When you travel with a carry-on bag only, you have to pack carefully. There is a strict set of rules you must follow in terms of the size and contents of your luggage. All of your liquid toiletries must fit in a one-quart-sized bag. Travel-size liquids must be 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or smaller. You probably won’t have space for a whole skin care regimen, hair products, makeup, beauty products, etc in your carry on. This guide explains how to pack toiletries in a carry on bag.
In this guide, we’ll cover toiletry bag size, liquid size, TSA carry-on liquids rules, preventing spills, and more. We’ll also share some tips to help you pare down to meet the TSA requirements. We’ll also talk about how to pack toiletries in checked luggage for those who can’t meet the carry-on rules.
This guide mostly focuses on TSA rules for air travel in the United States. In some other countries, the carry-on rules are a bit more lenient. If you follow the TSA guidelines, you can fly pretty much anywhere with your toiletries in a carry-on bag.
Can I Pack Toiletries in a Carry On Bag?
Yes. You can pack toiletries in a carry-on bag. You must follow some rules to ensure that your toiletries bag is carry-on acceptable. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sets guidelines for the types and quantities of liquids, gels, and aerosols allowed in carry-on bags and how to pack them. As long as you obey the carry-on limits, you will make it through security with your toiletries. You can carry liquids with you in your carry-on. I will explain the guidelines in this article.
What Toiletries Can I Pack in a Carry On Bag?
When packing toiletries in your carry-on luggage, you can pack any toiletries you like as long as you follow these guidelines:
- All Containers must be 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or smaller – All liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes must be in bottles, tubes, or containers that are no larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in volume. Larger containers will be confiscated at security.
- One quart-sized toiletries bag- All bottles containing liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, or pastes must fit into a plastic bag that is no larger than one quart (or one liter) in volume. The bag also needs to be see-through so security can easily see the contents of the bag without opening it.
- One toiletries bag per person- You can’t pack multiple quart-sized bags. All of your liquid toiletries must fit in a single bag.
To help you remember, you can use the 3-1-1 rule. The 3-1-1 rule means that you are permitted to carry on toiletries in your carry-on as long they are stored in containers with a volume of 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less. All of your containers must fit in a clear plastic one quart size bag. Each person is permitted to carry one toiletries bag. 3-1-1 means: 3.4 ounces, 1 quart, 1 bag. For more info on the 3-1-1 rule, check out this guide from the TSA.
You are not permitted to carry liquids that are larger than 3.4 ounces or 100ml in your carry-on, even if they aren’t full. For example, if you have a 5 ounce tube of toothpaste that is almost empty, you will have to throw it out, even if there are clearly less than 3 ounces of toothpaste remaining.
If you follow these rules, wherever you travel, your carry-on baggage will comply with most airline and security rules worldwide. The 3-1-1 rule is fairly standard around the world. If you can’t meet these guidelines for whatever reason, you’ll have to put your toiletries bag in your checked luggage.
The rules regarding toiletries vary slightly by country and by security agency. Sometimes the rules are enforced differently at different airports in the same country. An item that makes it through security in Chicago may be confiscated in Los Angeles. If you’re taking international flights, an item could be confiscated before a connecting flight. Airport security agencies are inconsistent. Sometimes they simply miss things.
What is Considered a Liquid?
Liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes are all subject to the 3.4 ounce or 100ml rule. Exactly what is considered a liquid does vary.
Some common liquids you might pack in your carry on luggage include shampoo, liquid body wash, toothpaste, sunblock, contact lens solution, deodorant (spray and stick), mouthwash, lip balm, and insect repellant. All of these items are available in travel size containers that are carry-on acceptable.
Other items such as peanut butter, jams and jellies, and snow globes, are also considered liquids. In most cases, these items will be confiscated at security, unless they are less than 3.4 ounces or 100ml.
Some items are questionable. Depending on the airport and security agency, items like mascara, chapstick, lip gloss, and lipstick may or may not be considered a liquid. In most cases, these items are considered gels. Gels are also subject to the 3-1-1 liquids rule.
