travel / travel guide

How to Pack a Carry-On Bag for a Ryanair Flight

I’ve done a lot of traveling over the past couple years, so it goes without saying that I’ve packed a lot of suitcases.  A lot of my travel involves cheap budget airlines, and it’s inevitably a huge pain to cram everything I want for a trip into a small suitcase. 

But even though it’s a pain, it’s not impossible. Here’s how to pack a carry-on for a Ryanair flight and avoid those extra fees.

(Actually, these tips work pretty well for any kind of packing, whether you’re wondering how to pack for a semester abroad or just for a regular airline flight. Especially if you have lots of irregularly shaped items.)

Here’s everything I’ve jammed into a suitcase and gotten on an actual Ryanair flight this summer. Let’s just say I’m not a light traveler (this is a twin-sized bed):


That’s 6 tops, 1 cardigan, 1 jacket, 2 dresses, 1 crop top, 1 pair of pants, 3 pairs of leggings, 2 pairs of shoes, 2 scarves, 2 books and 1 e-reader, a laptop, two cameras plus a lens, two mugs, 100 bags of tea, a tin of biscuits to go with the tea, toiletries and a purse.

*The mugs look a bit weird – they’re a stand-in for two my grandma gave me in honor of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

Here’s the suitcase in question:


And here’s how you can perform the same feat with your very own luggage (one item, maximum 55cm x 40 cm x 20 cm, of course!).

Pre-packing: Figure out what you’re taking first. I’ll post some pointers about packing lists later on.

Step #1: Pull out everything that’s boxy, inflexible or bulky – boxes, books, etc.


Put them in the corners of your bag. I left the magazine out because it’s so thin it can get squeezed in on top of something else.


If your bag doesn’t have a completely flat bottom (only half of mine does), make a flat surface by lining the bottom with clothing first.

Step #2: Find your biggest, bulkiest clothing items (pants, sweaters, and dresses). Roll them (don’t fold!) and line the bottom of your bag with them. Leave a space at the top of your bag.


Step #3: Get your shoes. If you have more than one pair, wear your heaviest, biggest ones on the plane. Line the side of your case with the remaining pair(s).

Step #4: Put everything delicate or easily breakable aside. I chose my stand-in teacups, my camera, and my camera lens. Hold off on anything you need to take out for airport security screening – ebooks, laptops, etc. – you’ll want those on top of everything else.


Roll them up in clothing for padding – I used a big soft tee (the red one in the pic below).

Place these on top of your items from #2 in the three-dimensional center of your pack for maximum protection. Aim to get them near the top of your suitcase so there’s less stuff weighing down on them.


Step #5: Roll up the rest of your clothing tight, and nestle it around your breakable items around the side edges and bottom of your suitcase (in the above pic, my tops are on the right-hand part in the lower left corner, and my scarf is on the left-hand part in the corner).

Set aside anything that’s really difficult to roll, and wear it on the plane – like my leather jacket and chambray shirt. I chose a leather jacket, chambray shirt, and combat boots – they all take up a ton of space in a suitcase that’s better used for other stuff.

Step #6: Okay, you should be left with just a few items now, like small toiletries, electronics you need for security screenings, and purses.


Anything that’s pretty hard to break, put at the bottom of your bag (like my contact lens case and bottle of solid deodorant)

Put electronics near the top of your bag and in the 3D center – you’ll have to pull those out for security, so you want them to be easily accessible.


Step #7: Check that your bag zips up, and gently stand it up for a few minutes. This lets everything sink down and gives you a bit more space.

Step #8: Add anything else to the remaining space at the top of your bag. Ryanair only lets you have ONE item of hand luggage, which includes your purse. Make sure you can get it in, if only for five minutes during boarding.



You may have to make minor adjustments. Just remember a few keys: roll your clothes, pad anything breakable, and put things that you’ll need access to in an easy-to-reach spot.

That’s it! Everything should fit in your bag safely and securely, and you’ll live to escape the budget-wrecking wrath of Ryanair’s hidden fees another day.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary. Source: The Telegraph

Next week, I’ll have some more tips for using the Ryanair system to your maximum advantage.

Does anybody else have great packing tips that I’m missing?



42 thoughts on “How to Pack a Carry-On Bag for a Ryanair Flight

  1. I often travel with Ryanair using hand luggage only, but I always take things out of boxes – for example if I bring British tea bags back to Spain I make sure they are tightly packed inside a sturdy plastic bag.

    Another thing to note with Ryanair is that at some airports they are now starting to weigh hand luggage cases before you board (at the boarding gate) so make sure that you keep within the 10kgs limit.

    I usually try to wear a jacket with pockets that I can stuff with extra items if required.

  2. These are some great tips! However I think this mostly works with a summer wardrobe since clothes are a lot thinner. Have you managed to pull this off with a winter wardrobe? I just imagine with pants, thicker shirts and sweaters this would be a bit more tricky. For Semana Santa, I traveled around Germany and Austria for 9 days but I needed to pack warmer clothing so I ended up checking my luggage (since I also brought a backpack as well and that was my hand luggage). Plus in winter you need socks, scarves, hats, and gloves…

    And I recently took RyanAir when I was in France for three weeks. Maybe you can do it, but I found it impossible to pack for 3 weeks in a carryon! The only time I managed to do it was when I traveled to Lisbon for 3 days. Anything more than 4 days means I check a suitcase.

