Skip to Content

How to pack an underseat carry-on bag for a weekend away: Yes you can travel with just an underseat bag!

How to pack an underseat carry-on bag for a weekend away: Yes you can travel with just an underseat bag!

If you’re a frequent traveller you probably already know about the new baggage restrictions from Ryanair. The new rules, introduced in November 2018, mean the only bag you get included in the price of your ticket is a small bag which will fit under the seat in front of you.

I know we all love to hate Ryanair, and other budget airlines who are introducing the same rules, but we also love those budget flights! Return flights to Marrakech for £48? Don’t mind if I do!

Of course, you have the option to pay extra for a larger cabin case (starting from £6 each way) or pay even extra for checked luggage (starting from £10 each way). But if you’re happy to travel light then it’s more than possible to travel with just an underseat bag.

I’m going to show you how to pack for a weekend away with just a Ryanair underseat bag.

Step 1

Get the right sized bag!

I know, I know, this is an obvious one but you’ll probably find the Ryanair underseat bag dimensions are surprisingly big at 40cm x 20cm x 25cm. The website states that you can use a typical handbag, laptop bag or small backpack but it’s actually a fair bit bigger than that.

You may be planning to use any old bag you have lying around at home but, to ensure you’re not oversized but still getting as much space as you possible can, I recommend buying a bag that is specifically designed to be those exact dimensions.

Travel Hack Tip: It’s also worth remembering that you probably won’t have space to pack a handbag to use when you arrive in your destination so opt for an underseat bag that you’re also happy to use as your everyday bag once you reach your destination. For me, this means avoiding any luggage with wheels.

Laura and Claire from Twin Perspectives have a review of what they think is the best underseat cabin bag.

Step 2

Get some packing cubes

I go on about packing cubes all the time but they really are a game changer when you’re short on space.

Packing cubes will help keep your bag neat and organised but will also keep your clothing compressed so it takes up less space.

Travel Hack Tip: If you really run out of space, get yourself some small packing cubes and stuff them into the pockets of your coat. Find a coat with the deepest pockets you can find and you’ll be surprised by how much you can get in there!

Using packing cubes to travel light

^ As you can see, I don’t always use ‘proper packing cubes’. Sometimes I’ll just use any small bag I have lying around. This blue one came with pyjamas in.

Step 3

Pack a capsule wardrobe

This is the most important tip on the list because, let’s be honest, the real secret to travelling with just an underseat bag is by taking a lot less stuff than you’d normally take!

Travelling light is usually very do-able in the warm summer months when all you really need is a couple of simple dresses and some clean underwear! But if you’re travelling to a cooler destination then you’re going to need to put some thought into your outfits. Aim to pack a capsule wardrobe where everything can be easily mixed and matched.

Travel Hack Tip: Check out Emma Hill for simple style inspo. I love that she always looks so stylish but her clothes are actually very simple and you could easily create many similar outfits from just a handful of items.

Step 4

Consider a vacuum bag

This is just one to consider because, while a vacuum bag is great for compressing your clothes into a tiny air-free bag, it will also leave your clothes very creased. This means a vacuum bag can be great for your return flight when you’ve got a bag full of dirty clothes that you don’t mind getting creased and crumpled.

If you think you’ll be picking up souvenirs and will be coming home with more than you left with then a vacuum bag is a great idea. You can use it like a regular packing cube on your departure and then compress it when you return.

Travel Hack Tip: I’ve written a review of the VAGO baggage compressor which could work perfectly for underseat luggage.

Step 5

Teeny tiny toiletries + save your samples!

You know those samples you get in magazines or the ones you’re offered as you walk around a department store? Yes? Save them all! Sachets of shampoo, perfume, foundation and tiny toothpastes are the perfect size for a weekend break.

And while you’re at it, don’t be afraid to shamelessly ask for samples when you’re in a department store. I usually find it’s the high-end beauty brands that give out samples and you often get gift boxes with miniature products when you spend a certain amount.

Travel Hack Tip: It’s worth noting that they rarely give out samples at the airport because they know it’s unlikely you’ll return to them to buy the product, so local department stores are always best!

Step 6

Ditch the shoes

It goes without saying that you won’t have any space for additional shoes. Find yourself a pair of shoes that match every outfit you’ve packed. I will sometimes pack a pair of very slim sandals as these can be slipped inside your bag without taking up much space.

Travel Hack Tip: If you’ve bought new shoes for your trip, don’t forget to pack some blister plasters too! Even the comfiest shoes can end up rubbing after 2-3 days of walking.

Step 7

Wear as much as you can

If you need to take some bulky clothing with you then your best option is to wear these items when you board the plane. Yes, this might mean you’ll be boarding wearing two jumpers and a coat!

Travel Hack Tip: Airline staff usually won’t mention it if you’ve got a jumper tied around your waist and one under your arm and a coat flung over your shoulder so if it’s too hot, just carry them.

Step 8

Take a foldable tote bag too

When you board the plane the airline staff will be checking you’ve just got the one small, underseat bag…but before and after your journey you might need more space. Pack a foldable tote bag for extras like jumpers, magazines, a coat etc – especially if you’re taking step 7 literally!

Travel Hack Tip: If you’ve got space, a Longchamp bag is a nice, stylish addition!

Step 9

Skimpy clothes

While packing your clothes, aim to pack the thinnest, tiniest items you have. Don’t take your granny pants, pack your skimpy thongs! Don’t take a chunky denim boiler suit, pack a lightweight playsuit! Remember, every tiny bit of space really counts here so any swaps you can make will make all the difference.

Travel Hack Tip: I love wearing jumpsuits when I travel because it’s just one, simple item of clothing and it’s a whole outfit in one!

^ I love these simple shift dresses for travelling. They fold up so small and can be worn as a dress or tucked in and worn as a top.

Step 10

Plan your itinerary

My final tip for packing for a weekend away with just an underseat bag is to plan exactly what you’ll be doing while you’re away.

Most of us overpack because we’re not sure what we’ll need while we’re away. You pack an emergency dress in case you go for a fancy meal, and a pair of comfy trainers just in case you go for a long walk. But 9 times out of 10 you don’t wear these items, so leave them at home. Plan out your trip so you know exactly what you’ll be doing and you won’t feel the need to pack any unnecessary items.

Here’s exactly what I’d pack for a weekend away with just a Ryanair underseat bag

I’d wear

  • 1 x jeans
  • 1 x shoes
  • 1 x t-shirt
  • 1 x jumper
  • 1 x jacket

I’d pack


  • Tiny foundation sample
  • Tiny mascara sample
  • Cream blusher that can also be used on lips
  • Eye shadow (1-2 specific colours, not a whole pallet)
  • Tiny moisturiser
  • Sample size of facial wipes
  • Toothbrush
  • Tiny toothpaste
  • Tiny deodorant
  • Travel sized hair straighteners (I have some from Primark which cost £5 and they’re not great but they’re fine for the whisps of hair around my face)
  • Travel sized dry shampoo – You have to buy this at the airport because you can’t take them through security.

(I wouldn’t take shampoo, conditioner, shower gel or body lotion because my accommodation will almost always have it.


  • 3 x Underwear
  • 1 x t-shirt to sleep in
  • 2 x dresses
  • 1 x playsuit
  • 1 x top
  • 2 x necklaces


  • Phone charger + phone
  • Passport
  • Travel credit card
  • Copy of documents including travel insurance

This post is sponsored by Admiral Travel Insurance. No matter what luggage I’m travelling with I always slip a copy of my travel insurance into my bag. I like to have a printed copy of these documents in case I need them in an emergency or if someone needs to get them for me. It’s much simpler than having them on your phone, especially if you need to use your insurance because your phone has been stolen!

And yes, that’s all I’d pack for a weekend break with just underseat luggage. You can definitely do it!

Read more: What to pack for a toddler on a plane


Friday 12th of July 2019

I recently went to London with just a small backpack for 4 days so I totally support this! Yes you can pack super light and still wear a different outfit every day. It does take a bit of practice though. And going during a heatwave helps too :-)

By the way I flew British Airways because I like to arrive in City Airport instead of one of those airports that are so far away from London that you have to spend quite some time and money to actually get into town. That's mostly why I avoid the cheap airlines.

One thing that strikes me though: When the extra baggage fee is just 6 or 10 pounds but then you have to buy an new smaller bag or packing cubes etc. - is it really worth it? It looks to me as if one might spend more money on the things you have to buy to pack small... Wouldn't you just rather pay that extra little bit of money and spare yourself the hassle? Especially when the flight is that cheap already.


Monday 18th of March 2024

@TheTravelHack, i’ve just been looking at the Ryanair flights and it costs at least £30 each way to take a 10 kg bag, and about £40 each way to take a checked in suitcase. So that’s at least £60. So even if you have to pop into a local supermarket and buy a few toiletries, it would probably cost you less than €10. Which you would share the cost with your travel partner. I’m definitely going to try just using the under seat cabin bag. I think it’s time for a challenge. If I don’t like it, then I’ll go back to buying extra luggage space.


Sunday 14th of July 2019

That's a point. If you only travel every couple of years then it might not be worth it. But if you're a frequent traveller (like yourself and many people who read this blog!) then it's worth investing in a decent bag and keeping your eyes open for samples or small bags you'll have that can be used as packing cubes.