Top 5 Packing Tips for Toiletries

FillablesIn a quick informal survey of family and friends, people were clearly the most stressed by packing one item. Not clothes, as you might think, or shoes. It was toiletries! My friends and family find the idea of compressing their skin care/hair care/shower regimen into a couple of tiny bags more daunting than any other thing! I mean, I get it. A normal bottle of shampoo is  around 8-10 oz. And you still need conditioner, face cleanser, moisturizer, a razor, toothpaste, not to mention all of your makeup. So yeah, I see how it would be stressful. To take the fear out of your liquids bag, here are my Top Five Packing Tips for Toiletries.

  1. Use refillable bottles. Most people who are traveling a week or less have no need of full size toiletries. In fact, I haven’t had to refill my 3 oz. bottles in a couple of months, and I’ve traveled 7 or 8 times. You can get refillable bottles anywhere, including The Container Store, Amazon, or my personal favorite, Aveda Fillables at Nordstrom (pictured).
  2. Use multiple small bags. Since you have all of your liquids in 3 oz or smaller bottles, there is really no need to travel with one of those giant hanging toiletry bags. All they do is steal your valuable suitcase space. I recommend traveling with 2-3 bags: your 1-quart, clear liquids bag; a small toiletry case for non-liquids; and your small makeup bag, if needed. (If you really need something that hangs, try this small hanging toiletry bag.)
  3. For sensitive skin, bring your own stuff. I know firsthand how tempting the toiletry aisle at Target can be. OMG! I squeal. They make tiny little bottles of everything! But as much fun as those little bottles are, it is not worth it to me to experiment on a trip. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you can end up with some major irritation from new products. Not the kind of experience you want to have on a business trip, or any trip really. If you do get something new, definitely test it before you go.
  4. Only put required items in the liquids bag. A lot of people don’t know that there are a number of things that I consider liquids that don’t have to go in the 1 quart bag: contact solution, deodorant, mascara, and lip gloss to name a few. Getting non-required items out of there frees up lots of room for your shampoo, conditioner, lotions, etc. Also, clean out your liquids bag routinely—one time I realized I was traveling with THREE bottles of lotion.
  5. Use contact cases. My very favorite toiletry traveling tip: for tiny amounts of liquids, use contact cases. I have two that I travel with: one for the shower (face wash) and one for the counter (hair smoothing gel). Saves so much room!

Bonus tip: Wipes don’t have to be in the liquids bag. So if there are face cleansing or other types of wipes you like, bring them in your suitcase and save that room in your liquids bag!

Readers, what are your top tricks for packing toiletries?

(Also, if you haven’t yet–please fill out my short reader survey!)

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  1. Great tips. I just wanted to share my experience regarding deoderant not in the quart-sized bag. I use a solid stick and have never had issues leaving it loose in my suitcase when traveling in the USA. However, earlier this summer, UK security made me move it to a liquids bag & then spent extra time hand-searching my bag as an extra precaution. Just a heads up to others that it can be a good idea to double-check other countries’ rules in case they are different.

  2. My absolute #1 tip for packing toiletries: if you travel at all often, make up a separate toiletry case so you can just grab it and go, rather than shuffling cosmetics and lotions back and forth. It will save hours, and, more importantly, cut stress.

  3. The Nalgene bottles from the Container Store are great! They are easy to squeeze to get out the last drop and I’ve never had leaks like I’ve had with other bottles.

  4. I didn’t want to check my bag on a 2 week trip to Europe (I did have a washing machine part of the time so I could bring fewer clothes). I found solid shampoo and conditoner bars at Lush. They come in little soap dishes. They didn’t take up room in my liquids bag so I could bring extra of everything else and make it through the 2 weeks

  5. Absolutely agree to keep a go-bag ready for travel. But there are always some items that cannot be duplicated (contacts, for just one example.) So, I keep a checklist on an index card in my go-bag. While I’m packing, I run through the checklist and make sure I have everything. Also important: remember to do a toiltery inventory when you get home from your trip. Throw out or refill empties, wipe down the outside of anything that got wet or sticky, etc etc. This is actually the least stressful part of my packing, now that I have my system in place.

  6. What does count as a liquid? I just recently found out that makeup doesn’t have to be put into the liquids bag anymore, but then after reading this article, I check TSA. It says makeup does have to be in there! Its so confusing sometimes.

  7. I agree with all of the tips above – my favorite is using contact lenses for anything and everything. Another great place to find travel size is Bed, Bath and Beyond. If I know I will be travelling to the same location and staying in the same hotel for multiple months I will check a bag with full size toiletries and then leave it at the hotel. Hotels do this all the time and they have even shipped the bag back to me when I stopped travelling unexpectedly.

  8. * Put liquids in bottles smaller than the 3oz limit if you use less than that on a trip. I use 1 or 0.5 oz eye drop bottles for face serum, mouth wash, liquid makeup. Most of these products fall under the 3oz rule in their regular containers but decanting them to smaller ones makes room for other (more) products. Three or four of those big 3oz bottles will use up all of your 3-1-1 space!
    * Decant your liquids and create your toilet kit ahead of time. That way you won’t be in panic mode at 10pm the night before your trip. On your return check your gear, refill your bottles, and stage yourself for the next trip.
    * Spend time at home finding out which solid substitutes work for you. I use a small deodorant crystal, toothpaste tabs, shampoo bar, conditioner bar, and powdered (mix with water) facial mask.

  9. Great place to shop for travel size items online is – they’ll pack all your toiletries for you so you can just grab the bag and go.

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