Some countries allow aerosols in carry-on luggage and some don’t. I’ve had my bottle of aerosol spray deodorant confiscated a number of times while passing through security, even though it was less than 3.4 ounces. Sometimes it makes it through.
If you’re in doubt as to whether or not something is considered a liquid, go ahead and pack it in your toiletries bag. Your luggage is less likely to get searched if all of your liquid toiletries are properly packed. You’ll make it through security faster if you follow the liquids rules.
Exceptions to the TSA Liquids Rule
There are a few exceptions to the carry-on liquids rule. You are permitted to carry prescription medication, baby food, baby formula, juice, and breast milk in your carry-on baggage in containers that are larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 ml. The quantity that you’re carrying must be considered ‘reasonable.’ It’s up to the TSA agent to determine what reasonable means.
These items are exempt from the carry-on liquids rule. They do not need to be carried in your quart-sized bag. Ice packs, freezer packs, and frozen gel packs which are used to keep breast milk, formula, or medicine cool are also allowed in your carry-on bag.
If you are traveling with any of these items, you should notify the security agents that you have these liquids when you arrive at the security checkpoint so they can be screened separately. You will need to remove these items from your carry-on and place them in a separate bin while passing through security.
At this time, you are also permitted to carry one bottle of hand sanitizer that measures 12 ounces or less. It doesn’t have to go in your quart sized bag. This rule may be changed in the future.
For more info, check out this guide from the TSA.
Can I Carry Powder in my Carry On Bag?
Yes. You can carry powder in your carry-on bag. The TSA does have some rules regarding powders. Powder-like substances in quantities greater than 12 ounces or 350ml may require additional screening. You will have to remove these items from your carry-on luggage and place them in a bin so they can be screened separately. In addition, containers may be opened and the contents may be tested.
If you need to carry powders in quantities greater than 12 ounces or 350 ml, the TSA recommends that you pack them in your checked luggage. At this time, you are not required to check powders. It is only a recommendation. Carrying large amounts of powder can slow down the screening process.
Some common powders travelers often pack include laundry detergent, powdered makeup, food seasoning or salt, protein powder, and some medications. You can read more about the powder rule on the TSA website here.
What Not to Pack in Your Carry On Bag
There are a few common items that you can’t pack in your carry-on baggage. Generally, anything that could be considered a weapon or fire hazard is prohibited. A few items that you should not pack in your carry-on bag include:
- Sharp Objects (knives, scissors, etc.)- If you need to bring sharp objects such as a knife, box cutter, large scissors, etc. you’ll have to check your bag. There are some exceptions. You can pack a small pair of scissors if the blades are less than 4 inches long from the pivot point. In some countries, the max length is 6 cm. Nail scissors are usually allowed. You can also pack a butter knife if the tip is dull and the blade is not serrated.
- Sporting goods- Most sporting goods have to be checked. You can’t pack any type of bat, club, pole, or stick in your carry-on bag. You’ll have to check baseball bats, hockey sticks, golf clubs, pool cues, bows and arrows, ski poles, tent poles, tent stakes, trekking poles, etc. These items are not allowed because they could be used as a weapon. You can pack roller blades or ice skates in your carry-on luggage.
- Straight razors and blades for safety razors- These items aren’t allowed in your carry-on luggage. You have to check them because they could be used as weapons. You can pack cartridge razors and disposable razors in your carry-on bag.
- Guns- Obviously, guns aren’t allowed in the cabin. You can carry a gun in your checked luggage. You will have to unload it, lock it in a hard-sided container, and declare it. You will also have to comply with all gun laws in your origin and destination.
- Tools- Most tools are prohibited in carry-on luggage because they can be considered weapons. You’ll have to pack hammers, drills, screwdrivers, saws, etc. in your checked luggage.
- Flammable items- Camp stove fuel, gasoline, paint thinner, and other flammable liquids are not allowed in carry-on or checked luggage. Even if they are in containers that are less than 3.4 ounces. Fireworks are also not allowed. If you need this stuff for your trip, you’ll have to buy it at your destination. Camp stoves are allowed as long as they are empty and cleaned so there are no fuel vapors or residue remaining. Camp stoves must be extremely clean or they will be confiscated. You can bring one book of safety matches or one lighter in your carry-on baggage.
