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Essential Packing Tips for Students Who Travel

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

Top Tips For Students Who Travel

Founder of From High School to Uni, the essential guide for students moving to university

Hi! I'm Philippa, mother of two university graduates and an experienced world traveller!

Knowing how to pack a carry-on bag is one of those life skills that every student should learn! FromHighSchooltoUni has compiled the top carry-on packing tips every student who travels needs to know.

If you are not yet a frequent traveler, you will soon find out that checking in luggage at the airport can be a nightmare. Not only do you have to worry about the long wait times at check-in desks and baggage claim, as well as potentially tracing lost baggage, but it can also put a damper and serious delays on your overall travel experience.

The Basic Travel Tips for Students

To avoid airport queues and baggage reclaim delays, follow these travel tips compiled by the FromHighSchooltoUni team, get yourself a carry-on size backpack or small suitcase with wheels, and learn the essential packing rules for students.

Deciding how much luggage you can take will depend on the ticket you buy, the length of your trip, your destination, and the airline you fly with. With a little bit of planning and efficient organization, packing with carry-on only is possible and incredibly time-saving.

In this FromHighSchooltoUni blog, we'll cover some essential tips and tricks to help you pack efficiently and effectively to travel with carry-on packing only, so you can spend less time at the airport, and more time on your vacation or at home.

Student with backpack and carry-on baggage checking flight departure screen
Follow FromHighSchooltoUni for student tips and tricks to pack efficiently

What does carry-on bag mean?

Depending on the airline and your ticket, you may only be allowed one backpack or small suitcase that fits under the seat in front of you. The dimensions allowed are quite small, so it is important to pack well to fit in all your belongings for your trip!

If you have purchased a ticket which allows both an overhead bag AND an under-seat bag, check the dimensions of your bags as well as the weight restrictions (usually a maximum of 10kg).

If a flight is full, airline staff may carry out random checks in the check-in area and if your carry-on bag is deemed too large to fit in the overhead lockers (taking up space for others to use), they may insist that you check your luggage in instead.

Dimension restrictions also apply to wheels and handles - be warned! If you have a carry-on backpack with wheels, make sure the wheels can be removed or are not too large that they take up valuable space.

Cabin Baggage Allowance

When you start packing carry-on for a plane, remember to check with the airline's cabin bag dimensions and restrictions first.

The carry-on allowance for your chosen airline will dictate the size of your carry-on bag, whether your carry on bag can be a suitcase or a backpack, and the carry-on packing rules about what you can and can't pack when flying. For example:

Ideal size backpack for a quick trip away
Ideal size carryon case for a trip

EasyJet's carry-on baggage allowance allows you to bring a personal cabin bag no larger than 45 x 36 x 20 cm (including handles and wheels), which must fit under the seat.

If you have an EasyJet Plus membership, you are allowed, in addition, one cabin bag no larger than 56 x 45 x 25 cm and weighing up to 10kg.

Also remember that the luggage you take with you on your trip will need to be stored on arrival, so think about how much space it will take up and whether backpacks or duffel bags would be a better option than large hard cases, as they can be folded flat and stored under your bed or above your wardrobe.

If you are sharing a bedroom or staying in a hotel room, you don't want luggage taking up floor space!

Liquid Allowances and Prescriptions for Medications

Although airport scanning technology is evolving worldwide, virtually ALL airports still currently insist on using 1 litre clear bags, for any liquid make-up or toiletries. These are limited to 1 bag per person, so think about what you really need!

Be aware that although you may have bought a transparent travel case, some airports will insist you transfer the products into their own plastic bags, so be careful not to overpack. Or decide what you would be willing to throw away if absolutely necessary.

It is easy to buy inexpensive travel containers to bring the right amounts of your favourite products for a short trip instead of bringing the whole tube.

The size limit for bottles is usually 100ml, so make sure not to pack bottles larger than this or the airport security staff will throw them out without hesitation.

If you have any prescribed medication, make sure you take the Doctor's prescription with you to be able to show your legal right to carry a prescribed drug on you. If this is in liquid form, it will have to be included in your allowance above.

Top Tips for Transporting Liquids When You Travel

My top tip is to only put your products containing liquids, gels or creams in the transparent bag or travel case, such as toothpaste, facewash, contact lens cleaner, mascara, etc. and just pull out this clear bag at security, along with your laptop, ipad and mobile phone.

