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Peak Transfer | Carry on Luggage Size – How to Pack Light!
19th June 2015

Carry on Luggage Size – How to Pack Light!

With new calls to decrease the size of hand luggage allowances combined with more airlines charging hold luggage as an optional extra, more and more travelers are weighing up whether they can really pack for a weeks holiday with just carry on baggage to save time and more importantly money. Having refined the art of travelling light and flying with only cabin luggage we thought we would share some of the tricks we have learnt along the way. Including the best hand luggage bags and tips to packing light.

Hand Luggage Size

It goes without saying that every airline has their own individual cabin/ hand luggage restrictions. But you may be surprised by the fact that the known budget airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet are not the stingiest when it comes to hand luggage allowances! We have a few of the main airlines flying on the Geneva flight path allowances below. Be aware that airline allowances can also be route specific so be sure to check before you fly or when you book. Any items purchased at the airport, including duty free, form part of your hand baggage allowance. Also if you’re travelling with young children you have additional baggage allowances.


1 x cabin bag (56cm x 45cm x 25cm /22in x 18in x 10in) including handles, pockets and wheels.
*FLEXI fare or Upfront or Extra Legroom customers can bring ONE additional small under seat bag (handbag/Laptop) with a maximum size of 45 x 36 x 20cm which will need to be placed under the seat in front.

British Airways

1 x cabin bag (56cm x 45cm x 25cm /22in x 18in x 10in) including handles, pockets and wheels.
1 x personal (45cm x 36cm x 20cm /18in x 14in x 8in) including handles, pockets and wheels.
Maximum weight per bag is up to 23kg (51lbs).

Air France – Economy

1 x cabin bag (55cm x 35cm x 25cm /21in x 13in x 9in)
1 x Accessory (We are guessing this means a laptop, camera or very small bag?!?)
Maximum of 12kg/ 26 lb

Swiss International Air Lines – Economy

1 x cabin bag (55cm x 40cm x 23cm /21in x 15.5in x 8in)
Handbag, laptop bag or shoulder bag (40cm x 30cm x 10 cm)
Maximum of 8kg/ 17.5 lb
* A foldable garment bag of 57 x 54 x 15 cm will also be accepted

Pack Light and Carry On

What’s Allowed and Not Allowed?

All airlines require liquids to be carried in a container (max 100 ml) up to 1 litre per person in a resealable transparent plastic bag (medication and special food exceptions are available).
The following are forbidden: Weapons of any kind, including imitations and toys. Pointed or sharp-edged items such as Ice axes, ice picks, razor blades (incl. shavers), tweezers, knives, scissors (more than 6 cm long), sharp-edged martial arts equipment. *This list is not exhaustive*


Best Carry On / Hand Luggage Bags

There is so much choice for cabin bags on the market we have given a few initial view points to help narrow it down to suit your needs:

Wheels vs Rucksack

As convenient as luggage on wheels seems you really have to compromise of maximum space available and weight. With some airlines having as low maximum weights as 8kg which include the weight of your bag could leave you with very little leeway. As well as weight the wheels and handles will reduce the useable volume you are allowed to take on board. A rucksack does not compromise on volume and are generally lighter but you do have to be prepared to lug it around on your back the whole journey.

Hard vs Soft Sided

As obvious as it sounds it needs to be considered. Hard shell bags are heavier, some weighing as much as 6kg empty, but they do protect your valued belongings compared to the soft sided alternatives. If you are restricted by weight limits the soft sided option is lighter and can be more forgivable and malleable to get everything you need into your bag.

Laptop Sleeve

This is very personal. I personally dont mind digging into my bag at security or on the plane to grab my laptop or electronics out of the main compartment. However, others on our team cant stand this. They MUST have a bag that has a laptop sleeve for easy access and less fuss. If your this way inclined you may want to consider this also.
Here are some of the bags we have tried and tested. We have really based this on bags that take advantage of maximum hand luggage allowance.

Cabin Max Metz

A team favorite it is no surprise it just happens to be the exact maximal dimensions allowed by EasyJet, Swiss Air whom i regularly fly with. Often travelling on a budget with just hand luggage for 7-10 day breaks (and being female) this is the perfect bag for me.

cabinmax-metz bag-tried-and-tested-by-peak-transfer

Super lightweight at 660 grams means you don’t compromise on weight and avoid extra baggage costs (the bain of my life travelling light!!!). Measuring 55cm x 40cm x 20cm, a 44L capacity combined with compression straps it’s the perfect dimensions for the overhead locker and comes in a variety of color schemes and prints. If unlike me and you are of a more fashion conscious disposition be aware that by taking advantage of the maximal dimensions allowed it is a very large ‘boxy’ looking rucksack!!! It doesn’t have a specific laptop sleeve but my laptop fits on the front pocket (just) and i love it’s useful small pocket that fits my passport and phone where i can’t get to it easily. But at £25 (or cheaper if you search around) this is my perfect travel companion! If you really would prefer wheels Cabin Max have a wheelie version of this bag also!

