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Ever tried to travel hand luggage only in cold weather?

Well let me be the first to tell you, it’s a challenge.

I am currently trying to plan and pack for a weekend away in Edinburgh which will require me to (a) not die of hypothermia, (b) look appropriate for a black tie dinner on the Saturday night and (c) fit all my luggage into a hand luggage bag that weighs less than 10kg, because I am far too tight to pay extra for hold luggage.

Making all of this happen has tested even my capsule wardrobe skills. Turns out it is far easier to pack a titchy little lightweight suitcase for a week in the sun than one for 72 hours of really quite chilly weather. While this problem is all rather me-me-me, I thought the solutions I found during the packing process might be of interest to those of you attempting a similar feat some time this autumn/winter.

The lowdown on hand luggage only travel to cold destinations:

  1. Plan your wardrobe around as few items as possible. If I didn't have the black tie do, I could easily have got through the weekend with just my travel outfit and the swing dress to give me a change on Saturday. But it's nice to have options, and my careful weighing shows me that not only can I take my formalwear, I can even fit in an extra jumper and scarf.
  2. Stick to a super-limited palette. I actually started the packing process with the entire weekend based around denim, red and cream, but was able to add in the couple of teal pieces to offer a bit of light relief when I still had some space after the core essentials had been packed. Start with two neutrals and a colour and work your way up.
  3. Wear your heavy stuff to travel in. Seriously, layer up. I am intending to check in wearing my wool overcoat and long merino cardigan on top of a layered vest and t-shirt. I'll also be wearing my lightweight cashmere scarf and have my hat and gloves stuffed into my coat pocket. I might gently overheat for a few minutes, but it means none of that heavy outer wear is going to be included in my baggage allowance. I'm not suggesting you wear your entire wardrobe, but if you can layer one or two heavier items for travelling it means a little more space and weight allowance in your case.
  4. Minimise your shoes. Again, if it wasn't for the party clothes I would be getting through the entire weekend on one pair of ankle boots. Choose the right pair and they can genuinely see you through from dawn to dusk and beyond - choose neutral, well made, not too high a heel and in a style that works for you and you'll be sorted.
  5. Go for pieces that mix and match. Even if you have your outfits carefully planned, one soup disaster and your plans are scuppered. If all your tops and bottoms go together, crisis can be averted.
  6. If you have space, add more accessories. The first extra I went for when I realised I had extra space was another cashmere scarf. Jewellery can help too, although I am intending to wear my big gold cuff with the swing dress out for dinner on the non-formal night, so I've even managed to minimise my jewellery requirements. Multi-purpose accessories are great too - I will wear my deep sea green cashmere gauze scarf as a stole at the black tie function.
  7. Try to carry a multi-purpose handbag. That way you can carry it on the journey and you don't need to worry about packing another. If you really can't find one bag that will cover your entire weekend's needs, pack as tiny a clutch as you can manage for any more formal occasions you're likely to encounter.
  8. Travel sized wash stuff. Whether you like it or not, you need travel sized liquids for airline hand luggage because of security, but also they will save weight and bulk in your bag. And also, I can't be the only one who loves buying little miniatures of their favourite skincare and shampoo.
  9. Buy hand luggage you love. A nifty little wheelie suitcase in a colour you love that fits the size requirements of the majority of airlines or a sleek rucksack or holdall that you can sling over a shoulder and go will have you feeling all jet set and glam before you even leave the house. There is absolutely no requirement for it, but it makes a weekend away just that bit more exciting, right?

    Melina on Mar 21, 2017 4:47 PM

    Interesting article. I must say I'm usually quite tight, but I nearly always pay for hold luggage - I love to shop in my destination, and you can't put e.g. any normal-sized haircare stuff in hand luggage, obviously! :) And that way I don't have to skimp on clothes (another thing I love to shop in the destination), either. Plus my toiletries usually take loads of space, even if I take mostly travel-size ones, I just can't seem to reduce them, lol!

    Tracey on Nov 05, 2016 5:35 PM

    Great planning, we're going to Edinburgh too in march. making me think in advance. thankyou

    GD on Oct 28, 2016 5:42 PM

    hi there what season is this for?

    Janet on Oct 20, 2016 10:45 AM

    Thanks for that. It was really informative and helpful.

    Kettlewell Colours on Oct 20, 2016 8:48 AM

    Sharron - details of all the clothes shown can be found on our Polyvore page (I've added the link above) The gold dress is from John Lewis (and is reduced at the moment!)

    Pat on Oct 19, 2016 3:18 PM

    Great planning - but where are the essentials which every bog/article misses, and which always kibosh it: chargers, spare battery, medication, book, dressing gown, towel - and will there be guaranteed laundry facilities when I spill something all down me?!!!

    Sue Walker on Oct 19, 2016 2:48 PM

    Funnily enough, I've just returned to Spain after 5 nights in London and Lincoln, and I travelled hand luggage only! Like you I wore my heavier stuff to travel in, though I carried a trench-coat rather than a wool coat. My colours were brown and beige, with coral and gold to make them more colourful. Also like you, I'm too tight to pay for luggage in the hold if I'm just going for a week or less!

    Sharron on Oct 19, 2016 1:57 PM

    Love the outfits can you tell me where you get the gold dress

    Margo on Oct 19, 2016 1:13 PM


    Thank you for posting an Autumn colour selection this is great for my upcoming weekend away