Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Poland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Iceland … there are some incredible options when it comes to European weekend escapes for 2015, and best of all is that such weekend breaks don’t need to cost the earth.

With low cost airlines such an RyanAir, Easyjet, Wizz Air and Flybe to name but a few, offering some absolute bargain flights this January, you’re spoilt for choice as for where to explore.  OK the flights themselves might not be luxury, but if you arm yourself with a tablet and a good movie, or decide to catch up on some sleep, you’ll soon have touched down in your chosen destination with little or no fuss (I hope).

That said, there is of course just one thing you should remember when booking these kinds of flights if you really want to keep the costs down, and that is to …

FLY WITH HAND LUGGAGE ONLY!

Yep, you heard, do NOT purchase hold luggage.  If you were to purchase hold luggage, you can fully expect to see the cost of your bargain flight and weekend away rocket upwards, and essentially become a bargain no more.  The airlines have to make their money back somewhere right? … and charging incredible amounts for checked luggage is just one of the areas where they try to make their cash back.  Instead of purchasing hold luggage, you want to play it smart and travel hand luggage only.  Trust me, it’s entirely possible, and a lot easier than you might think.

To show you just how easy, I’ve teamed up with the guys at Zalando and borrowed their amazing Life Hacks – How To Pack A Suitcase video from their YouTube channel.  Give it a quick watch and soon enough you’ll be qualified hand luggage only packing expert like me.

Watch and learn …

So that folks, is how you squeeze a weekends worth of clothes into just your hand luggage.  Just remember to use ALL the available space, and that rolling clothes instead of folding is key.  With those 2 packing ideals stored upstairs in the travel memory banks you’re well on your way to a packing masterclass.

What to take though?  What exactly do you need for a long weekend away?  Try these on for size …

Wear on the plane

  • Jeans
  • T-shirt
  • Hoodie
  • Trainers

Pack as hand luggage

  • 2 x Smart shirts
  • 3 x T-shirts
  • 1 x Chinos/smarter trousers
  • 1 x Pair of smart(er) shoes
  • 1 x Pair of black socks
  • 3 x Pair of other socks
  • Underwear
  • Travel Documents
  • Wash Bag
  • First aid and medicinal items

Wear on the plane

  • Jeans/Leggings
  • T-shirt
  • Hoodie
  • Trainers/Boots

Pack as hand luggage

  • 1 x Smart dress
  • 1 x Casual dress
  • 3 x T-shirts/vests
  • 1 x Shorts – season dependant
  • 1 x Smart trousers
  • 1 x Pair of heels
  • 1 x Pair of flat shoes
  • Underwear + Socks
  • Nightwear
  • Travel Documents
  • Wash Bag
  • First aid and medicinal items
  • Make-up Bag inc perfume + jewellery

Optional Extras

  • Camera equipment + chargers
  • Swimwear – if near the sea or pool
  • Shorts – if hot enough
  • Sunglasses
  • Coat, hat and scarf – if cold enough
  • Hair straighteners

Obviously the above are general preferences and suggestions from the girlfriend (I needed a bit of help for the female column) and I, but it’s not too difficult to work out that you only really need the basics, and maybe one or too more luxury items such as a shirt or a nice pair of shoes if you’re planning a nice evening out.

*gf told me hair straighteners count as essential, and as her clothes are smaller than mine there will always be room for them.  Not so sure personally, so they went in the extras list.

Where and when are you going?

What you pack is obviously destination and seasonal dependant too.  I very much doubt you’d want to be taking shorts to Iceland in the dead of winter, or a thick coat to Barcelona in the middle of summer.  Likewise you probably wouldn’t take swimwear to somewhere like Riga, or at least not unless you had a pool in your hotel.

What I would recommend when travelling to colder destinations, or in the colder months, would be to throw on another layer for the plane journey, as it can get quite nippy up at 30,000 ft.  Extra layers on the plane are also handy for creating pillows, and making the flight just that bit more comfy.

One packing last tip

This is just a rough guideline packing wise (as you’ve probably guessed).  What this post is mostly concerned with is how to fit everything into your case, but one last tip is the check and double check your airlines hand luggage policy.  Firstly for the weight allowance and luggage dimensions, but also to see just how many hand luggage items you can carry on with you.  Such is the popularity of the weekend break now, certain airlines are now starting to allow you a 2nd, smaller carry on item such as a camera bag or a hand bag.  You’ll have to put that one under the seat in from of you no doubt, but every little helps.

.. Just as I hope this post helps.  Happy packing :-)

P.S. taking hand luggage only and therefore fewer items also means less washing when you get home.  Win!