribbed cardi that can slip under the jacket (Uniqlo’s at £14.99 are a steal, or check out Vince’s lustrous fine gauge knits). Finally, two matching no-underwire bra and brief sets from Dora Larsen. For maximum efficiency stick to three – four colours max.
Last week I spent five days in Lisbon, combining a mini break with two dressy work dinners and a fashion show – and I did it with hand luggage. I won’t be checking in a suitcase again in a hurry.