    • Yep, I have done it with a winter wardrobe! If you get rid all the weird bulky items I had for this trip (the books, the cups, the teabags, the biscuit tin, the camera, and the lens) there’s significantly more space.

      Pants and sweaters take up about the same amount of space as a bulky dress if you roll them tight. I usually bring one big scarf, hat, and pair of gloves – you can wear all those on the plane. Socks can go in your coat pockets.

      Thin warm layers are good too, like thermals or leggings which take up almost no space. And you can wear your layered sweaters on the plane too – just stick them in a plastic bag until you have to board and throw them on until you get seated.

      I’ve done it for trips of about two winter weeks, so it is possible! But I am quite a small person, so my clothing is small too.

  3. I’ve never flown with RyanAir, I usually go with Vueling for jaunts around Europe. I generally have a small travelbag and either a small man-purse or one of those hippie wait bags that are so common in Barcelona. I’ve even gone with suitcase, man-purse and waistpack, though I imagine RyanAir wouldn’t let me get away with that.

    • Yep, Ryanair only allow ONE thing total. Purses and small bags count, so you have to stuff them inside your suitcase – and if you’ve packed it full, it can be a real struggle!

  4. Dying laughing. I once stood in line in Pisa for a flight back to Seville where the girls in front of me had on the wackiest clothing. I kept staring (I’m rude!) and they told me they had no idea Ryan Air was so strict. I took their advice and started wearing anything bulky (ew, skinny jeans and gym shoes, so bad!). I’ve done Romania and Prague/Budapest for a week a piece on one carry-on, as well as 10 days on the East Coast! It’s an art form, for sure.

  5. Oh, perfecting the art of Ryan-Air travel! I am most proud of a 7-day Semana Santa trip to Scandinavia. Looking back, I’m not sure how I managed to fit all that bulky, cold-weather attire in a backpack.

    Instead of rolling my clothes, I always put them in gallon-sized plastic bags. Squeezing out the air saves so much space!

    • Haha Ryanair is definitely an art!

      I’ve tried the plastic bag trick but it doesn’t seem to work for me. I can’t seem to squeeze enough air out for it to make a difference. But maybe I’ll try it again next time.

  6. Off topic, but … I read that magazine too! I love how Spaniards have appropriated the word “look.”

    I hate RyanAir. I’m getting old, so I’m going to trade my RyanAir days for costlier airlines or — hopefully — trains!

    • Same! It’s almost the same, but sometimes they say stuff like “El look muy fashion de…”, which just makes me laugh.

      Trading Ryanair for trains sounds nice! I’ve still got quite a few years of battling with them left in me, as Renfe is pretty pricy. Actually, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to ticket prices now that they’re planning on privatizing it.

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    • You know, I’m not sure – it’s an off-brand one I bought at a sale. But it IS a little thicker than 20 cm, and I’ve never had a problem with it.

      The way other people get around the 20cm issue is by buying a soft bag so you can force the sides into the baggage measuring tool, if they ask you to put it in.

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  10. I just wanted to add with travel tips (i.e. tea bags) save your free samples! I’m going away for four months and I’m taking a free sachet of shampoo and conditioner for the first wash then buying there. I usually receive a lot of free samples from sites like magicfreebies and there is always free tea! I have like 20 samples…

    • That’s a good one! I’m going right there to check if they have Yorkshire Tea…

      For me, the tea was worth the extra space because that brand is quite expensive here and I really like it. Plus, it was a present from my grandma, so I couldn’t really leave it there. 🙂

  11. you can always tel the ryanair passengers because they’re the ones wearing 5 layers of clothes so they can barely walk, determined not to pay the extra euros for baggage.

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  13. I do the vacuum packed plastic bags. I get the kind that can be used by any ordinary vacuum and voile! I am packed, waterproofed, and even have room for my shopping addiction. I always bring a couple extra bags and I have never been in a place that didn’t have access to a vacuum….even in the Amazon jungle! I took everything I needed for a 4 month trip to Samoa and the bags were perfect!

    • Ooh those are great, but I actually didn’t have access to a vacuum in Spain! They’re tough to find here. But if you can find one in the Amazon jungle, maybe I just have to look harder!

      The problem with them for Ryanair flights, though, is that they have a 10kg weight limit. It’s so tempting to stuff those vacuum bags full that mine tend to be quite heavy…and you can’t exactly unpack and re-pack them at the airport check-in counter. 🙂

  14. This is so helpful! Ryanair can be a pain if you don´t know how to handle your luggage in general and if you don´t think about this ahead you´ll find that the price of checking in a suitcase can be as expensive your own flight ticket… Thanks for the post!

  15. Can i go on a ryanair flight wearing my hat and sunglasses to save room in my hand luggage as this is all im taking?

  16. Terrific packing tips. I put shoes in slim plastic bags and stuff them with undies or socks. Always have a swathe of duct tape, extra large safety pins, big plastic sacks for utility fixes.

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