- Agricultural products- You can’t bring fresh meat, fruits, vegetables, plants, or animal products with you when traveling internationally. Sometimes, even wooden souvenirs are prohibited. These items are prohibited to reduce the risk of spreading invasive species.
My Experience Traveling With Toiletries in a Carry On Bag
I almost always travel with a carry-on bag only. In my experience, TSA agents aren’t too strict about the quart-sized bag rule. I often carry my toiletries in a one-gallon-sized plastic bag and have never had an issue. On a couple of occasions, I have also carried two toiletries bags without issue.
TSA agents are strict about the container size rule. All of your liquid, cream, gel, paste, or aerosol containers must be smaller than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or they will be confiscated.
If you don’t follow the liquids rule, you should be prepared to throw out your extra liquids if security decides to enforce the rules. If you accidentally break a rule, don’t worry about it. Worst case, security confiscates the items that aren’t allowed and throws them away. If you don’t follow the carry-on rules, it may take you longer to pass through security.
If something is confiscated while you’re passing through security, you can re-buy it when you reach your destination. Toiletries are easily available in pharmacies around the world. You may not be able to find the exact product that you lost but you can find a close substitute.
How to Pack Toiletries in a Carry-On Bag
To stay within the liquids rule, I recommend you separate your toiletries into 2 separate bags. One liquids bag should contain all of your liquid items. This will be a one-quart plastic zip-top bag. The other bag should contain dry items and grooming tools. This could be another plastic bag or a purpose-made toiletries bag or Dopp kit.
Toiletries Bag 1: Liquid Toiletries
This is your 3-1-1 compliant toiletries bag. This bag will contain all liquids, gels, pastes, aerosols, and creams. These items should be in travel-sized containers less than 3.4 ounces or 100 ml in volume. You will remove this liquids bag from your carry-on luggage and place it in a bin as you pass through security.
Whatever type of bag you choose to use, remember that it needs to be a maximum of one quart in volume. It must also be clear so that the security agents can see the contents of the liquids bag without opening it. It should also be waterproof so your toiletries can’t leak out if one of the containers opens.
Specialty toiletries bags are available. This Clear Toiletry Bag would be a good choice if you want to buy something purpose-made. It’s lightweight and durable. These liquids bags are TSA-approved. They measure one quart in volume and have see-through sides.
Personally, I think these are a waste of money. I recommend you use a plastic zip-top bag for your toiletries bag. Plastic bags are cheap and easily available. They also meet TSA requirements.
If you go with a plastic liquids bag, I recommend you use a freezer bag rather than a sandwich bag. Freezer bags are made from thicker and more durable plastic. The zip-top seals better and lasts longer.
You can buy travel-sized toiletries and pack them in your toiletry kit in their original container. Alternatively, you can buy a set of travel toiletry containers and fill them from the larger bottles that you use at home. This 16 Pack Travel Bottles Set would work well. It contains a range of bottle sizes and it’s TSA approved. Refilling your own bottles is much cheaper than buying travel sized bottles.
Toiletries Bag 2: Dry Toiletries
The second bag should contain all toiletries that aren’t liquids. This means dry items. For example, you can pack your toothbrush, nail clippers, floss, Q tips, razors, pills, bar soap, and other solid toiletries in this bag.
Ideally, this bag should be large enough to accommodate your 1-quart liquid toiletries bag plus everything else in your toiletries kit. Alternatively, you can pack your liquid toiletries bag separately.
When you reach security, simply remove the one-quart wet toiletries bag from your larger toiletry bag and place it into the bin to go through security.
The benefit of packing your toiletries kit this way is that your wet items are double-bagged. If a bottle of shampoo opens or breaks, it won’t leak all over your clothes or electronics. It will hopefully be contained in your dry toiletries bag.
I recommend you choose a toiletry bag with multiple compartments. This will help you organize your toiletries. You could keep makeup, tooth care, skin care, and shaving gear in separate compartments. This makes finding what you’re looking for much faster and easier.
