How I pack my carry-on backpack for Ryanair flights (+downloadable packing list!)

This article contains the best packing tips, but to get my packing list click on the link below!

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, I am a budget traveler. I don’t like to spend more than I need to, because, in my mind, more money spent on flights and accommodation is less money to spend on activities and unforeseeable opportunities that can arise on a trip.

Therefore, Ryanair. I realize now this post won’t be useful if you’re not in Europe. Well, still! If you get used to these rigorous packing rules, you will be the greater for it. Not only is it cheaper, but it’s much easier as well! You don’t want to be rolling your suitcase on a cobbled street, trust me.

Ryanair tickets can be really cheap, yes. But their baggage allowance is really minimalistic. Some years ago, a carry-on was what you carried along with your little personal bag. However, now the only baggage you can carry with a “basic” ticket is one bag. Meaning, that bag needs to be both your “purse” carrying essential things like your passport, wallet, phone etc. AND your actual clothes and other things. Therefore, backpack.

I recommend getting a backpack with lots of extra pockets and hidden pockets. These are true lifesavers when you’re packing for your return trip and have more things than when you started. As for the size of the backpack, Ryanair’s rule is 40 cm x 20 cm x 25 cm. However in my experience, they are very lax with this rule and usually, no one will check your bag or ask you to measure it and/or weigh it.

Within reason, of course. You might get away with a few centimeters more on each end, but all in all, it is still a relatively small amount of space for everything you need. But with a few mindset changes and a handful of tricks, I’ve managed to resist buying the additional baggage allowance and perfect the skill of packing everything into one backpack. So here are my tips that can help you do that as well.

1. Make a list

The only way to make sure you don’t forget something is to write it down. This is also useful in determining what is an absolute necessity (like underwear) and how many things you want to pack into your backpack. I recommend you section it into: clothes, underwear, toiletries, make-up, electronics, food and necessities (documents, money, phone etc.).

If you need inspiration, download my Ryanair-ready packing list above!

2. Put all your things on the bed before packing them

Before putting anything in the backpack, spread all your clothes and other things you decided to bring on your bed. I find this visual representation to be a good starting point in realizing how much stuff you plan on bringing, and how much stuff you can get rid of. If the things are taking up most of your bed, you’ll see for yourself that maybe you were a little too optimistic and that maybe you don’t need all of that.

Photo by fatin hisham on

And besides the surface area it takes up, observe how these things look. Is it something chunky that will be difficult to fit? Is it something too heavy for your backpack that you could do without? Now it is time to…

3. Take something out

Before needing to do this because your backpack won’t close, take something out. I am sure that you can find multiple contenders. If the elimination process becomes too difficult, try to remember this; you will want to bring something back from your trip, so make sure you have space for souvenirs.

4. Minimize your liquids (shampoo bar)

Besides saving precious space, minimizing your liquids will make your life easier when going through security. As you probably know, you need to have your liquids handy in a clear bag and it’s best to pack it at the top for easy access so you don’t need to dig through your backpack when it’s your turn.

So, instead of the traditional hair and body care products, I suggest getting yourself a shampoo and a conditioner bar. Not only does it minimize your liquids, but it also saves space because they are very compact and come in a small tin. If you’re really game, consider packing a soap bar instead of a shower gel. It is also more environmentally friendly. Yay!

5. Pre-plan outfits

To both minimize and optimize, plan all the outfits you are going to wear for each day of the trip. This way, you will not only make sure you will wear everything you take, but will also save time and worry when you’re at your destination.

Pack your things according to what you will use first, from the bottom up. So for example, a back-up shirt will go in the bottom of your backpack, and your bag of liquids will go on top.

6. Make the best out of what you have on you

Not exactly like this, but you get the idea!
Photo by Ron Lach on

By this I mean: wear as many clothes on you as you possibly can while still being comfortable. This works especially well if you’re travelling in the colder months. A T-shirt, shirt, cardigan, and a jacket are all things you can carry on you!

And protip: pockets. You never realize how useful pockets are until you realize you still have three more things after you’ve closed your backpack. Pick items that have the most pockets and make use of them! Every little bit counts.

7. Be realistic about what you wear

If you usually wear one pair of jeans the whole week, why not keep at it on your trip? I know we sometimes like to treat a trip as an opportunity to wear things you don’t usually get to wear, but on a short trip like this where you want to optimize your budget, staying realistic about your habits is a great thing.

Photo by Sharefaith on

And if you’re only taking one pair of jeans, that means you have extra room in your backpack because you’ll be wearing them! Yes, I know something *could* happen e.g. you spill something on them, but in that case, I say go to tip no. 8.

8. Remember that you can buy something there if you really need it

Photo by Jack Sparrow on

And last but not least, if you really end up needing something, you can buy it at your destination. I am sure you’ve had many trips where you brought things with you that you returned and never wore or used. So this time, take less.

It might be a challenge at first, but I think it’s better to leave something you’re not sure about at home, because of the reason stated above. If however, you end up needing something specific, you can always buy that one thing. Chances are you’ll be fine without it for a few days.

And this concludes my tips for making sure you have everything you need in one backpack and avoiding those extra fees! I hope this has been helpful and will encourage you to refrain from buying additional baggage on your next trip.


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Published by Mirna

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