Samples of perfumes, lotions and creams are easily available from cosmetic counters and shops, which make them ideal to pack for a short trip.

Hairbrush, toothbrush and toiletries case for non-liquid items

Keep all other (solid) items such as toothbrush, hairbrush, eyelash curlers, razor, comb, etc. in a separate washbag.

These do not need to be removed and shown separately when going through the x-ray machine at airport security.

What To Wear When You Travel

Travelling can be a stressful and sweaty activity!

Running to your bus/train/airline gate, standing in a metro, and worrying about your flight being delayed or worse, cancelled, can get you hot and bothered.

This is why I always plan a travel outfit consisting of comfortable shoes (sneakers are most comfortable and... added bonus, least likely to get you stopped at security), a T-shirt, a light sweatshirt or hoodie and comfortable trousers like tracksuit bottoms.

It is best to layer, so if it is hot you can strip down to a t-shirt, and if it is cold the multiple layers of a t-shirt and then a hoodie will keep you warm.

Keep this outfit for your travel days, i.e. wear it on the way out and on the way back, so you can keep your 'nice' clothes for the days in between.

Best Packing Tips for Students Who Travel

Wear 'em, don't pack 'em!

Hoodies (or warm sweaters), tracksuit bottoms, and shoes take up the most space in your luggage. So, wear the bulkiest items as your travel outfit, and save space in your bags for other items.

Carry-on Only Packing Tips

There are two thought processes when it comes to packing. Well, three, if you think randomly throwing things in your suitcase is one of them!

One way is to use packing cubes.

Shamelessly, at FromHighSchooltoUni, we are huge fans of packing cubes for packing without creases, and organising daily outfits per cube for efficiency.

compressed packing cubes fitting neatly into a suitcase

The other is the 'roll' method. I tend to pack clothes flat in cubes on the way to a destination to keep everything neatly ironed. Then for the return trip, I roll the clothes up to squeeze in any extra items I may have bought on my trip. The clothes will be going straight in the wash anyway, so it doesn’t matter if they are creased on the way back.

Another method I always use and recommend is to divide items into pouches or ziploc bags.

Use one clear bag for toiletries. One bag for non-liquid toiletries (hairbrush, hairties, toothbrush, cotton pads, etc). Then use the same method to group other similar items together. For example, one bag for electronics such as chargers, headphones and cables; one bag for underwear; another bag for socks etc.

It makes it so much easier to stay organised and find what you need, rather than rifling through your bag to find your phone charger or a pair of black socks.

Use a Laundry Bag and Shoe Covers

As well as the packing cubes, which you can organise by theme or daily outfits, you will need a separate bag to collect the clothes you have worn and need to wash on your return.

Use a drawstring bag you use for the gym or a shopping bag, as long as you can seal or tie it up to keep any odours in!

This is a great time-saver when unpacking - just empty your laundry bag straight into the hamper or washing machine on your return and put your luggage and unused clothes away.

If you are packing a few pairs of shoes, place them in shoe bags or old plastic shopping bags you may still have lying around, to prevent them from touching your clothes.

Think about what the soles of your shoes might have stepped on in the street and you will see why From High School to Uni recommend this!

Alternative, use plastic shower caps - the kind you get given in hotel rooms - to cover the soles of your shoes.

And remember to use the extra space inside your shoes to stuff in socks, belts or small items, which will also help to keep them in shape.

Travel Tips For Your Next Trip

A hand writing notes after a trip to remember things for next time

When you get home, or even whilst you are travelling or returning, make a note of the things you noticed were either missing or unnecessary.

I do this every trip while it is still fresh in my mind. I write down that I forgot to take a mascara, or that I packed too many pairs of socks.

I make a note of it in my phone (Notes) under the heading "Next trip" and refer to it when packing for my next trip.

Also, if mascara was the missing item in my make-up bag, I find one and put it in my make-up bag as soon as I unpack my luggage from the last trip. Then I cross it off my list.

Job done!

Have you bought our essential student guide yet?

For A-Z student guidance on moving to university, get a copy of our FromHighSchooltoUni book here and check out our resources on our website to access all the essential packing lists and checklists to know what to take to university.


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