Toiletries Bag/Dopp Kit Recommendations
A number of different toiletry bag designs exist. In this section, I’ll outline a few popular options.
This is a great option if you’re looking for a classic toiletries bag. This classic Dopp kit is handmade from 100% genuine buffalo leather. The quality is excellent for the price. It features a waterproof lining, YKK zippers, and multiple interior compartments for organization. The bag measures 10″ x 4.5″ x 5″.
If you’re looking for something lightweight and compact, the Osprey UltraLight Roll Organizer is a great option. It weighs just 4.4 ounces and measures 6″ x 3″ x 9″. This kit includes a hanging loop to hang the organizer from a bathroom hook. There are 4 interior zip pockets to keep you organized. It also offers a built-in mirror.
This hanging toiletry bag features four compartments for organization. The large top hook allows you to attach the bag to a bathroom hook or shower head for easy access to all of your toiletries. Two sizes and a range of colors are available.
This is one of the lightest toiletry bags on the market at around 1.5 ounces. It’s made out of a durable synthetic material that is water-resistant.
A Plastic Bag
If you’re on a tighter budget, you can also use a 1-gallon zip-top plastic freezer bag as a toiletries bag. This is what I use while backpacking. It’s the lightest possible option. The drawback is that a plastic bag doesn’t last as long as a purpose-made toiletry bag. For a longer trip, a purpose-built toiletries bag is best.
What Should I Pack in my Carry-on Toiletries Bag?
Your carry-on toiletry kit is pretty personal. Exactly what you need to pack depends on the length of your trip, your destination, and your personal preference.
If you’re traveling for a month or less, I recommend you pack all of the toiletries that you need for the duration of your trip. If you’re traveling for longer than a month, pack a one-month supply of everything. You can buy replacements as things run out.
Below, I’ll list all of the possible items that you may want to put in your toiletries pack. This section is divided into wet and dry items.
Wet Carry-on Toiletry Items
Pack these items in your clear one-quart sized bag.
- Toothpaste- Make sure you buy a travel size tube that’s less than 3.4 ounces. You can buy a new tube anywhere when you run out.
- Shampoo and conditioner- Pack travel sized versions of shampoo and conditioner. If you’re staying in a hotel, you could just use the shampoo that the hotel provides.
- Body wash- If you like to use liquid body wash, pack a travel sized bottle. Alternatively, you could use the bar soap that your hotel provides.
- Shaving cream- Pack a travel sized bottle. You can also use hair conditioner as shaving cream if you don’t have space for shaving cream.
- Antiperspirant Deodorant- Avoid aerosol spray-on deodorants. Some security agencies don’t allow them as carry-on luggage and will confiscate them. I usually pack a stick-style deodorant. Both gel and paste styles are fine. Whichever style you choose, make sure it’s less than 3.4 ounces.
- Sunblock- Make sure the bottle is less than 3.4 ounces (100 ml). Avoid packing aerosol spray-style sunblock as it may be confiscated as you pass through security. Again, some security agencies don’t allow aerosols in your carry-on bag.
- Face wash- If your skin breaks out easily, you’ll probably want to carry your favorite face wash with you.
- Insect repellent- If you’re traveling in a buggy environment or in an area where malaria exists, you’ll want something to keep the insects away. I like Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent. It contains 20% picaridin and remains effective for up to 12 hours.
- Mouthwash– Pack a travel-sized bottle of mouthwash to freshen your breath. Alternatively, you could pack mints or gum.
- Antibiotic ointment- Pack a small tube of Neosporin, bacitracin, or a similar product. These help to prevent minor cuts and scrapes from becoming infected.
- Contact lens solution- If you wear contacts, buy a travel-sized bottle. You can always buy more at your destination.
- Lotion- If you’re not a lotion person, you can skip this. It’s nice to have in cold climates where your skin can get dry. Most hotels provide lotion. You can skip this if you’re staying in a hotel.
- Eye drops- These come in handy while flying or traveling in dry or dusty areas. A small bottle lasts a long time.
