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Hand luggage essentials

The information provided is a summary that was up to date when this article was published; however, recommendations may be updated from time to time. Please always consult with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist well in advance of travelling. 

Travelling can be exciting but can easily become a challenge if you forget the essentials. Please check your airline luggage policy and restrictions: luggage allowances vary between airlines. Showing up to your flight with the wrong number of suitcases, or hand luggage that’s too big or too heavy, can be expensive. It’s good practice to have everything you need close to hand during and after you land, all packed in your hand luggage.

Travel documents

Travel documents

Before you travel, it is always good to check that your must-have documents – passport, visa(s) and tickets or boarding passes – are in order. Make sure your passport isn’t about to expire and that your visa – if you need one – is valid for your whole trip. If your ticket or boarding pass is online, make sure your phone has enough battery and data to access it at your place of departure.

It’s also good practice to print confirmations and contact details for where you’re staying, as well as about onward travel such as airport transfers. 


If you’re travelling abroad, consider changing some cash into the local currency, in case of any issues finding or using an ATM on arrival. It may be a good idea to let your bank know where you’re going and when to avoid it freezing withdrawals from your destination as a precaution. There are many reputable websites that can provide you with further advice on travel money.


To keep your important items, such as phones, laptops, tablets, cameras and jewellery safe, make sure you leave space for them in your hand luggage.


Water bottle

You may want to bring along a large reusable bottle to refill during your trip. Be sure to empty the bottle before going through airport security. Air in planes is very dry, so it’s vital to drink plenty of water.1 Think about carrying an over-the-counter saline nasal spray to stop your nose drying out, especially during long-haul flights.


These days you can get anything in travel-size, so make sure to pack shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste, hand cream and any beauty products you may need during the trip. But be travel-savvy and don’t exceed the size limit for liquids allowed through security, e.g., normally up to 100 ml per bottle in a single, transparent, resealable bag of up to 20 cm x 20 cm (8 in x 8 in) with a total capacity of up to a litre per passenger. However, there are some exemptions where you can take liquid containers larger than 100 ml; more information can be found here. 2 Additionally, be sure to pack your toiletries in a clear plastic bag at home to save you some time. 


Healthy snacks

It may be a good idea to pack your favourite healthy snacks in case you don’t find them on the plane or have time to buy any while you’re at the airport.

Sleep accessories

If you love to nap on planes, you may want to try a neck pillow and eye mask to make sure you get a good rest during your flight. If you’re travelling long-haul, matching your time sleeping with night-time hours may help minimise jet lag on arrival.


To help you relax during your flight, earplugs can help block out noise. If you get ear discomfort, clogging or popping in planes, there are specially designed pressure-regulating earplugs.


Medication dispenser

If you need to carry prescription medicines on your trip, it’s best to bring them with you; however, it can be a good idea to also bring the related prescription. If you’re planning to bring over-the-counter medicines with you, it’s good practice to check these are allowed in the countries you’re visiting. These tips will help to avoid any issues with airport security.3

Change of clothes

When travelling, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. It’s a good idea to have a couple of outfits in your hand luggage in case your hold luggage is lost, stolen or arrives late. 


Flights can feel even longer if all you have is the airline inflight magazine. To keep yourself entertained and busy, you could pack a book or magazine, or download a film or series to watch on your laptop, tablet or phone.

SAGB.TRAV.19.11.2011 |April 2020


  1. Fit For Travel. Air Travel – Health Issues. Available at: 
  2. Hand luggage restrictions at UK airports. Available at:
  3. NaTHNaC. Medicines and Travel. Available at: 

All accessed January 2020.