Capacity: 10/10
Functionality: 6/10
Durability: 7/10
Style: 6/10
Value: 9/10

More information

Vango Transit 40

The Vango Transit 40 is another great example of a travel bag that’s designed to take maximum advantage of carry on regulations. With it’s acceptably ‘boxy’ design, the Transit 40 ensures precious litres of space aren’t wasted with overly round corners whilst maintaining a fairly smart and modern appearance. A more stylish bag compared to the Cabin Max Metz it is slightly heavier weighing in at 1kg and measures 55cm x 35cm x 20cm.

Peak Transfer recommends Vango Transit 40 for Carry on Luggage

If you’re frequently travelling with a laptop (standing in security, balancing the contents of your pockets across your arms whilst holding your pants up) you’ll appreciate the convenient and padded laptop sleeve that ensures quick and easy access to anything up to a 17” device. There are several hidden pockets (on the back of the bag, and also a small passport pocket on the front) that offer basic storage for your documents – additional space is limited and most items will need to go into the large 40L main compartment. Several carry options including a removable shoulder and backpack straps make for a very versatile bag – in fact if you’re looking for a large carry on pack with a dedicated padded laptop sleeve and a sleek design the Vango Transit 40 is an excellent ‘mid-priced’ option.

Capacity: 8/10
Functionality: 8/10
Durability: 9/10
Style: 10/10
Value: 8/10

More information

Matalan World’s Lightest Collection 2 Wheel Suitcase – Extra Small

If you are desperate for a wheelie bag this is one of the lighter and cheaper cases (£35) on the market so that you can pack more without worrying about additional airport chances. However, at 1.56kgs it’s still heavier than its wheeless counterparts. Its very rectangular shape measuring 55cm x 35cm x 21.5cm providing a 44L capacity.

Peak Trasnfer recommends Worlds Lightest Collection 2 Wheel Suitcase

It has a strong fiber glass structure and a fabric outer and 2 wheels. We were worried about the durability of the fabric but so far (8 flights to date) so good. It seems like mary poppins bag and just keeps on giving! The wide handle integrated into the main body of the case at the sides rather than down the centre maximising packing space. It has a very basic design and functionality with only a significant front pocket to store important documents and possibly a laptop at a squeeze.

Travel Light to Geneva and Chamonix with Hand Luggage Only

Capacity: 9/10
Functionality: 6/10
Durability: 6/10
Style: 5/10
Value: 8/10

More information

Top Tips for Travelling Light

How to Pack Light with Peak Transfer

  1. We recommend boarding the plane as early as possible (usually just after the speedy borders and families with children) so that we get a space in the overhead locker. Budget airlines a popular and generally do not have an enormous amount of storage. Although it would not be the end of the world for a bag to be put into the hold last minute it’s not great for the stress levels to be getting the elbows out battling for a space for your bag! And who wants to wait at baggage reclaim if they don’t need to right?!?
  2. If you are close to (or slightly over) the weight/ size allowance we would definitely recommend wearing a rucksack on your shoulders when queuing to board the plane and checking in! In our experience whenever bags are being checked it’s been the bigger wheeled cases being rolled along and rucksacks on travellers bags tend to be ignored.
  3. If your names not on the list you aint coming in! You know what we mean, make a packing list and stick to it. Many of us (especially myself) are guilty of packing way too much stuff that we will in fact never wear/ use. Make an essentials list and pack those first! Try to remember what you actually wore/ used last time and pack those. Remember unless you’re planning to traverse the amazon there is likely to be somewhere you can buy stuff like toothpaste, shampoo etc at your destination.
  4. Is it necessary or can it be shared? Have a look at your accommodation booking and look/ think about what your facilities it will supply…like a hair dryer, towels, toiletries etc. If you are travelling in a group are there items you can share between your bags? Females i am thinking hair straighteners.
  5. Wear bulkier and heavier items on the plane. You dont have to wear them 100% of the time just when you’re boarding and perhaps checking in. Then i tend to strap/ attach it to the outside of my bag so I keep my hands free. Remember to use your pockets as additional storage. I always have my headphones around my neck and my mp3 in one pocket. My wallet in another pocket and my phone in my back pocket when travelling light.

So, take the plunge. Travel light and your tired legs and wallet will thank you. At the end of the day if you have your passport, phone, wallet and clothes for all feasible weather conditions you will most likely be fine!

Happy Holidays!!!

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