Monday, September 14, 2015

Traveling Light Part 2 (toiletries)


Whether you are checking baggage or doing carry on luggage only, you’ll want to take the least amount of toiletries possible.  If you run out, chances are, you can buy what you need at your destination.  America isn't the only country that sells toothpaste. :)
There are many people who choose to buy all of their toiletries at their destination. This is certainly something you may want to consider. Especially if you plan to be there for an extended length of time. The main benefit of doing it this way is that you can check less and don't have to worry about restrictions on liquids. Personally, I prefer to pack all of my toiletries. In our recent,  three week trip, we carried all of our toiletries on board with us and didn't check any baggage so the tips you'll find below, reflect this strategy.  My reasons for taking all of my toiletries are these: I know what works for my hair and skin, and don't want to spend my vacation buying toiletries in a place where I may not be able to interpret the label.  I'd much rather put thought into it before, and use my vacation time for climbing mountains or bathing in the sea, rather than looking for shaving cream at a drugstore.

1. Remember the 3-1-1 rule when carrying liquids or pastes in hand luggage.  (Paste includes things like peanut butter.) All liquids must be in containers that are 3 oz or less, in 1 zip top bag, 1 bag per person. There are exceptions for prescription medications, and baby formula. And remember that you need to remove this bag and place it in a plastic bin at security, so don't pack it at the bottom of your bag. You  can check the TSA website for any questions you have on this rule.
2. Each person may carry one safety razor. I was shocked by this because I was under the impression that no razors could be carried on board. So if you're attached to your Venus razor like I am, or Schick, Gillette, etc….don't let this deter you from traveling carry-on only.  Initially, when planning our trip, I was stumped on this one. I didn't want to buy a razor on vacation because one,  I already have a razor…two, razors are expensive and three, there is no razor like a Venus razor. ;) I was happy to discover that I could carry it with me. Straight razors are banned.
3. Choose solids or powder over liquids.  You can find almost every kind of toiletry in solid form.  Here are a few ideas to get you started; Sunscreen can be bought in solid form, antibacterial wipes versus liquid, Shea butter stick instead of liquid lotion, bar soap,  shampoo bar,  powdered foundation, stick concealer, powder eyeliner or a pencil, versus liquid liner, solid deodorant instead of liquid roll on, powdered laundry detergent, versus liquid, soften sheets for laundry instead of liquid. You can even find Pepto bismol in tablet form! This list goes on, but you get the idea.
4. Ziploc's, Ziplocs, Ziplocs! I'll keep repeating this because these are a life  saver and have a million uses. The zip top bags you pack your toiletries in to travel, may be worn out before the return trip so take extra in case you have to bring some toiletries back with you. Which brings me to my next point.
5. Figure out how much shampoo, conditioner, etc that your family uses and take only that. If you start guessing, you may end up with half of what you need or bring back ¾ of your toiletries. Here's how I did it: Buy refillable 3 oz bottles or trial size versions of what you plan to take. Write the date on the bottom with a Sharpie and have your family use from these bottles in the following days. When the product is gone, check the date and you'll you know how many oz your family uses in x amount of days. I found this extremely helpful.  This technique helped me figure out how many ounces of contact solution, shaving cream, shampoo, conditioner, etc that my family uses in a week. I had one ounce of shampoo left and two ounces of conditioner left when we returned. It works, and it's worth it. Just do it. :)  Take notes for future trips, so you don't have to repeat these steps.
6. Don't assume that trial size is best.  Unless you're only going on a weekend trip, as a single person or couple, you might  want to check into refillable, three ounce bottles or check for products in the main health and beauty section of the store. Here's an example of what I'm talking about;  I knew we planned to not check any baggage. So when I started estimating how many trial sized tooth paste tubes we'd have to take, I was a little shocked. Trial sized toothpaste tubes have about half an ounce of paste. Three weeks, five people…not gonna happen. So I searched the toothpaste isle for toothpaste, with a product volume as a close as I could get, to three ounces. I discovered that Crest made a toothpaste in a 2.7 ounce tube. Two tubes of this takes up a LOT less room than 6-8 trial sized tubes. Check around. You'll be surprised at how many products you can find in the regular isles of the store that fit the 3-1-1 rule.  Another plus to skipping “travel sized” toiletries is that you will pay less per ounce.
7. Consider leaving some of your luxury items at home. Skipping face cream for three weeks, and leaving hair spray or liquid foundation at home, isn't the end of the world. I chose to take a few make up items along and leave some behind, but I don't own a lot of make up anyway so this was no real hard ship. Take what you need to feel confident, but remember that you going to have fun and relax, not to win a beauty pageant or impress other tourists. :)
8. Remove excess packaging. This may seem obvious, but I'll mention it anyway, because it's important.  Remove any cardboard or plastic that isn't needed. We tend to generate enough trash on the plane or in the car.  Anything you can eliminate, will make your luggage lighter, more compact and you'll have less trash to deal with. Instead of taking a plastic travel sized box of q-tips, remove them and put them in a snack sized Ziploc. You'll be surprised at how much space you gain by doing this!
9. How you choose to transport your toiletries is up to you. (Outside of the 3-1-1 rule) I highly recommend choosing a toiletry bag that you can hang from a hook or bar, and one that has multiple compartments. This make it easier to store and access your toiletries.

10. Use what you've tried and products that you know will work for you. Vacation is not a good time to try out a new moisturizer or shampoo.  You may find that you hate the smell, it doesn't clean your hair or skin well, or you have a bad a reaction to the product.

I am including some pictures of how we stored and used travel toiletries, as a means of illustration. I would love to hear any additional travel tips you have to add!

The picture above is a picture of my toiletry bag, the one below is John's. Each person in our family had a Ziploc bag of liquid/paste toiletries in their hand luggage.  Here are the four we took, in addition to a bag of pouches/single serve peanut butter. (essential for a peanut butter addict!) All of our toiletries were stored in these two toiletry bags, with the exception of the extra saline, shampoo, etc. We kept only one shampoo, one conditioner, one saline in our toiletry bags, at a time. In addition to these, I had a stick of shea butter, lip balm and face wipes in my carry-on.


  1. Great post Rachal! Your thorough planning and amazing organization skills helped our trip go so much more smoothly.