- Lip balm- Lip balm is nice to have while traveling in a cold climate where chapped lips are common.
- Hand sanitizer- Many travelers like to carry this stuff to use before meals or when a sink and soap are not available.
- Makeup- If you’re packing any makeup products that are liquid or pastes, you should pack them in your toiletry kit. Examples of liquid makeup include liquid foundation, nail polish, lip gloss, etc.
- Perfume/Cologne- Everyone wants to smell good.
- Liquid medications- You can carry liquid medications in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100ml if you need to but they will need to be screened separately.
You won’t have space for all of the above-listed items in your one quart sized bag. If you don’t have space for everything, you don’t need to pack all of the toiletries you need for the entire trip in your carry-on baggage. You can buy anything you don’t pack locally when you arrive.
Space Saving Tip: Consider packing multi-use soap
This is a great space-saving item. A bottle of multi-use soap can replace your body wash, shampoo, shaving cream, dish soap, and laundry detergent. I like Campsuds Sierra Dawn Outdoor Soap.
Dry Carry-on Toiletry Items
These toiletry items do not need to be packed in your one quart sized liquids bag.
- Toothbrush- I like to pack an electric toothbrush that is operated with a replaceable AA battery or a rechargeable battery. Some hardcore ultralight travelers like to cut off the handle to save weight and space.
- Dental floss- Don’t forget to floss. A single roll of floss can last several months and takes up very little space.
- Q-tips- Pack a travel-sized bag with at least a one month’s supply.
- Bar soap- If you don’t have space in your wet toiletry bag for liquid body wash, you can pack a bar of soap instead. Some travelers prefer it. If you choose to use bar soap, use a plastic soap holder to keep your wet bar of soap away from other items. If you’re staying in a hotel, you can just use the hotel soap.
- Razors– I recommend you pack disposable razors. You might not be able to find the proper cartridges if you use a cartridge razor. You could also use an electric shaver if you prefer.
- Pain relievers/ headache medication- Pack a mild pain reliever like ibuprofen, aspirin, Tylenol, etc. Whatever works best for you.
- Anti-diarrhea medication- Food poisoning and travelers’ diarrhea are the most common travel illnesses. Imodium works well and it’s cheap. It’s best to be prepared.
- Malaria prophylaxis- If you’re traveling in a malaria zone, you’ll want some malaria pills. For more info, check out my traveler’s guide to malaria prevention, treatment, and tablets.
- Laundry detergent- You can save money by washing your own clothes in the sink. If you’re not packing multi-use soap, I recommend these Travelon Laundry Soap Sheets. You could also just pack a small baggie of powdered laundry detergent.
- Throat lozenges- These come in handy if you get a cold or sore throat. Even though they’re available everywhere, I like to have them so I’m prepared if I wake up sick.
- Tweezers- To remove splinters and pluck stay hairs.
- Nail clippers- Make sure you bring nail clippers without any large file or knife attached. It needs to be carry-on acceptable.
- A small mirror- This comes in handy while in transit or when you want to check out the hair the on the back of your head.
- Hair clippers- If you like to cut your own hair, consider packing a small set of rechargeable clippers and guards.
- Contact lenses- If you wear them. Make sure you pack enough for your trip. For more tips, check out my guide tor travel with glasses and contacts.
Carry-on First Aid Kit
In addition to the above items, it’s a good idea to pack a small first aid kit with you in your carry-on baggage when you travel. I usually pack this separately from my toiletry kit because I don’t have to access it often. Your first aid kit should include:
- Bandages- in various sizes.
- Gauze- to cover larger wounds.
- Moleskin- to cover blisters from walking and hiking.
- Tape- to hold gauze.
- Antiseptic wipes- for disinfecting wounds.
- Antibiotic ointment- to prevent cuts and burns from getting infected.
- Pain pills- for headaches, backaches, etc.
I like the First Aid Only 298 Piece All-Purpose First Aid Kit. It’s a bit bulky but it contains a good amount of gear for treating minor wounds, burns, and blisters.
Make sure you know how to treat minor cuts and wounds. This can save you from having to make a trip to a clinic. Minor injuries are less likely to get infected and heal faster if they’re properly treated.
