February 25, 2019

How to Pack Hand Luggage Only for a Weekend Break

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It’s very easy to overpack for a trip that doesn’t actually require much stuff, but in reality you end up resenting your baggage as you lug it around the airport, you can’t find what you need and you dread repacking it for your journey home. I’ve been there many times, can you tell?

I trialled minimal packing for my recent trips to Dublin and Budapest, and I think I’ve finally nailed it. Packing light for a weekend break is doable guys, it just takes some practice.

Read on to see what I pack for a weekend break in just one small backpack – plus some killer packing tips that have changed my packing game forever.

Read more: 10 Ways to Plan a Cheap Weekend Break

Key items

Backpack: if you want to take a cabin case by all means do, but if I know I won’t be able to drop any luggage off anywhere, I don’t want to be dragging a case around the streets. Instead, treat yourself to a good backpack that’s not going to weigh you down too much.

Passport and boarding passes: don’t forget these, I think that’s quite obvious. I usually use my phone’s Wallet function for boarding passes, which admittedly is a risk if you phone dies, so consider printing them and slotting them into the back of your backpack so they stay flat.

Money: whether you decide to take your bank card or get some currency out, remember to pack it in an accessible (but safe) part of your backpack.


Phone and charger: make sure your phone is fully charged before you set off on your trip and keep that charger to hand in case you need a quick recharge at the airport.

Charging bank: these are great for city breaks, because if like me you take tons of photos then you’re going to need to get the battery back up at some stage. Again, charge your charging bank to its maximum before you go away.

Camera: charge your camera before you go and remove any old photos from your memory card (but remember to put it back in, along with the battery). You probably won’t need a charger for a weekend break, but consider taking one if you can fit it in your backpack.

Headphones: I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand not having music for a flight. This is a bit of a luxury item but they’re tiny, so it’s fine.

Travel adaptors: if you’re going abroad make sure you check what travel plugs you need and take a couple with you so you can charge your phone (and possibly your camera) at night.

Health, beauty and skin care

Toothbrush and toothpaste: I always charge my electronic toothbrush before I go so I don’t need the charger, and I buy a mini toothpaste either before the trip or at the airport. There’s no need to take a whacking great tube for one or two nights.

Deodorant: again, I pick up a mini version of this before I go or once I arrive at the airport. You won’t need much for a short trip so don’t bulk out your bag with a standard sized one.

Rollerball perfume: these are an absolute game changer. Their tiny 10ml size is perfect for short trips abroad! My favs are Marc Jacob’s Daisy and Zara Fruity.

Makeup: if you love a full makeup look then you might struggle to pack light here, but if you not you can get away with a small selection of essentials. I usually take a primer, foundation, powder, mascara and brow pencil.

Makeup remover: my top choice is the Face Halo. It’s lightweight, eco-friendly and does the job. Alternatively, take some makeup remover wipes.

Skin care: for me this is nothing more than a small cleanser, moisturiser, hand sanitiser and lip balm. None of which will take up much space in your bag.

Hairbrush: freshly brushed hair just makes you feel better doesn’t it? I love my Tangle Teezer. It sorts out all my knots and is compact enough to take in your hand luggage.

Hair straighteners: maybe you can go without, I sometimes do, but if you want to fix your hair on day two it’s easy enough to slip these into your backpack. Better still, invest in a mini set.


2 x tops: I take a top per day because it’s always nice to wear something fresh, especially when you’re spending both days travelling and exploring.

1 x jumper: unless you’re a fashion blogger and need to change up your photos, wearing the same jumper for two days isn’t going to hurt. Plus this saves a big chunk of space in your backpack.

1 x leggings: because they’re comfy and you can wear them for both days of your weekend break to save packing space. Jeans work the same way, but I have never found jeans to be a comfy choice.

1 x comfy shoes: you really only need one pair of shoes, and this way you can wear them from the minute you leave home to the minute you get back. That said if you have a posh dinner planned, you can always slip in a pair of strappy heels or sandals into your backpack.

2 x underwear: a bit of a given, but still worth reminding you about. Remember to go comfy with these too.

1 x pyjamas: roll up one pair of pyjamas and slot them into the bottom of your backpack. I usually choose lightweight ones like shorts and a t-shirt. Better still, ditch the pyjamas altogether.

1 x coat (optional): if you’re going to a cold destination, don’t forget to take your coat! One with pockets and a hood is going to be the most practical. You can wear this on the plane to save space too.

Top packing tips

Sharing is caring: to save doubling up, share items like toothpaste and deodorant with your travel buddy.

Leave shower gel behind: unless you’re camping, you’ll usually find shower gel in your hotel or Airbnb, so there’s no need to take any.

Plan your hair wash: to save taking shampoo and conditioner, wash your hair either the night before or the day of your departure. If you’re only going for a night or two, I’m sure your hair will be able to hold out. Again, your accommodation might have some in the bathroom.

Bag your liquids: don’t forget to pack all of your 100ml liquid in a clear zip lock bag for airport security!

Pack smart: if you won’t need your overnight stuff for a while, pack it at the bottom of your backpack and keep everything you might need sooner at the top, such as your portable charger and bagged liquids.

Re-wear what you can: you’ll save a ton of space by re-wearing part of your day one outfit on day two. For such a short trip, does it matter if you’re not in a completely new outfit?

Roll your clothes: by rolling your clothes you save a surprising amount of room. Give it a go and see! Packing cubes are a great space saving hack too.

This looks like a big list for a little backpack, but remember you’ll be wearing a good amount of it to leave plenty of room for the other stuff. Pack sensibly and you’ll have the best time whizzing around on your weekend break without the hassle of a suitcase!

Carex Complete Aloe Vera Hand Gel Mini
Carmex Lip Balm
Clinique Pep Start 2-in-1 Exfoliating Cleanser Mini
Sure Women Anti-Perspirant Spray Mini
Marc Jacobs Daisy Rollerball Perfume
ghd Original IV Professional Styler
Tangle Teezer Hairbrush
Olympus PEN E-PL7 Camera
Anker Astro E1 5200mAh Portable Charger
Nivea Daily Essentials 3 in 1 Cleansing Micellar Wipes
Face Halo Makeup Remover Pad
ASOS DESIGN Zip Canvas Backpack
Skross World Travel Adapter

Are you a pro packer or an over packer? What are you top packing tips?

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