Backpackers may have to pay to check their bags into the hold

One of the finest tricks in a backpacker's arsenal is using a bag not only small and light enough to make travelling from place to place easy, but also to avoid extra charges and long wait times when flying. Not checking a bag into the hold can save some serious money and get you out into your new destination in double time. But new guidelines could bring an end to all that.

Passengers are in line to be subject to stricter controls on the size of carry-on bags allowed in the cabin. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which acts for 260 major scheduled carriers and accounts for 83% of air traffic, has drafted new guidelines that outline the changes.

The new limit would mandate carry-on bags must be no larger than 21.5 inches tall, 13.5 inches wide, and 7.5 inches deep. Although airlines are free to set their own limits, eight carriers have already confirmed they will be following the new guidelines: Air China, Avianca, Azul, Cathay Pacific, China Southern, Emirates, Lufthansa, and Qatar. Hardly small fish.

The idea behind the change is to ensure that all passengers can take a small bag onto a plane, avoiding the pain, anguish, and desire for violence that often arises when you board late and find the overhead compartments already completely packed. 

What does this change mean for backpackers? Well, you'll have a few options. Firstly, it could simply add an extra layer of research to your flight booking procedure as you seek out carriers with the most generous carry-on allowance. It might necessitate the purchase of new, smaller hand luggage, which would mean taking less with you on your gap year, or you might simply have to bite the bullet and check in your bag, which these days commonly incurs a fee. That could hurt your budget plans.

Of course, it's possible to travel lighter than you'd expect on your gap year. Here's a complete guide to packing your backpack before the journey of a lifetime.