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Packing Light: Tips for Your Toiletry Bag

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After posting about how I packed a week’s worth of clothes in a backpack, I promised you a post on how to pare down your toiletries. I have been working on bringing fewer or smaller things on my trips when I travel, which might be difficult for those who want to take their whole routine on vacation with them. Even when I do more than usual, I still don’t use too many products.

After posting about how I packed a week's worth of clothes in a backpack, I promised you a post on how to pare down your toiletries.
I find that doing things more simply when I’m away from home both gives my skin a break when I’m also getting more exercise, so I am not dealing with extra breakouts, and I don’t have to keep track of so many things that I’m scrambling to fit it all back in a bag when I have to pack up to go home. That bag won’t be so big that I need a larger carry-on or suitcase to fit everything I need, so fewer, smaller things helps me pack lighter overall, which in turn saves me time and money.

I rounded up all the things I normally use at home. These are all full sizes and I chose the three eyeshadow palettes I use most often, sometimes I mix and match. Even one of those palettes would take a lot of space in my toiletry bag, so I tend to go with smaller ones when I travel, though they don’t usually have as fun colors and I’m more than likely will use neutral colors most of the time I’m away. 

I’ve also included what I use for my hair and my eyecare. I didn’t include my shampoo and conditioner, but I replace those with solid bars when I travel. I’ve got some favorites from Lush, and I will chop them in half or thirds, so they take up less room, but I will also keep them in a metal tin, and that doesn’t have to fit in my toiletry bag, because it’s spill- and waterproof. 

Deodorant is easy to downsize. Every brand has a smaller, travel option usually. I bounce between several brands, so I’m not super picky when I buy a new small one for my travel bag. If you are, then check out alltravelsizes or Minimus for your favorites if you can’t find them at the store.

Contact solution goes a long way. I’ve been on the very last squeeze for three days, so I know the smaller one is going to last me a week or more, even with two of us sharing. I’m not opposed to buying this when I get to my destination, but I’m cheap and it’s harder to find solution some places, like Europe. When we accidentally left a bag of bathroom stuff behind going to Paris from London, we had to go to an optometrist in Paris to buy contact solution. And if you’re beholden to the 3-1-1 bag rule, you definitely can’t bring a full size bottle on the plane.

I’ll compromise on a lot of things, but I refuse to use bar soap…anywhere. I hate it. So, I find a fun body wash and use that on trips until it’s empty and then I find a new one, or I put a favorite one in a GoToob, and then I can refill it over and over, and it doesn’t leak. I have upgraded my travel bag to include a small pump soap dispenser that I fill with foaming hand soap and it has changed my whole travel experience. It’s a small thing, but doesn’t make me hate washing my hands in my room anymore.

Before I got TSA PreCheck, I was tired of having half a tube of mini toothpaste with me when I got home and not wanting to take two with me on the next trip, so I wasn’t wasting that half tube, so I started using toothpaste tabs. I’ve tried multiple brands, but I really like Bite, because they work much better than others, taste better, and come in glass bottles that can be recycled or reused. I bite one in half, so I get two brushes out of one, because they are so efficient and foam up really well.

I have brought along a folding toothbrush for a long time, but I highly recommend these by Dr. Plotka’s. They use silver to eliminate bacteria, viruses, and fungi, so you don’t have to worry about replacing it after you used it for 2 weeks and then didn’t travel again for 3 months and left it in your bag…or what might be on the hotel bathroom counter. It closes, too, so it’s easy to not have your wet brush head touching other things in your bag.

My hair is really thick and frizzes in the slightest humidity, so I use a hair honey on it that is made for Black hair. It smells nice and it doesn’t take much to get my hair to cooperate and look like I’m a person. This big jar lasts forever, so I always have about half a tablespoon in one of these small GoTubbs

I also find that a good setting spray for my makeup gets it to last all day long, with minimal touch-ups. You want to look good in pics. This is another product I keep trying new ones for at home, but the Urban Decay is tried and true, so that’s the one that goes on trips with me. I don’t want to find that all my makeup melted off halfway through a 12-hour bout of sightseeing where I’m taking public transport.

My skin is sensitive, but I’m also over 40, so I need some extra skincare when traveling. I use a tinted moisturizer with priming in it, but also a separate hydrating primer on certain areas, like under my eyes. My skin is combination, but the dry areas are super dry, and I find that hyaluronic acid is helpful under all my makeup. I don’t need a lot of any of these things, but I still need them. I decant moisturizer into another small GoTubb and the other ones that I need even less of into a contact lens case. These are perfect for small amounts of liquids, because you know they aren’t going to accidentally leak and they take up hardly any room.

I am much more particular about my foundation and when I find a good one, I stick with it forever. Luckily, this one comes in a travel size, but if it didn’t, I’d probably use a GoTubb for that, too. I really like Ulta for travel sizes for my toiletry bag, because they have a lot of things in smaller sizes and often have sales. I’m less particular about my mascara, but I usually try to choose one for travel that lasts all day and is waterproof. You never know when you’re going to get caught in a downpour. Waterproof ones are better for staying on all day long.

I have a ton of different blushes and eyeshadows, but I’m not taking all of them with me on a one-week trip, where I probably won’t use 98% of them. I’ve upgraded to this face palette, which has a bronzer, highlighter, and two cheek colors, but I will mix and match to use them as eyeshadow, highlighter, and blush. This is the only way you can usually get a good brown and complimentary pinks, and those are the colors I like to blend on my eyes. Between a primer and a setting spray, these work pretty good wherever you want to use them. I always bring a kabuki style brush for blush, and I have two generic brushes for eyeshadow that barely take up any room. I shove them in the bottom of my toiletry bag with one or two eyeliners.

More often than not, I have a bag full of lip colors that I choose from each morning, but they don’t last all day. I hate thinking about reapplying when I’m busy doing things, so now I just bring my favorite color of Covergirl Outlast All-Day Lip Color. It actually does last all day long and I only need to have whatever lip balm I’m into with me, because sometimes my lips get dry, but that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with this lip color.

So, I went from all that stuff up on top to just these pieces now. A few are the same things, like the charcoal scrub, my compact (though sometimes I just take the one that’s normally in my purse), and eye drops. 

In addition to these things, I bring along a travel hair straightener and I feel organized and like I can keep track of everything. Another plus: if I accidentally leave any of these things behind and they don’t make it home with me, I haven’t left a $20-40 item, because I never brought a full-size container in the first place. At most, I’m out a small portion of product, and that can easily be replaced.

I hope this helps you pack a little more thoughtfully and smaller when you travel, so you don’t have to check a bag just to accommodate your toiletry bag.

What’s your biggest struggle when trying to pare down on your toiletries?

Disclaimer: Support Shereen Travels Cheap by using the links in my posts to shop. I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) so I can continue to create helpful free content. I earn from qualifying purchases made to the featured retailers. Thank you. I appreciate your support!

Want to read more tips for traveling worldwide on a budget? Check out my blog at Shereen Travels Cheap or find me on Facebook or Twitter. You’ll also find product and website suggestions, packing tips, current deals and a whole lot more to help you travel better for less!


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