Packing toiletries is like an art form. You want to pack the essentials, but you don’t want to overpack and weigh down your suitcase. Follow our ultimate guide to creating the perfect travel toiletries list and master the art of packing!
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Toiletries are a serious struggle for many travelers. How do you take everything you need especially if you’re traveling carry on only?
Store-bought travel size toiletries are convenient but they’re not always the best option.
This article will help you plan what toiletries you should bring on your trip by giving you a step-by-step walk through of a suggested planning process.
It will also provide you with travel size toiletries examples, a printable checklist, answers to the most common questions, and will also show you how to downsize your favorite beauty products.
What is a toiletry item?
When I started traveling, someone took me by surprise when they asked me, “What are toiletries?” Before we get started, I want to quickly clarify what they are.
The toiletries definition from Cambridge Dictionary is: “articles used in washing and taking care of one’s body, such as soap, shampoo, and toothpaste”.
To be as helpful and efficient as possible, we’re including a variety of items in our toiletries list including grooming items, beauty products, and other essentials.
The secret to traveling light is to create a functional but minimalist capsule wardrobe. Learn more in my guide!
What toiletries can I take on a plane?
One of the most important things to know before you start planning for your trip is what you are allowed to bring in your suitcase. The toiletries you can take on a plane depend on whether or not you are checking your luggage.
Image Source: US Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
For cabin or carryon toiletries: airlines require that liquid products be no more than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) and all bottles must fit in a clear quart size ziplock bag when traveling with a carry on. Products that need to be inside the quart size ziplock bag are: liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes. This is called the 3-1-1 Liquids Rule.
For checked toiletries: items that are in containers larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters (regardless of amount) should be in checked baggage. Visit this TSA page to find out exactly what items are allowed in a checked bag. It’s actually an interesting read!
These guidelines are for US-based airlines. However, these tend to be the general guidelines across all airlines. For specific items, always check the website of the airline or contact them and ask them directly.
What’s the best toiletry bag?
Tip: make sure that you keep the quart size ziplock bag (storing your carryon toiletries) accessible when you get to the airport. Once you get through security, place them back into your toiletry bag.
How do you keep your liquids from leaking?
Here’s a tip I shared on Oprah to help you prevent liquids from leaking in luggage: remove the cap from the bottle, place a small square of plastic wrap over the opening, and replace the cap.
The reason your bottles leak or explode on a flight is due to changes in air pressure. As the plane goes up, the pressure causes the bottle to compress (as if you were squeezing it with your hand). The plastic wrap acts as a seal to prevent leaks.
This is the reason why store bought travel size toiletries are never completely full. You need to allow a little bit of extra space so the liquids don’t get pushed out by the changes in pressure. (This is also the reason why your ears get plugged while flying.)
The solution: don’t fill your bottles all the way to the top. Instead, only fill them by 2/3 or 75%.
How to Pack Toiletries for Travel
Follow the below step-by-step guide on how to pack toiletries to determine what you will and will not need to bring along with how to downsize items.
Step 1: Planning and Preparation
Start by laying out all the grooming and beauty products you use on a day to day basis. Which of these can you take on your trip and which will you need to leave behind? Choose anything and everything you think you may need.
Then, place each item into one of these categories:
- Not required
- Not applicable
There are certain things you might find non-negotiable such as your favorite brand shampoo or premium face moisturizer. You can save alot of space and weight in your luggage by minimizing toiletries and eliminating certain items altogether.
Would you be willing to use the shampoo and body moisturizer provided by your hotel for a few days? A few weeks? If not, don’t worry. There are tips in the next steps in the article that will provide a solution to this problem. (Hint: reusable travel containers!)
If you’re unsure whether your accommodation provides complimentary travel size toiletries, check their website or better yet, send them an email. Want a faster response? Call them.
To help you determine the products you may or may not need, you’ll find a list of toiletries examples below:
Sample Travel Size Toiletries List:
(click any item for product suggestions)
- Body Wash/Soap/Oil
- Face Wash/Scrub
- Feminine Wash
- Shaving Cream
- Eye Cream
- Face Moisturizer
- Body Moisturizer
- Body Powder
- Leave in Conditioner
- Dry Shampoo
- Anti-heat Spray
- Styling Gel/Mousse
- Hair Spray
- Hair Smoothing Cream
- Hand Moisturizer
- Hand Sanitizer
- Nail Polish
- Nail Polish Remover
- Hair Removal Cream
- Makeup Remover
- Styling Brush/Styling Comb
- Flat Iron/Straightener
- Blow Dryer
- Curling Iron
Are there any additional beauty products you use such as other shower essentials? If so, add them to your initial list.
Printable Toiletries Checklist
To ensure that you don’t forget to bring anything on your trip, we’ve created a helpful and very thorough printable toiletries checklist. You can click here or click the image below in order to open the editable file.