Space-saving tip: Go through your first aid kit and toiletry kit and remove any duplicate items. For example, many first aid kits include tweezers, pain medication, throat lozenges, antacids, etc. You can remove whichever ones you don’t like. There’s no need to carry two of the same thing.
How to Pack Toiletries in Your Carry On Luggage: Tips and Tricks
The above list is pretty extensive. It may seem like a lot to pack and it is. You probably won’t need all of the toiletries on the list. In this section, I’ll outline a few tips to improve the usability of your toiletry kit and make it more compact and carry-on-friendly.
1. Choose Multi-Use Products Wherever Possible
Carrying multi-use products helps greatly to cut down on the weight and bulk of your liquids bag. For example, by packing a multi-use soap, you can eliminate the need to carry shampoo, body wash, and shaving cream. That alone can save you 6 ounces from your pack. Instead of packing shaving cream, you can use hair conditioner to shave with. It works just as well. This could save you 3 ounces.
A good first aid kit can achieve similar weight savings. You can fit all medications as well as tweezers, burn cream, and antibiotic ointment. You can skip these when putting together your toiletry kit.
2. Cut Down Your Skin Care Products
You probably won’t have space for all of your regular skin care products including face wash, exfoliator, face moisturizer, hand lotion, acne cream, body lotion, etc. in your carry-on luggage. These products take up too much space.
Instead, just pack the essentials. For skin care, you could get away with some general moisturizer, face wash, and sunblock. If you have particularly sensitive or oily skin, you may need to pack a special face wash.
You can save some space in your toiletry kit by packing face cleaning cloths instead of liquid face wash. If you have space in your toiletries bag after packing everything else, you can add extra skin care products if you choose. Also, don’t be afraid to try some local products.
3. Buy Travel-Sized Toiletry Items
The easiest way to fit your toiletries into a quart-sized bag is to buy travel-sized toiletries. Travel sizes come in containers that are 3.4 ounces or smaller. You’ll find travel-sized toiletries at supermarkets and pharmacies.
Of course, not all products are available in travel sizes. In this case, you’ll have to transfer your toiletries from their original bottle into a refillable container that is smaller than 3.4 ounces. Sometimes sample sizes are available that are suitable for travel.
4. Use Refillable Bottles to Save Money
While travel-sized bottles are convenient, they aren’t very economical or environmentally friendly. You can save money by buying some refillable travel-sized bottles and simply filling them from larger bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, sunblock, etc.
This way, you avoid paying a premium for travel sizes. The initial cost of buying reusable containers is higher but in the long run you’ll save money. Using refillable bottles is also better for the environment. You keep some plastic containers out of the landfill.
I like these Oursunshine Travel Bottles. They have a large opening which makes them easy to fill. These bottles are also made of a squeezable silicon material which allows you to use every bit of the contents. This helps to reduce waste.
5. Don’t Overpack your Carry-on Toiletries Bag
There’s really no need to ever carry more than a month’s supply of anything in your toiletry kit. You can always restock wherever you are. Even small villages have pharmacies and grocery stores where you can buy all of the personal hygiene products and basic medications that you may need.
If you’re only traveling for a few days, you may not even need the entire 3.4 ounces of a particular item. For example, for a week-long trip, you could get away with just carrying a 1 ounce bottle of shampoo. If you’re careful, you could shower for two weeks with a single ounce of shampoo. You could go even longer if you don’t wash your hair daily.
One thing you should always pack enough of is medically necessary liquids, such as prescription medications. You may have trouble finding the medication you need in some parts of the world. Some medications aren’t available in some countries. Sometimes medications can be difficult to find. Do your research before your trip if there is a medication that you need to take. This is particularly important while traveling internationally.
The other exception is if you are traveling through a rural or developing area. In small villages, you probably won’t find your favorite brand of shampoo. Sometimes basic items aren’t available. While volunteering in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia, a buddy of mine took a multi-hour bus journey to visit a larger city to buy a tube of toothpaste. It just wasn’t available in the village shops.
