Hand Luggage Only is written by Yaya Onalaja-Aliu and Lloyd Griffiths, two travel lovers who met at university. In under four years, the two have become giants of the travel blogging world, winning Best Travel Blog at the Vuelio Blog Awards 2017 and now topping the world-famous Top 10 UK Travel Blogs. Oozing the writers’ charming and fun-loving personalities, Hand Luggage Only has wowed audiences with its stunning photography and real-life travel reviews.
We caught up Yaya and Lloyd to chat about the travel blogging community, ‘leaning in’ to the destination you’re visiting and working with brands and PRs.
What makes your blog unique?
Ironically, we think that the thing that makes Hand Luggage Only unique is actually the thing that makes it quite ‘normal’. For us, travel has been always about the experiences and focusing on what the destination has to offer so, rather than attempting to define a niche topic to focus on, our blog is unique as it cuts across several different ways to travel. We allow the destination to be exactly what it is, not what we’d want it to be – whether that involves active hiking to see amazing sights or just relaxing on a picturesque sandy beach.
That’s always been the most important thing for us (when we travel), to really savour and relish the beauty of new and exciting places.
We try to never have any preconceptions on places we visit. We keep an open mind, which always allows us to lean into the destination and that’s the most important thing to us.
How has travel blogging changed since you started?
Gosh, travel blogging has changed considerably over the last few years. I mean, the principles are the same but the methods in which we share our experiences is constantly changing. With the advent of new platforms and offerings like IGTV, there’s always something new to learn and new ways of sharing our experiences.
That being said, we’ve also noticed lots of new travel bloggers in recent years emerging with lots of different backgrounds, cultures and insights. One of our favourite things about blogging is how it democratises travel and having a more diverse mix of people being part of the conversation is fantastic. It really does help provide a more balanced view of the world and helps provide new and interesting insights on travel as a whole.
What’s the community of travel blogs like to be part of?
It’s very fun and very open-minded. I think the general nature of travel means that the community is filled with fun-seekers who are curious about the world around them and absolutely open to learn about everything available to them.
The thing that’s really lovely about travel blogging is that pretty much everyone is in it because they’re passionate about travel. There’s this innate curiosity in the community that means that everyone is excited to read each other’s posts, to share their own experiences and essentially help each other see more of the world.
What’s the best travel experience in the world?
I don’t actually think there’s one ‘best’ travel experience in the world. Travel experiences are so relative. Some people like switching destinations constantly while others like returning to the same place; some people like it hot while some like it cold; some people want to chill while others want active adventures – sometimes the same person wants all of this, just at different times of the year.
My point is, the goalpost for ‘best’ keeps changing so it’s hard to define one specific type of travel experience that is best. What perhaps is common with some of our fondest travel experiences is back to our point of setting no expectations for a destination and just leaning into what it is. You could return to the same destination 10 times in a row and have different experiences every single time (like we have in Amsterdam) and so it’s important to shake off any pre-conceived notions and find your own path to fun every time you travel.
What’s the best mode of transport you’ve ever experienced?
Probably paragliding into Switzerland. While in France, we headed up to the hills and ran off the cliff with an instructor who guided us over to Switzerland. It was so much fun!
What’s your scariest experience while travelling?
Probably snakes! Lloyd really doesn’t like snakes and while we were in Sri Lanka I was playing about on his phone and nearly walked onto a snake that was bathing on the road. He still shakes thinking about it. Ha!
What should PRs know about you?
I’m not sure. I guess that we are pretty open minded and always flexible in how we work with people. No two destinations or brands are exactly the same, no two people are and so it would be unrealistic to expect two projects to be.
We always see collaborations as a two-way conversation (not just one party telling the what to do or not do), which always helps when working with brands.
What are the best campaigns you’ve worked on?
There are so many amazing campaigns we’ve worked on, especially with a destination focus. We love our long-term partnership with KLM, Germany, Canada and with Visit England as ambassadors.
That being said, we also love our campaign with Apple where we are able to share not just out love of travel but also photography tips and tools we use with other like-minded travellers.
Do bloggers need their own industry association?
There would be a real benefit to this. An industry association or some sort of body would certainly be welcomed in a very new and often changing industry as it can really be of a lot of value to help standardise practices in what can be a pretty fragmented environment.
What other blogs do you read?
That’s difficult to answer because I’m a big link clicker from other channels such as Twitter or Instagram, so I can find myself on some really obscure blogs. I veer away from the ones that don’t give any real opinion or always love everything… they’re just not that useful or authoritative without a point of view.
Lloyd, Yaya and Hand Luggage Only are all listed on the Vuelio Influencer Database along with thousands of other bloggers, vloggers, journalists and opportunities.