How to Choose The Best Travel Toiletries and How to Pack Them
Toiletries are the most difficult items to pack for travel as many of them are liquid and you need to follow some rules depending on where you go. If you are an eco-conscious traveler, the challenge is not only packing light, but also making sure the toiletries are non-toxic and safe for the environment and the package is not wasted.
The first step is to find what you need during your trip. We have so many products in our bathroom, but we cannot or should not bring them all. What you pack in a bag depends on your usual daily routine, your priority, where and how long you will be traveling.
Here is an example of travel essentials list (yes, it is a long list):
- Leave in Conditioner
- Hair Smoothing Cream
- Styling Gel/Mousse
- Body Wash/Soap/Oil
- Face Wash/Scrub
- Feminine Wash
- Face Moisturizer
- Body Moisturizer
- Body Powder
- Shaving Cream
- Eye Cream
- Dry Shampoo
- Anti-heat Spray
- Hair Spray
- 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
Need a full Holiday Packing List? Download for free HERE
How to minimize items to pack?
Step 1: Start writing down the daily routine you go through and find out what and how often you use each item. Then, put each of them into one of these categories:
- Not needed
Step 2: Start with essentials. Some items like body wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, moisturizer, and sunscreen are not negotiable in most cases. However, there are many items you may not need depending on your schedule. For example…
Weekend trip: If your trip is only a couple of days, you could skip washing and styling hair, shaving, and maintaining nails.
Short trip: If your trip is less than a week, you may still need a few items such as shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream and razor, hairbrush, nail cutter, and makeup remover. However, the quantity you need to bring depends on how you use them.
Long vacation: You may need to bring all items! But what you can do is to swap with multi-tasking products to reduce the total number of items.
Tip: Always find out if your accommodation offers guest amenities such as hair dryer. If you are happy with what provided by the accommodation, you don’t need to pack your own. But, while many people are fine to use hotel soaps for example, it is safer to bring your own if you have any preference or requirements.
Step 3: Check how much you can pack
Air Travel: If you want to travel with only carry-on and personal item, any liquid needs to be in a 100ml or smaller sized container. And all bottles must fit in a clear quart size bag. There are other restrictions on powder, battery operated devices, and some chemicals. Please check TAS page for the latest information as the rule may change time to time.
Ground transport: When you are traveling by a train, coach, or other ground transports, there will be less limitations. Please check with the transport provider. However, you will still want to minimize the weight and volume. Also, make sure to check the restrictions if you are crossing a border between countries or states.
Road trip & camping: You decide what to carry in your own vehicle or bag. However, be aware that you are using toiletries in a place where there may be no water filtration system or waste collection service. Think about how to dispose of the package as well so that you don’t leave a trace.
Step 4: Minimize
Here are ways to reduce the number of items and the total weight.
- Just before you leave, get your hair and nail done. If you had any other maintenance you do occasionally, this is the time to get them done. You can skip this maintenance during a trip.
- Cleaning face: Take a couple of reusable makeup remover pads that erase makeups with only water. This will replace makeup wipes, face wash, and scrub.
- Sun protection: Take a small BB cream comes with sun protection. This will replace sunscreen, foundation, and face moisturizer.
- Hair styling: Multi-functional styler such as a mini size flat/curling iron comes with a brush head. This will replace a hairbrush and other hair stylers.
- Body care: Take single-use tablets body wash comes with exfoliator and moisturizer. This will replace shower gel, face wash, body/face scrub, loofah, and body moisturizer.
- Haircare: Take single-use Shampoo & Conditioner tablets that are good quality and 100% biodegradable. This will replace shampoo, conditioner, and extra haircare products. The conditioner can replace shaving cream as well. High performance shampoo and conditioner can maintain your hair longer and you need washing hair only once in 2-3 days instead of every day.
How to Pack Toiletries?
Here are some recommendations to make packing/unpacking items as easy as possible.
For air travel
As we touched earlier, you must use containers or bottles smaller than 100ml size to pack any liquid including cream, gel, aerosols, and paste. You can also carry less than 350ml of powder. They need to be placed in a 20 x 20cm clear bag. If you need to bring larger size, the bottles need to be in a gate checked luggage.
If you are filling your own travel size bottle, make sure the bottles are reliable so that you don’t end up with a mess in your bag. There are many types of containers. Choose the one that is smaller and lighter but durable enough to protect the product. For example, glass bottle sounds more eco-friendly, but it is not an ideal for traveling.
Whether you are traveling by air or a camping van, keep all the liquid in a waterproof bag for just in case. Keep powder products in a sealed bag as well to avoid the powder gets on clean clothes.
Mini-size toiletries you can purchase in chemists are convenient. But make sure that they are environmentally safe, package is recyclable, or you have a plan to reuse the plastic bottles.
Solid soap, shampoo, and conditioner bars
Surprisingly, solid bars are not so easy to maintain during a trip. Dry bars are easy to pack, but when they are wet and you don’t have a time to dry them, you will need a solution.
Most common way is to place a bar directly in a plastic zip lock bag or a tin box. The problem with this is that a wet bar can get soft and mashie after some hours in a bag. Wrapping a bar with an exfoliation cloth could prevent this.
There are some special soap containers and bags for traveling you could invest.
Shower Balls (Zero Waste Travel Essentials) body wash, shampoo, and conditioner can get rid of those hassles.
Place them in a separate bag with some cushion so that they don’t get damaged. If you are going to another country, it is handy to have a multi-plug adapter. If the device is battery operated, think about bringing spare batteries.
The goal is to have enough toiletries to make your life easy while traveling without overpacking with unnecessary items. You should keep a good hygiene wherever you go, but extra maintenance could only reduce precious time to enjoy your trip. Minimizing your luggage can also help reduce carbon footprint every kilometer you travel.