Travel Light and Bypass Airline Limits

It's fair to say, no matter how much I cut down the contents of my suitcase, no matter how strict I am with myself or how many travel-friendly, space-saving items I buy to replace bulkier items, I always struggle to travel light and remain below the 10KG weight limit of certain airlines.

The reason is simple: I'm a photographer. If I were not, I would not have a bulky camera, with its heavy lenses, and those little items that go with it; chargers, spare batteries, etc. I would drop the laptop, and all of the extras that go with it. I could get by with a tablet. And then I swear, my travelling ways would be much simpler, and it would be much easier to travel light.

Nevertheless, I am a photographer, because I love my job too much, and while my 'kit bag' is way more limited than so many that I have seen on the road, being an equipment minimalist, my basic equipment alone weighs 6KG. Almost half of my weight allowance goes on equipment alone. That doesn't leave much for clothes, even if I do try to select the lightest fabrics and minimalise my makeup bag.

Products with Pockets

Over the years, I've had to get creative as to how to bypass weight limits. I've looked into the recommended methods of others, for example, Benny Lewis of Fluent in Three Months has made a few videos talking about how he carries more than the weight limit. There are jackets and cargo trousers and magic handbags that turn into cardigans with seven-thousand hidden pockets, such as the Jaktogo. Another well-known brand selling clothing designed for travel is SCOTTeVEST, their range including jackets, hoodies and vest. If you prefer a DIY approach, I've known people buy an old jacket and tear a 'pocket opening' into the lining. It's even possible to buy pockets that can be sewn into clothing.


First things first, I layer; I wear as much of my wardrobe as I can get away with, making sure that I wear my bulkiest items of clothing when flying - jeans, jackets, boots. I stuff my pockets with small bits of tech; my GoPro, my phone, my Kindle Fire. Recently I bought a vintage French military jacket with lots of discreet pockets. I've seen people in airport lines pairing jeans with skirts and dresses, and tops can be worn atop each other quite comfortably. I've seen people wearing towels as scarves and scarves as belts. Most of these outfit combinations come from last-minute scrambles through too-heavy suitcases.

A Tote Bag

I've learned that when passing through security, no one questions how many bags I have. Even if my boarding pass clearly shows that I'm flying with an airline that won't allow two bags, I don't need to put the handbag away until I'm about to board. And then, rather than shoving it in my suitcase like I see everyone else in line doing at the last moment, I chose a tote bag with a 'flat cut'.

Wear it beneath your coat, and no one needs to know that it's there. I use mine to hold my Kindle, external hard drive, a novel, my travel journal, passport, and wallet, which immediately removes a few kilos from my suitcase. I carry my laptop in my arms, throw my camera over my shoulder (not around my neck, where it can be argued that I intend to take photos, and especially not without the lens cap, otherwise a member of staff is bound to come over and tell me to put the camera away; most airports have a 'no photography' policy). The second I'm in my seat, I see everyone else awkwardly opening up their suitcases to pull out their handbags, or trying to balance their wallets, books, IPads, and phones in one hand while pulling along their case behind them. Instead, I sit down, take off my coat, the bag goes under my seat, and bam, done. As long as you don't fill it with anything bulky, no one can see that it's there.

Opt for Lightweight Luggage

It's counterproductive when attempting to pack light if your suitcase consists of a quarter of your weight limit in the first place. Luggage companies are aware of this, and the technology contributing to the design of their suitcases is ever-improving to produce lightweight luggage.

I'm a big fan of IT Lightest Luggage. I mean, the key feature of their suitcases is in the name, with their carry-on weighing only 1.8kg, you'll be hard pushed to find a suitcase as lightweight and well-made, while conforming to the standard size restrictions of budget airlines. I've had mine for several years now, and I'm only just beginning to consider replacing it, due to the expected wear-and-tear of a decade's use. When I do replace it, however, I'll be buying the exact same suitcase again. That's how happy I am with it. They also include holdalls and trolleys in their range.

Join a Frequent Flyer Program

If you fly often, it's worth signing up to a 'frequent flyer' program. Most airlines (particularly big ones) offer some kind of loyalty program, and they tend to be inclusive of baggage fees, discounts and waivers. Visit your preferred airline for more information on their loyalty programs.

However, if racking up the minimum number of miles per year to qualify doesn't seem attainable for you (25,000 miles a year is a common minumum requirement), consider instead applying for an airline credit card, as many major airlines waive checked bag fees for cardholders.

Travel by Train

More eco-friendly, sometimes cheaper, and often more comfortable, I've recently opted to choose to travel via land rather than flying (as much as I love the sensation of flying), in order to be more eco-friendly. Depending on route and location, travelling via train might not necessarily be cheaper, but often is still very affordable, and one big 'pro' in favour of train-travel is the lack of luggage restrictions. No weight limits, rarely any airport-style security (except for when taking the Eurostar), no fuss. Just rock up with your twenty super-sized suitcases and curse yourself when you're trying to heave them up onto the train. If you so choose.

Get Creative

I've heard people talk about stuffing possessions in their socks, bras, even using safety-pins to attach socks to the linings of hats or folds of scarves. Bypassing airline limits comes down to creativity, and just how silly you're willing to look in public.

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