Packing toiletries for air travel (especially if you’re flying carry-on only) is always the hardest part of preparing for a trip.
But since I fly carry-on only about a dozen times per year, I’ve perfected my method of bringing all my bathroom supplies with room to spare and no spillage.
Here are my best travel hacks for packing toiletries whether you’re flying with carry-on or checked luggage (including tips about how to eliminate unnecessary liquids).
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14 Travel Hacks for Packing Toiletries
Use a Quart Sized Ziploc Bag for Liquids
If you’re flying carry-on only, you’re allowed one quart-sized bag for all your toiletries that are considered liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes.
There are dozens of toiletry bags that are marketed towards travelers as being TSA compliant, but beware.
In reality, I’ve seen so many travelers get caught in the security line having to remove items from their bag because it is too large.
All you need is a quart-sized ziploc bag!
These bags are exactly 0.97 quartz in volume, so they will always pass the TSA test.
Not only are they the cheapest option out there, they seal airtight and watertight (which can’t be said about the zippered liquids bag).
Use Liquid Pouches Instead of Bottles
Most people tend to use refillable squeeze bottles when traveling with liquid toiletries. Unfortunately, these take up unnecessary space.
This is because if you don’t fill up the entire bottle, the bottle still takes up the same amount of space.
And if you’re only traveling for a few days to a week, chances are you’re not going to need an entire 3.4 oz (or 100 mls) of product.
Instead, opt for liquid travel pouches.
They come in multiple sizes and are compact and lightweight.
Since they’re a ‘pouch’ and not a bottle shape, they only take up as much space as you fill them.
I have been able to bring so many more different liquids in my carry on this way.
Using these travel pouches are the easiest way to pack shower gel for travel.
Cut Up Bars of Soap
I always pack a bar of soap instead of body wash, and this eliminates a large amount of liquids space.
If you’re only going for a few days or a week, you can even cut a bar of soap into smaller pieces to save even more space.
Try Toiletry Sleeves for Spill-Proof Travel
These toiletry skins are the coolest new travel hack product.
They’re a plastic film with one closed end that you slip over the tops of your toiletry bottles, making them completely spill proof.
If you’ve ever tried to place a piece of plastic wrap under the cap of your bottle, this is a much better method.
While these skins should fit travel sized bottles, they were designed for full-sized bottles if you’re checking luggage.
Check out the toiletry sleeves here.
Use Water Activated Facial Wipes
Facial wipes have always been handy for travel, but using ones that are water activated have so many benefits.
First, you won’t have to pack a liquid face wash or makeup remover.
Second, these these ones won’t dry out since there’s no liquid in them to begin with.
And they also double as a wash cloth.
The Olay Daily Facials are my favorite because they’re gentle enough for sensitive skin.
Use a Hanging Toiletry Bag to Save Space
Using a hanging toiletry bag has been my favorite toiletry travel tip.
Many hotel bathrooms never have enough counter space, so I use this bag to hang up in the bathroom and then I can also see everything that’s in it.
The genius thing about this bag is that the big compartment has zippers on both ends, so if you need something from the bottom, you can access it without having to take everything out first.
Another reason why this bag is a travel game-changer – you can pack it flat if it’s unfolded in your luggage.
Use Lotion Bars and Lotion Sunscreen
Another favorite travel hack is to use a lotion bar or stick instead of a liquid.
Not only is it not considered a liquid, there’s also no need to worry about it spilling or exploding!
You can also find sunscreen that comes in a stick.
Please note that for many North American airports, a lotion stick is not considered a liquid.
If you’re in Europe, Asia or Australia, double check your airport’s rules to make sure this is allowed.
Use Shampoo Bars
As an added bonus, a shampoo bar is basically a zero waste travel toiletry since there’s virtually no packaging or plastic, especially if you go with a natural based bar.
Put Deodorant in Chapstick Tubes
To save space, in the microwave, melt down your solid deodorant and then pour it into an empty chapstick tube. You can either clean out an old one or order empty ones for cheap.
Deodorant sticks are quite large on their own, and you won’t go through a whole tube on your trip.
Plus, this method saves you money! It’s a great way to use up the last bits at the end of the stick that usually just gets thrown out.
Use Multi-Purpose Products
Instead of using multiple different products, find one that can be used 3 or 4 ways.
Squalene oil can be used as a face and body moisturizer, as hair oil or even as a leave-in conditioner.
As an added bonus, squalene oil has anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce puffiness after a long day of travel.
Or use a gentle shampoo that can also be used as a body wash, face wash and even shaving gel.
Vanicream Free & Clear Shampoo is one of the best multi-purpose products for this, and they even come in handy travel sizes.
Use Cornstarch Instead of Dry Shampoo
If you normally pack dry shampoo, this counts as an aerosol and needs to be packed in your liquids toiletry bag.
To save space, you can use cornstarch or baby powder as your dry shampoo!
If you have darker hair, you can also mix cornstarch with cocoa powder to avoid white-looking roots.
Contact Lens Cases for Makeup and Lotions
Don’t throw out your old contact lens cases – clean them and use them for makeup, lotions and creams.
This is a great way to pack your toiletries without having to buy extra jars or reusable containers.
They hold the perfect amount for a weekend trip and they seal rightly so no worries about any leaking.
Otherwise, you can use these inexpensive cream jars, perfect for moisturizer, foundation, lotion, even pills.
Use 1oz Dropper Bottles
If you use hair or facial oils, order yourself some empty 1 oz dropper bottles as the perfect space-saving toiletry accessory.
Use Toothpaste Tablets
Another way to eliminate a liquid is by using toothpaste tablets instead of your cream or gel toothpaste. These are especially useful if you’re going on a long trip.
How Do You Pack Toiletries for a Carry-On?
When you’re flying carry-on, pack all of your liquids, aerosols, creams and lotions in a clear, quart-size ziploc bag.
Since a quart isn’t that big, use my tips mentioned above to reduce the number of liquids you have.
Since you don’t have much room, I like bringing only the amount of liquids I’ll need – which is why I like the fillable liquids pouches.
All my non-liquid toiletries (bar soap, floss, toothbrush, hairbrush, bandaids, etc) go in my hanging toiletry bag, and I pack all my liquids in the ziploc bag separately.
When I’m the security line at the airport, I can easily grab the clear liquids bag to put in on the scanner.
After I’m through security, I usually leave my liquids in this ziploc bag, just in case anything does spill, it’s all contained and doesn’t mess up anything else in my carry-on.
Catch my full video where I demonstrate all these products and provide extra tips for packing toiletries: