Travel Toiletries ~ Packing for a Trip

Travel Size Liquids, Makeup etc. help you pack light

Travel size toiletries in clear plastic small zipped bag are allowed in carryons.

Travel toiletries means the small sizes of personal care items like makeup, skin care, dental and hair care products that you pack for a trip.

The most restrictive limits are for air travel, so these are the ones I will focus on.

But follow these tips even for a road trip: If you are self-driving, or with one other traveler, you can pack more toiletries, makeup etc and in the sizes you prefer.

And if you are traveling 4 to a car, then follow the overall space and weight restrictions so there's room for everyone's luggage.

Baggage Weight Limits : The overall goal for checked luggage is 22 kilograms (48 lbs.) This is a general rule-of-thumb, as individual carriers set their own limits. This is important especially for airline travel, but also for  bus and train travel. The more luggage weighs, the more fuel it takes to shift it, the more ticket costs rise. By using the smallest sizes available, and thinking before you toss something in your toiletry bag, you will keep the overall weight of your luggage low. See What to Pack to Pack Light.

Checked or Carryon bags -- What's a liquid and what's not and where to pack liquids -- carryon luggage or checked luggage -- and the size of container. Checked or Carryon, it's a good idea to put anything that could leak -- even nail polish or wet clothing -- in a sealed plastic bag. The issue with airline travel liquids is where they will be on the plane:

  • If in Checked Bag, liquid toiletries will be in the cargo hold and out of reach. What goes in checked bags is not limited just because it's liquid. Alcohol can go in Checked luggage.
    TIP: If your flight is delayed and you have to leave the airport and return the next day for your flight, any Duty Free alcohol and large perfumes etc purchased the day before  MUST go in checked bag.They are no longer Duty Free at that point -- they're yours.
  • If in Carryon Bag, liquids will be accessible to passengers. What is carried on the plane with you IS monitored with strict limits for sizes and what constitutes a 'liquid'.

See American and Canadian limits below. Generally similar rules for other countries.

Note:These guidelines (rules) may be subject to interpretation or implementation by individual airport security screening companies. On a recent trip from Toronto Ontario to Hong Kong, airport check in staff reminded me all carryon liquids had to adhere to the guidelines (above links). However, neither Toronto nor Hong Kong security screeners asked me to open my carryon bag or asked me to open it myself and show them my ziplock carryon bag. I can only assume that security screeners are now checking carryon liquids using the x-ray machine.


Shampoo, conditioner :  For full size bottles, put in checked bags; For Sample / travel sizes, pack in carryon, in clear plastic ziplock bag, maximum size per bottle is 100 ml / 3-4 ounces (oz). See more shampoo, conditioner tips at Travel size shampoo.

Hand sanitizer : Small bottle (some of these can be really small), so pack it in your carryon, in clear plastic ziplock bag, carryon, in clear plastic ziplock bag, maximum 100 ml / 3-4 ounces (oz), and you can rinse hands at mealtimes, etc. See sanitizers, towelettes on Amazon. You could also pick some up at your local pharmacy, etc.

Hair Mousse, Hair Gel : Airlines consider hair mousse and gels, etc to be liquids, so carryon liquid rules apply. Full size containers can go in your checked bags; Sample size small carryon, in clear plastic ziplock bag, maximum 100 ml / 3-4 ounces (oz). See travel size shampoo page for details. See also Shampoo, Hair style page.

Skin Care Products : Moisturizers, sunscreens, etc. These are creams, so carryon is not the issue as much as the weight and size of the container. See skin care travel products tips page for details on how to pack light.

Eye Care / Contact lens solutions: Contact lens wearers can pack the small bottles of lens cleaner and solutions in clear plastic ziplock bag, maximum 100 ml / 3-4 oz. and carry them on the plane wtih you. If you will be on a longer trip of 3 or 4 weeks or longer, then try to estimate how much lens cleaner, etc you are likely to need. I ran out of lens cleaner in Buenos Aires, with a week still to go on my trip. Of course, I could buy more at a  local pharmacy, but with limited Spanish language skills, I was unsure of the ingredients (thimerosal-free or not?) so it took some time to buy a new bottle.

Toothpaste, etc Consider packing the smallest size toothpaste tube: Even if you are on a 4 week trip, that should be enough. See packing toothcare dental items for a trip.

Makeup : Travel makeup is one of the trickiest things to pack for a trip. The goal is to take the bare minimum that will allow you to look your best.  Some makeup is considered liquid (foundation, etc) so falls under the carryon, in clear plastic ziplock bag, maximum 100 ml / 3-4 ounces (oz) rules.

Makeup remover, Skin Cleansers, cleansing cloths: I like to keep my skin clean, and this is especially so when on a trip. I find the lightest weight and compack products for removing any makeup, and keeping pores clean (important especially in humid hot climates) are the cleansing cloths offered by a number of manufacturers. I buy the refill package, and then remove the cloths. Pre-moistened cloths are great when your water source is iffy like in Haiti or Ethiopia. TIP: Before you pack your toiletry bag, cut cleansing cloths in half -- they last twice as long and still clean your face well. Tuck the cloths into a small plastic, resealable bag. As you travel and use them up, there will be more room in your bag.

Toiletries Bag : What size of toiletry bag should you take on a trip? I take two: one small one for my carryon items and one larger one that goes in my checked bag. See examples of toiletry bags on Amazon.com > toiletries bags. This is the one I have used for about 10 years now -Travelon Zip Top Toiletry Kit -- it holds a lot, and has good compartments. It fit into my backpack for years, but now I usually pack it in checked bag. There's a range of sizes: keep it as small as possible, and you know what size and style suit your specific needs.

Deodorant, antiperspirant : Travel sizes are usually the best. Liquid products follow the carryon rules above. See below for exampes, where to buy info.

Shaving cream, hair removal products How much and what size to pack depends on how long you will be traveling. If you are only going for a week or so, likely a disposable razor will be enough. (Men, pack accordingly. If you use an electric razor at home, perhaps leave it there and use a disposable for a week or so.) And as for shaving cream, you can get by with bar soap for a week or so.  Similarly, hair removal done before you travel should last for a week or longer.

Shower and Bath Gel Trial/ travel sizes are great here. If you can, collect sample size packets from your local drugstore, or from magazine ads, etc. You know those little samples that are used for advertising. When you find some, just pop them in your toiletry bag and you'll be all set.


Travel size toiletries

I don't have pictures of all the various types of toiletries, but you can see a good selection on Amazon.com: shampoo, shave cream, shave oils etc, deodorants, cleansers and other skin care, toothpaste etc. Most are fairly inexpensive.

Bonus! Buying travel size toiletries gives you the chance to try out different products. And the great thing is, most of these you will 'wash down the drain' and free up room in your luggage to bring back souvenirs. Remember, too, many resorts and hotels offer complimentary toiletries to tide you over if you run short.

But remember, you can always decant your own products (put some of your regular products) in small clear travel size containers; you don't have to buy special sizes.