Breaking the Code to Travel Toiletries

(You may be wondering about the title of the post. I just finished re-watching the BBC series Sherlock, and it was even better the second time. Everyone should go watch it!! Okay, on to the post….)Emme bag amazon

Travel toiletries can be one of the most stressful parts of packing for a business trip.  The idea of compressing my skin care/ hair care/shower regimen into a couple of tiny bags just seems ridiculous.  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. Should you make do without your favorite toiletries and just hope for the best?  No way.  It is totally possible to bring all of your required products and fall within securities carry-on guidelines.  Here’s how you do it.

Use refillable bottles. Most people who are traveling a week or less have no need of full size toiletries. In fact, I can usually go a month or more, with 3-4 trips, without refilling my bottles. You can get refillable bottles anywhere, including The Container StoreAmazon, or my personal favorite, the Aveda Fillables at Nordstrom.

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 a giant toiletry bag. All they do is steal your valuable suitcase space. There are a couple of ways to tackle this: either travel with 2-3 bags: your 1-quart, clear liquids bag; a small toiletry case for non-liquids; and your small makeup bag, if needed; or if you really like hanging bags try something like this awesome bag from EMME.

For sensitive skin, bring your own stuff. I know firsthand how tempting the toiletry aisle at Target can be. The tiny bottles are so cute! But as much fun as those little bottles are, it is not worth it to me to experiment with something new 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.

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.  Have a specific bag for those things.  Getting non-required items out of there frees up lots of room for your shampoo, conditioner, lotions, etc.

Clean out your liquids bag.  It may sound obvious, but clean out your liquids bag routinely.  The last time I cleaned mine out I realized I was traveling with THREE bottles of lotion. Whoops!

Use contact lens cases. My very favorite toiletry traveling tip: for tiny amounts of liquids, use contact lens cases. I travel with several: one for the shower (face wash) and a few for the counter (eye cream, tinted moisturizer, primer, and hair smoothing gel). Saves so much room! Another space saving idea: dip a q-tip into makeup remover and keep it in a Ziploc bag.

Keep wipes out.  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!

Find multi-taskers. If you can bring one product that serves two purposes, that is great. Use lotion as shaving cream. Get a makeup stick that will color cheeks and lips. A tinted moisturizer will serve as moisturizer and foundation.

If you don’t need it, don’t bring it. It can be hard to know which products to leave behind. But if you only use hairspray once a month, chances are you don’t need it on a business trip. Same with makeup–you really only need your everyday stuff for most trips.

Even if you have TSA Pre-check and don’t need to remove your liquids bag, it is still helpful to reduce your toiletries to the smallest size possible. That way you have more room for everything else you need! Or better yet, you can condense down to a smaller suitcase.

Readers, what are your favorite toiletry travel tips?

Be sure to check out my page with the best travel toiletries according to readers.


Have a travel question or suggestion? Send it to RW

Follow Road Warriorette on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest!

This post may include affiliate links. Thanks for your support!


  1. I use a lot of dry/solid products such as shampoo bars, dry face wash cloths (just add water), deodorant crystal. These all go in my toiletry kit instead of the liquids bag.
    Use an oral syringe to decant thick creams into smaller bottles. I find that this works best with heavy moisturizers.
    I keep a liquids bag pre-packed with my products. That eliminates a lot of worries. My liquids bag has a small carabiner-clip on it. I slip the clip over the hanger on my toilet kit so that the two bags hang together in the bathroom.

  2. You don’t mention in this post (you do have the picture) – but have blogged about it before … The Emme Bag. This bag has revolutionized my travel for work. It’s always ready to go, and the containers that come with the bag hold the perfect amount. don’t know how I packed without it!!

  3. Contact solution does indeed need to go into the liquids bag. If it is over 3.4 ounces you can make a case that it is medically necessary but then you must declare it.

    Deodorant must also go into the liquids bag if it is roll-on, spray or gel. Only solid stick deodorant does not need to go into the quart bag.

    For confirmation of these see:
    Sample search terms: contact solution, large contact solution, deodorant

  4. I travel very light and use a carry-on even for a two-week trip!
    I agree, leave the things you are not sure about at home – there’s most likely a store wherever you are going, even of the beaten path…
    I also split like you into multiple bags for liquids and non-liquids… no make-up for me 🙂
    If you are buying in the Target aisle, you might consider just leaving it at home and using the shampoo, soap or lotion provided at the hotel. It’s often pretty good quality, if you are not picky about the brands.
    And get the smallest possible bottles that hold the volume you need for the trip – it’s amazing how little you need for a two-week trip, you can refill before the next trip…
    I’ve pictures of my toiletries bags here:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.