Travel Toiletries: Tips and Tricks

One of the hardest packing skills to learn is how to pack toiletries efficiently. Most women have spent years evolving their hair care, skin care, and general beauty routines—and now you have to condense all of that into a 1 quart plastic bag? Unfortunately yes, to an extent. However, there are ways to work within the system to make sure you have everything you need without checking your bag. Hooray!

Take small bags. On my first business trip, I brought an enormous hanging toiletries bag that took up half of my suitcase. And I wondered why my back hurt after trying to lift the darn thing into the overhead bin! These days, I take three small bags: one for liquids (the clear 1 quart plastic bag), one for non-liquids, and one for makeup. They will easily slip into the tiniest spaces in my suitcase.

Only put liquids in the liquids bag. It sounds like a no-brainer, but for a while I was keeping stuff in the liquids bag that didn’t need to be in there. For example, stick deodorant, contact solution, mascara, and lipstick. According to the TSA, those things don’t have to be in there. Hallelujah! More room for important stuff.

Use your own stuff. It can be so tempting to take advantage of travel-sized lotions and potions that are pre-packaged, but it’s not a good idea. If you have sensitive skin, like Ana from The Well Appointed Desk, you can end up with some severe skin irritation. In my case, my hair reacts poorly to most shampoos and conditioners, so I always bring my own hair products. Which leads me to….

Take smaller containers. As tempting as it is to bring your full size shampoo and conditioner, unless you’re traveling for months at a time there is just no need. Get refillable containers (available virtually anywhere, including these GoToobs from TravelSmith) and pour your normal shampoo, conditioner, bodywash, and other items in there.

Readers, what are your best toiletry travel tips? Do you have a current favorite beauty item?

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  1. This is SO much easier for guys. In my quest to “fly naked,” I’ve gone so far as packing NO toiletries, stopping at a drug store to grab travel-sized necessities that can be tossed before returning. Obviously, not a viable solution for everyone but awesome if you don’t mind spending a few bucks/minutes. It’s almost like “going commando” through Security! (Okay, not really… 😉

  2. Those bottles don’t get very good reviews. I take small bottles like hotel lotion and shampoo comes in and empty them and refill with my product. Or buy travel size ones of your product and just refill as necessary. The screw tops are much better at effectively sealing so you do not get leakage.

  3. @ Mitty No it doesn’t!! According to the TSA site: “You may bring all prescription and over-the-counter medications (liquids, gels, and aerosols) including petroleum jelly, eye drops, and saline solution for medical purposes.” So they say it needs to still be screened but (whispers) I never take mine out and it’s never been a problem.

    @RobRob Yes I am super jealous of guys in this respect. My husband brings his toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant, then uses everything else from the hotel.

    @Pointasaurus Thanks for the heads up about the bottles! I actually use Aveda Refillables bottles, which I love, but can’t find online anywhere. But any bottles will work, I just recommend filling them with your own products.

  4. As a long- time woman traveler i agree with your tips – PLUS – For things like face Lotion, hair gel, eye cream, use a contact lens case. No need to go in precious 1qt space and 1 case for each cream lasts me a week! Also, must carry: pre-moistened makeup remover cloths, tide stain remover pen, hotel shower caps over each shoe bottom.

  5. I am a man and I pack 14 different liquid items in my legal 1qt slidetop. Trick is to get the array of small bottles from container store. They have .5 oz, 1oz, 2oz. These puppies have never leaked on me and I store my liquids in the outer pouch for easier security access and exposed like that they can take some abuse.

    You can cut up clear postal labels from the office store (waterproof) and label each bottle for clarity and to prevent cross contamination on refill.

    I have 2 1qt sets so that I can grab the fresh one if I’m traveling back to back. Less time spent on the refill sessions this way too.

    I use a YouTube trick and some vynil tubing from the hardware store to fill travel sized toothpaste tubes with my preferred brand as they don’t make it in travel size.

  6. I love GoToobs so much I keep giving them to friends and family to try. I’ve had mine for two years of almost weekly travel and not had a single problem. I did hear they can negatively react to some liquids, but I haven’t had any trouble with lotion, sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner, and hair gel.

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