Hand luggage only: How to travel light in India!

Going to India with a friend for an Ashtanga yoga retreat, we were particularly concerned about our airlines losing our suitcases and leaving us stranded in Kerala with no clothes, toiletries and most importantly no yoga gear. So we made a pact to travel light and make sure it was hand-luggage only all the way – and we did it! My survival tips below are aimed at women mainly, I’ve no doubt that men could travel even lighter.


Deciding not to take any make-up was helpful as it usually tips me just over the liquids count for hand luggage. This may not always be possible but in a humid country I tend to wear less make-up, in any case a slick of mascara or lipstick is all anyone really needs!

I was slightly concerned my suitcase was going to be too large for my internal flights with IndiGo airlines, usually budget airlines are more strict. However my Tripp suitcase was exactly the right maximum size for hand luggage. Always check the specifications on your airline website to avoid being charged at the gate by overzealous staff.

When packing I tend to find rolling things in to tight balls (or a sausage roll shape) utilises space most efficiently, packing cubes have never seemed practical for my style of travel. The full list in all its glory below….


2 x Bikinis / Swimming Costume

2 x Pashminas  – not only was this useful as a makeshift scarf on the plane, but in came in handy when I felt the need to cover my shoulders. In India shoulders are sometimes considered quite alluring to men!

10 pairs of knickers – this may seem excessive but they are small and easy to tuck away in to suitcase space.

2 x Bras

1 x Loose fitting harem pants

1 x Knee length skirt

1 x Black floor length skirt – this doubled up as a towel one day on the beach too!

1 x Cotton shirt, long sleeves – this came in handy in the evening and the backwaters where there were mosquitoes.

3 x T-shirts, fairly loose-fitting with capped sleeves.

2 pairs of socks – these were only used for plane and airport travel.

1 pair of TOMs slip on shoes.

1 x Sandals

1 x Nike tracksuit, this was solely to travel in (I had 5 flights) and boy I’m glad I wore it, so comfy.

1 x Karrimor waterproof – Google weather told us there would be thunderstorms, of course there was not a single one and this item was totally unnecessary.

Toiletries etc.

1 x 75 ml Travel detergent – invaluable given my capsule wardrobe! I did three rounds of washing in the 10 days, so well worth bringing.

2 x Solid toiletries – Shampoo and Conditioner both from Lush, the Argan oil shampoo was fab but the conditioner was a flop, I was better off using my friend’s shea butter. They also do a roaring trade for coconut oil in Kerala which is just as good.

1 x Wet wipes

1 x Caudelie 25ml face moisturiser

4 x Elemis face oil capsules – These are tiny and ideal for keeping skin hydrated on the plane, or after exposure to sun and sea.

1 x 50 ml Molton Brown mini shower gel

1 x 100ml Hand sanitising gel – I used this about 15 times a day, invaluable in the fight against bugs.

2 x 100 ml Sun creams – Factor 50 for my face and factor 30 for my body, they do sell western style creams in India but they tend to be slightly more expensive.

1 x Ibuprofen packet – I am prone to headaches especially after travelling, and to be honest medication in India is not as regulated as in the West so better to bring your own if possible.

1 x box Tampax – after not being able to find any in Cuba (and I mean anywhere, even in the Varadero tourist resorts) I will never be caught short again!

50 ml Toothpaste and toothbrush

Eyes super protected from the scorching sun


1 x Silk sleeping bag liner – defence against bed bugs (of which there were none in my Kovalam accommodation), but also smooth against the skin and kept me cool during humid evenings.

1 x Tangle Teezer hairbrush, small and perfectly formed just like me!

1 pair of Sunglasses – please buy decent and effective ones, protecting your eyesight is not an area to scrimp on.

1 x Small backpack for every day use.

Ear Plugs and Eye mask – without these the noise of stray dogs barking all night would have driven me mad, it certainly irked my friend next door.

Aeropress – for making my morning coffee. I was waking up at around 6am for yoga class when no shops were open. This also made my caffeine habit cheaper.

1 x Tablet (and headphones) – for blogging, and watching Parks and Recreation on quiet nights in.

1 x Samsung phone – which subsequently has decided to break and has all my photos on it. Let that be a lesson to use back up.

1 x Door stop – this may seem an odd one but it is a personal safety issue. For solo women travellers it’s piece of mind if you are concerned your door could be opened from the outside at night.

1 book – I chose Swing Time by Zadie Smith, in hindsight buying the large hardback version was naive. Would highly recommend the book though!

Can you see me?!

Yoga paraphernalia

1 x  Travel yoga mat – Jade brand is my preferred choice because it is light and folds easily.

1 x Travel towel – this has got to be one of my all time favourite purchases, any regular traveler must get one. It takes about 10 mins to dry!

2 x Sports Bra for yoga

3 x Strappy tops for yoga

3 x Yoga pants

And of course last but not least, don’t forget your passport and tourist visa! 

That’s my carry-on baggage list done, is there anything you think I missed? What would you take in your hand luggage to India or anywhere else in the world?



10 thoughts on “Hand luggage only: How to travel light in India!

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