The list features unique categories to help you pack for your trip efficiently. It includes all the items listed in various categories above and has spaces where you can fill in your own information:
- you can write in an item’s weight (lighter items means less overall baggage weight)
- you can note if you need to purchase something or if you already own it
- and most importantly, you can organize where you’ll pack each item including suggested packing organizers like these
Read this post for a printable packing list that includes clothes, shoes, and more!
Step 2: Eliminate
Now that you’ve gone through the entire list of every possible beauty product you own, create two piles: one for items you don’t need to take and one for items you absolutely do.
- Do you need five hair styling products or can you choose just one? Use something like this 2-in-1 curling/flat iron duo
- Instead of razors and hair removal creams, how about a wax before your trip? I like no-heat strips like these
- Can you leave behind your nail polish and get a gel manicure instead? Read this post on making your vacation nails last
- Do you need several items to comb or brush your hair or can you use just one like this foldable wet brush with a mirror?
Is it possible to temporarily hold off on using any products? If so, do it!
TRAVEL BEAUTY TIP: Find out if your accommodation offers products such as shampoo, shower gel, hair dryer, etc. Some hotels even have additional complimentary items at reception such as razors, toothpaste, and other small essentials. Just ask!
One of the best ways to minimize toiletries is to choose multi-use products or items. Determine if there are any products you already own that that can work double-duty. Choose between two products that serve the same purpose.
Other items to consider:
- Is it possible to pack 4-in-1 facial cloths like these instead of taking face wash, scrub, and makeup wipes?
- Can you use a 2-in-1 shampoo plus conditioner like these?
- Would you consider a tinted moisturizer or BB cream? This one’s my fave.
- Can you use your straightener as a curling iron? Better yet, choose a 2-in-1 curling/flat iron duo like this
- Have you ever seen double ended makeup brushes? Save space with these
There are various multi-use products on the market, or you can use a few long-term travel hacks like I do, such as:
- Baby powder as dry shampoo
- Shampoo as shower gel (only for short periods of time)
- Conditioner as shaving cream
- Face scrub as body scrub
- Body moisturizer to smooth hair flyaways
You’d be surprised at how many products can be used for multiple needs. Things like coconut oil or other natural oils can be used as a body moisturizer, shave gel, and split end treatment! Tip: the best coconut oil is cold-pressed, unrefined, and good enough to eat.
Read these tips on how to minimize toiletry products for even more tips!
Step 3: Downsize
Have you ever paid attention to how much shampoo you use? I only wash my hair every other day, so a 3 oz. travel size can last me a week!
How long is your trip? Make note of how much product you use for the duration of that time. Now that you know what items you absolutely have to pack, it’s time to determine how much of them you actually need.
Essentials such as shampoo, toothpaste, and moisturizers are particularly important. Don’t forget to test out bath, skincare, and makeup products. Make note so you can refer back when you’re ready to make the final plan.
Editor’s Favorite Reusable Makeup Remover: Kiki & Josie
Once you have a better idea of what you actually need then consider other ways to downsize such as:
- Instead of taking nail polish remover, can you take a few individual wipes like these instead?
- Do you need an entire bottle of foundation or can you use a small container like this to take only what you will use?
- Mini-nail polish bottles like these are a good choice, if you can’t stand chipped nails.
- Read these travel makeup hacks for more ideas!
Skincare tends to be more personalized, but try not to bring more than three skincare items: a cleanser, treatment (for acne or wrinkles), and moisturizer. If you use a skincare system different to this one, try to cut it down to three products.
To downsize your makeup routine, read The Beauty Junkie’s Guide to Packing a Minimalist Makeup Kit and How to Create a Capsule Makeup Collection!
Step 4: Travel Containers
Choose appropriate travel containers. Many times, 3 oz bottles are too big for a one or two-week trip, so buy various sizes and take only the amount you will use.
Tip: replace glass containers with plastic to minimize weight and avoid breakage.
Read this post on the best travel containers for more info!
Do a test run to see if everything fits in your toiletry bag. If your belongings don’t fit, consider using multi-use products such as a shampoo/conditioner combo, using conditioner as shaving cream, or baby shampoo for your hair and body.
Watch this video for more tips on how to fit all your toiletries into a carryon:
TRAVEL BEAUTY TIP: For long-term trips, don’t pack full-size toiletries. Purchase travel-size products as you go. Some local drug store brands are common around the world. Here are more toiletry tips for long trips!
And for every single trick in my packing book, read my full course “Stop Overpacking“. I created the STOP OVERPACKING program to teach you my exact packing process. Every secret, every detail, nothing is spared.
Learn more about Stop Overpacking here!
What items are a must have on your toiletries list? Share in the comments below!
For more tips on travel toiletries, please read:
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