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Mar 25 2013

The Hand Luggage Saga: Liquids

luggage, hand luggage, lotions, packing, preparing to travel

When I travelled around the world, I always checked in my main backpack and had a smaller one with the items I would need on the plane.  That was fine but I always had to queue up to check my bag in, there was the risk of my backpack going astray, and I had to wait for the luggage when I arrived.  None of that is much of a hardship and it didn’t actually bother me but since then I have aspired to being a hand luggage only traveller.  I love being able to just turn up at the airport, bypass check-in, and head straight off when I arrive at my destination.  The other big advantage is that it’s cheaper to do that.  So, for the past year, I have been doing just that but… it’s not easy.  I thought I would find it easier and easier the more I did it – practice makes perfect and all that – but I don’t.  In fact, I really struggled on a recent trip to Berlin.

When I was thinking of packing for this trip, I had four potential bags/suitcases I could have taken with me.  I chose the largest of them all, which happened to be a suitcase.  I wouldn’t normally travel with one but the frame on my old and faithful backpack is about 2 cm over the maximum height limit for Easyjet, the airline I was booked to fly with.  The suitcase I had was well within the dimensions stated on Easyjet’s website so I knew I could only take whatever I could fit into it.  Apart from fitting in my clothes, I had to also make sure I had room for my handbag, netbook, camera etc.  When travelling with just hand luggage, you have to be ruthless and just take what you absolutely need.  I am used to travelling with only a few items of clothing so that wasn’t the main issue.  The main issue was the liquids.

The restriction on liquids, for me, is the bane of my life.  I find it really difficult.  When they say liquids, they mean it in its broadest sense, which includes roll-on deodorant, moisturiser, lipstick etc.  For men, this probably doesn’t present too much of a challenge but it does for women.  On my most recent trip, I thought being a seasoned traveller and having done it before last year on two occasions, I was very positive and thought, ‘I can do it’.  Could I do it?  Well, yes, but with a struggle.  It’s just so damn difficult with make-up, moisturisers (plural, not singular), deodorant, facial wash, hair conditioner… the list goes on.  The thing is, I don’t use half the lotions and potions available to women these days and I don’t wear lots of make-up so that probably added to my frustration and believe me, I was frustrated.  I tried and tried to pack all my liquids into the required 20 x 20 cm plastic bag.  Believe me, I tried!  Eventually I realised that it wasn’t a tardis and there was no way I could magically fit it all into the tiny plastic bag in front of me.  With a big sigh, I wondered what the heck I was going to do.  I mean, I needed it all, didn’t I?

Then, the practical traveller in me kicked in.  I turned the plastic bag upside down on my bed to empty out the contents and started again.  I had to be ruthless.  I had a Lush Solid Shampoo Bar, which I was originally going to use for my hair, clothes and body but I decided to extend that to my face.  I thought that if it’s OK for my hair then it must be OK for my face.  So, that was one liquid I no longer required.  I decided to leave my hair conditioner behind.  I could have bought a Lush Hair Conditioner Bar but I wasn’t a big fan when I tried one before so I just decided to go without but had a small tube of hair smoothing cream instead and hoped that would suffice.  I had a moisturising liquid foundation which I thought could double for a moisturiser so that was another liquid I no longer required – fab!  I decided to leave my body moisturiser behind because, like before, I could buy one if I really needed to.  I added my mascara, lip gloss, toothpaste, and a tiny bottle of nail varnish and that was it: my liquids fitted nicely into my little plastic bag, no magic required, phew!

Everything was fine when I got to the airport.  I was within the hand luggage requirements and my liquids were fine – fantastic!  I was rather pleased with myself until the next day, after having a shower, I realised I couldn’t manage without some of the liquid items I had left behind.  To my horror, the skin on my face just kind of shrivelled up like a prune.  It was as if all the moisture had been sucked out of it and it felt and looked really, really dry.  It wasn’t a good look.  I didn’t know if it was very hard water, the air on the plane, the Lush Shampoo Bar I was using, or a combination of some or all of the above but, whatever it was, I’d never experienced that before and I never want to experience it again.  I applied the eye cream I had taken with me and then my liquid foundation which helped.  I realised I would probably need some body cream because my skin felt really dry and taut.   My hair not only didn’t have a silky, conditioned smooth look, it felt as if it had been stripped of all the natural oils.  That couldn’t have happened but that’s how it felt.  The next day was the same: taut, dry, prune-like skin and hair that needed more and more of the hair smoothing cream I had brought with me.  I couldn’t manage another 8 days like this.  Luckily, I came across an Aldi on the way to the conference centre so I bought a facial and body moisturiser, which I used for the duration of my stay to keep my skin as moisturised as possible.

What what will I do differently next time?

  • I still want to travel with hand luggage but maybe not on every trip.

  • I realised that moisturising foundation doesn’t always work as a replacement for facial moisturiser so I would use a mineral powder foundation and take a facial moisturiser with me as part of my liquid allowance.

  • I will give the Lush Hair Conditioner Bar another go so, at least, I have some kind of conditioner on my hair.

  • There are alternatives to roll-on deodorants that don’t contain liquid such as solid deodorant sticks so I will use those instead.

  • If I can fit in a small body moisturiser, I will.

Have your say

What are your experiences of travelling with hand luggage?  What tips do you have?  It’s good to share 🙂

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

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  1. The Hand Luggage Saga: Baggage - Independent Travel Help

    […] hand luggage saga continues.  Previously, I wrote about liquids and this time it’s the baggage […]

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