If you’ve ever experienced the horror of opening up a suitcase to discover that your shampoo has leaked all over your clothing (or worse, your laptop), then you know how important it is to carefully pack your toiletries. Regardless of whether you’re trying to pack for a whole trip in a carry-on or you’ll be road-tripping with just your go-to backpack, the following strategies will help ensure that toiletry hassles don’t wreck your trip.
Don’t rely on the same toiletry bag each time you travel. Instead, pack for each specific trip by deciding which toiletry items are absolutely essential and then leaving the rest at home. Lay out every item that you plan to bring, and go through them one by one, considering whether you really need each item or whether you’re packing it “just in case.” If it’s not a consistent part of your daily routine, it should be left at home.
In addition, it can be helpful to adopt the following minimalist strategies:
- Look for two-in-one products (such as a dual shampoo/conditioner) that can reduce the number of toiletries you need to bring and thereby lighten your bag.
- If you use makeup, try to pack one look that will work for multiple occasions instead of bringing along makeup options for night and day, etc.
- Remember that most hotels offer shampoo, conditioner, soap, and other toiletries. (And at many destinations, it’s easy to buy these items at a local drugstore. Consult the Nearby Places feature in the TripIt app to locate one, if needed.) This means that if you’re willing to stray from your usual brand, you can avoid packing these toiletries entirely.
Replace liquids with solids
Seeking out solid alternatives to your liquid products will minimize the risk of leaks and spills and may even reduce the weight of your suitcase. Look for items such as dry shampoo, bar soap, makeup remover sheets, laundry soap sheets, and toothpaste tablets, and pack only as much as you’ll need for your trip.
Repackage toiletries in smaller containers
Instead of packing full-size bottles of shampoo, moisturizer, and so on, purchase small, reusable bottles (or refill travel-size containers) that will allow you to cut down on space and weight and satisfy airport security restrictions. Feel free to get creative. For example, empty Tic-Tac containers can be used to store bobby pins, and old contact lens cases can be used for packing liquid foundation.
Prevent leaks and spills with careful packing
Even after you’ve subbed in as many solid body products as possible, you’re likely to have a few liquid items remaining. To help minimize the risk of spills, be sure not to fill your travel-size bottles all the way to the top. Instead, fill them part way, press out any air, and cover the bottles’ mouths with plastic wrap before sealing them. If you’re using solid makeup (such as blush, eye shadow, or powder foundation), pop a cotton ball or pad into the container before resealing it—this should help prevent shattered powder from getting all over the inside of your suitcase.
For extra security, pack all toiletry items in plastic bags. (Use quart-size bags if they’ll be in your carry-on.) If you happen to be using breakable glass bottles, consider wrapping them in a shirt or towel to minimize the risk of breakage.
Abide by security restrictions
Toiletries are some of the most common contraband confiscated by the TSA, so you can do your part to reduce security line wait times by packing toiletries appropriately. Abide by the rules for carry-on liquids: Any gel, cream, or liquid item that you intend to take through security must be 3.4 ounces or less (unless it’s hand sanitizer) and stored in one quart-sized, clear plastic bag. Be sure to pack this bag near the top of your suitcase so you can easily retrieve it when it comes time to pass through security. Containing all of your toiletry items (both liquid and solid) in the same luggage compartment or dedicated toiletry bag will have the added bonus of making it easier to unpack, repack, and locate items during your trip.
Adopting these simple strategies is all it takes to go from dreading the process of packing toiletries to packing for any trip like a well-oiled machine. Plus, you’ll never again have to hunt down a laundromat the moment you arrive at your destination.