6. Repackage Items to Save Weight and Space in your Carry On Luggage
Remove any unnecessary packaging like cardboard or plastic from new toiletry items. For example, don’t pack your toothpaste in the cardboard box it comes in. Remove it from the cardboard and just pack the tube. If you don’t need a whole package of something, divide it up and only take what you need. For example, there’s no need to pack a box of 100 q-tips for a week-long trip. Just pack what you need in a plastic bag or refillable bottle.
The only exception to this is medications. You want to keep pills in their original packaging to show what they are. If you have an unmarked bottle of pills or a bottle full of mixed pills, a TSA agent may assume that they are illegal drugs when they are simply aspirin. Some countries are extremely strict with their drug policies. You don’t want to end up being wrongly detained by an immigration official until a drug test comes back.
7. Strategically Pack Your Toiletries
You can fit more in your quart sized bag if you pack it strategically. Start by placing the larger bottles in the bag and then try to fit the smaller bottles. Try packing in different ways.
Also, don’t pack anything that is not subject to the liquids rule in your one quart liquids bag. For example, you don’t need to pack your q tips in your quart bag because they aren’t liquid.
If you arrange everything optimally, you can fit much more than you think. For most travelers, a quart bag is more than enough space for packing toiletries.
8. Share Toiletries With Your Travel Partner
If you’re traveling with another person, you can share some of your toiletries. For example, you can both use the same toothpaste, sunscreen, insect repellent, and antibiotic ointment. This allows you to pack one tube of each instead of two. This can free up a lot of space in both of your toiletry kits.
While you’re at it, think about other items you can share with your travel partner. For example, you can pack one first aid kit, one roll of floss, and one pack of q-tips. This can save some space in your carry-on luggage.
Maybe you’re traveling with someone who doesn’t use a lot of toiletries. You could ask them to carry some of yours for you. For example, I don’t need many haircare products because I’m bald. I have space to carry my girlfriend’s shampoo if she doesn’t have space. If you’re traveling with kids, you could pack some of your toiletries in their carry-on luggage. Kids don’t use lots of toiletries. They can also share some of yours.
9. Don’t Use the Same Toiletry Kit for Each Trip
Your toiletry kit will vary depending on where you’re traveling, for how long, and your style of travel. For example, your toiletry needs will be completely different for a weekend camping trip and an expedition from Cairo to Cape Town. If you pack the same kit every time, you’ll end up overpacking or underpacking.
If you’re just going for a short trip of a week or less, you can probably leave out items like tweezers, nail clippers, or a mirror. This lightens your load and makes packing less complicated.
For longer trips, you may be happy you packed a few luxury items even though you don’t use them every day. For example, you might want to pack laundry detergent, hair clippers, etc.
10. Cut Down Your Hair Care Products
You probably won’t have space for all of your hair care products in your carry-on luggage. Only pack the items that you absolutely need. This may be shampoo, conditioner, and hair spray or hair gel.
If you’re staying in a hotel, you can use the shampoo and conditioner that’s included with the room. If you’re short on space, you could use a multi-use soap to wash your hair or pack a shampoo bar.
One luxury item I carry is a pair of clippers so I can cut my own hair. For more info, check out my guide to cutting your own hair while traveling.
11. Wait Until You Reach Your Destination to Buy Some of Your Toiletries
If you’re planning to stay in one destination long term, you may as well just buy your toiletries when you arrive. That way, you can buy full-sized bottles without worrying about airline restrictions. You’ll also save money. Airplane-size toiletries are expensive. Of course, you’ll want to pack some items from home like any non-consumable items and medications.
12. Use the Toiletries Provided by your Hotel or Host
If you’re staying in a hotel, chances are they at least provide a small bar of soap and a small bottle of shampoo. Many Airbnb hosts do the same. If this is the case, you don’t have to pack your own. This helps to lighten your load a bit.
You can also reuse hotel toiletries. When you stay in a hotel, you probably won’t use the whole bottle of shampoo. Take the rest with you and use it during your trip. The opened bottles are thrown out anyway so you might as well use them.
