Sunday, 15 June 2014

Packing your hand luggage

Photo source: Sian Wootton
Some things I'd pack in my hand luggage. It's by no means complete just what I had to hand for the photo. The amount of medication shown is a clear indicator of how incomplete it is!

What you pack in your hand luggage is really important when travelling, especially on a plane, as you don't have access to the rest of your luggage (if you have any.) Not only is this for security reasons; we all know the long list of rules, but also because for you as a chronically ill person it will contain your 'spoonie survival kit'. Nothing to do with safety; I'm not saying pack a parachute, just all your essentials to make the journey as comfortable as possible for you.

So there's the first 2 rules of packing your hand luggage always adhere to security and airline guidelines and importantly always pack your spoonie essentials. Anything that you rely on to ease symptoms. I'll put a comprehensive list further down in the post.

Your first port of call is medication. Not just what you need for your flight but for your whole holiday. It's always best to keep them with you. See my post dedicated to it here.

Photo source: Sian Wootton

Funnily the amount of medication you have will probably dictate the bag you choose and what else you can fit in. And let's face it that's A LOT of medication. Some airlines do allow you to go over your baggage allowance if you have exceeded it due to prescribed medication. Check the rules of your airline though. You can see this in my post on special assistance here

The type of bag you take depends on your preferences and whether you are travelling hand luggage only or not. I know many people now have carry on sized suitcases on wheels (hence why no one can stow their bags in the overhead bins.) I've never used one myself, either travelling as an able bodied passenger or disabled (but I will do a post dedicated to it as may be useful for others or myself in future.) Mainly because I don't find them practical. Especially while they had the one piece of hand luggage only rule. It would annoy me to keep going in and out of a case for documents or my purse etc. From a wheelchair user point of view I don't see how they're very practical either. It depends though on who is travelling with you. For example when I went away with my parents and sister my parents pushed 2 cases each with a rucksack and Mum's hand bag. While my sister had on her rucksack and pushed me with my hand luggage over the handles of the wheelchair. So easily manageable. Should you need extra help though add this to your list of requirements for special assistance. Someone can then help you with your luggage or extra mobility aids you may have (remember you are entitled to 2.) In my opinion a bag that you wear across your body, if you are able bodied, to keep your hands as free as possible to pull your case and get things from the bag, is a good option. Or a bag with big handles can work well to put the handle of your case through. A bag with a long strap (again suitable for wearing across your body) is good for hanging on the back of your wheelchair without it catching on the wheels, as it would just using the handles. This is how my bag as shown above got scuffed, which makes me sad and why I put the longer strap back on it, as it's a great bag to use for hand luggage. 

Photo source: Pinterest

The other reason I like to use a bag rather than a case is that I prefer to have my bag under the seat rather than in the overhead bin. I just prefer knowing that it's there and I have everything to hand which can be reassuring when you have a chronic illness. Another solution though would be to have a smaller bag with all your immediate essentials that you can have with you and your main bag stowed away. If your airline only allows one piece of hand luggage then just keep it in the larger bag until you get to your seat. 

Having your documents as accessible as possible is really useful. I used to keep all my documents that I needed for the outgoing journey in a plastic wallet and all other documents such as reservations, transfer details etc in another. The envelope type wallets are best, as I discovered after an incident with a ring binder type plastic wallet and a bottle of water. Luckily not too much damage was done but that's the last thing you would want. So I would have flight booking/boarding card, passport and repeat prescription together in one wallet to begin. Then at some point during the flight I would move transfer and hotel reservations into that wallet with my passport and put the used documents to the back of the pile. I was so organized I had each document placed in order of when they'd be needed. Including documents/ tickets for any excursions/ attractions. Then simply putting that days needed documents into the spare wallet to carry in my handbag. Keeping the rest safely in the hotel. Another option is to use a bag that ties around your waist. A bit like a bum bag but specially designed to carry travel documents/ valuables.

Photo source: Amazon

One disadvantage to using a large bag though is often you can find yourself rooting through it for ages, trying to find what you want. And let's face it there will be a lot in it. Whilst researching for this post I came across these (above) handbag organizers on Amazon. You simply put them into your bag and fill up the pockets. Meaning your things are more organized and therefore easier to find.

Photo source: Sian Wootton

Also remember that any liquids you pack need to be under 100ml each, this is particularly of note if you are only using hand luggage. Make sure your toiletries are within regulation. The great thing though now is the variety of travel sized products available, from toothpaste to hair gel. I'm hoping to do a separate post on travel products soon. Or you can buy empty plastic travel sized bottles to fill with your favourite products. If you wear contacts then again be careful of the size of your saline solutions. 

Remember all liquids must be kept in a see through bag. I like to use the one above. It was from a gift set of Charles Worthington travel size hair products. The above items are just what are in it for now. However when flying I use it for some aromatherapy roll ons to help any pressure headaches and calm me down. My biofreeze roll on for any sore muscles, which inevitably happen. Anti bacterial hand sanitizer gel is also great for planes. Also I pack a moisturising lip balm, like carmex as the filtered air on planes can cause dry/ cracked lips. For this reason I know a lot of people also carry facial moisturisers. There are a lot of moisturising/energizing spray products that claim to be great for use on planes, however I think you need to be careful how you use them. Spraying products on a plane seems a bit rude to me. Us spoonies can have a strong sense of smell anyway but subjecting others to it when there is no fresh fair seems a bit unfair. That could just be me though. I guess a way to get around it is to spray the product onto your hands first. Also, if you're using a tube of moisturiser be careful of the air pressure expanding the tube and causing it to rush out when you use it. I know a lot of people will also keep the majority of their make up in their hand luggage too. 

Some spoonie survival essentials to pack in your hand luggage include:

Neck pillow (I have an inflatable one which saves space but is still comfy)

Over ear headphones/ear defenders (to block out plane noise or noisy passengers)

Flight socks

A extra pair of socks
in case of cold feet or a small pair of slippers

Straws for your drinks if you struggle to hold your cup

A scarf/ pashmina is a great way to keep warm

Travel sickness bands

Essential oils 

Heat pad (one of those stick on ones)

Face wipes/ wet wipes (great for keeping fresh or cool) 

Sunglasses ( for light intolerance especially if sat by a window, a hat is also good for this)

Snacks (eat when you need to not just when the trolley comes around)

Drink (to be bought in departures or if you have a filtered water bottle fill it up in departures)

Photo source: Pinterest

My next post I will be sharing a more comprehensive packing list. 7 weeks to go and I'm starting to pace and prepare myself. 

So stay tuned. Please also feel free to share your own travel tips in the comments too.

Sian x


  1. When I've travelled by plane in the past, I have to take only a small hand luggage bag which sits on my lap whilst I'm in my chair, so I really can only fit the essentials in!
    The spoonie travel tips are great, I hadn't thought of some of them. Loving this series Sian, keep it up! :)

    1. I bow down to you being a spoonie and going hand luggage only. I guess staying at a home you can wash your clothes etc and borrow more. Do you have any tips?

      Are you going to Alex's sometime over the Summer? I can't wait to go away. Xx