These days, some hotels have stopped are moving away from supplying individual bottles. Instead, they are wall-mounted dispensers for soap and shampoo. Some hotels simply don’t provide any toiletries anymore.
13. Leave Some Space in Your Toiletries Bag
Try not to stuff your one quart toiletries bag completely full. Leave a bit of space. This makes it much easier to access your toiletries when you need them. It will also be easier to pack your toiletries bag. In addition, you’ll have a bit of extra space in case you forget something or if you buy something at your destination.
14. Replace Liquids with Solid Toiletries or Powders
Packing all of your wet toiletries into a one-quart size bag is pretty limiting. Luckily, most toiletry items come in solid or powder forms that you can pack as an alternative to liquids. By choosing a solid or powder option, you get around the 3.4 ounce or 100ml rule. This can save you a massive amount of space in your toiletries bag.
Some examples of solid toiletries include:
- Bar soap instead of liquid body wash.
- Shampoo bar instead of liquid shampoo.
- Conditioner bar instead of liquid conditioner.
- Moisturizer bars instead of liquid lotion.
- Glasses cleaning sheets instead of a liquid solution.
- Mineral makeup instead of liquid foundation and conditioner.
- Solid toothpaste tablets or capsules instead of gel toothpaste.
- Powder or sheet laundry detergent instead of liquid.
Even though the solid alternatives of these products may not be as pleasant or convenient to use, they make packing and flying easier. Another benefit to packing solid toiletries is the fact that they reduce the likelihood of leaks and spills.
15. Make Sure Your Toiletries Bag is Easily Accessible in Your Carry On Luggage
After you finish packing your one quart liquids bag, pack it in your carry-on somewhere that is easily accessible. If your luggage has an external pocket, pack your toiletries bag there. Otherwise, pack it on top of your luggage after packing everything else. Also, make sure anything else that needs to be screened separately, such as breast milk or baby food, is easily accessible.
It is important that your toiletries bag be easily accessible because you’ll have to remove it and place it in a bin when you pass through security. You won’t have to remove it at every airport but most of the time you will. If your toiletries bag is easily accessible, you can remove it and replace it quickly and more easily. You don’t want to hold up the line by digging through your carry-on looking for your toiletries.
16. Pack your Toiletries in Your Checked Bag
If you don’t care about traveling ultralight or packing a carry-on bag only, you can always just pack your toiletries in your checked bag. This way, you don’t need to worry about the volume or weight of each individual item that you pack. You can pack toiletries in containers that are larger than 3.4 ounces in your checked baggage. This means, you can pack a full-sized bottle of shampoo and tube of toothpaste. If you were planning to travel with checked luggage anyway, this is the best way to go. Of course, there is an additional cost for checking a piece of luggage.
How I Pack My Carry-on Toiletries to Make My Daily Routine Faster and Easier
When I’m going to fly, I divide my toiletries into wet and dry items. I pack liquids in my quart sized bag. I put everything else in another bag. After I land, I like to reorganize my toiletries kit to make it more convenient for daily use. I divide it into two categories:
- Thins I use daily- These are the items I need to bring to the bathroom with me every morning and evening. Things like toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, soap, razors, deodorant, lotion, contact lenses and contact solution, etc. Everything that I use on a daily basis goes in this bag.
- Things I don’t use often- This bag contains all of the items that I only need on occasion such as my first aid kit and headache medications, for example.
I divide my toiletries this way because I find it makes getting ready each morning much easier. when my toiletries are organized, I don’t have to dig through everything every time I want to find a particular bottle.
When I need to catch a flight, I reorganize my toiletries back into the wet/dry bags so I’m ready to pass through airline security.
Final Thoughts: How to Pack Toiletries into a Carry-on Bag
By following the guidelines, you’ll be able to pack all of the toiletries you need into a carry-on bag without having to check any luggage. This will save you time and money at the airport.
The most important thing to remember when packing liquids in a carry-on is the 3-1-1 rule. Your toiletries must be in smaller containers that measure less than 3.4 ounces or 100 ml. You can carry one toiletries bag with a volume of one quart. As long as you follow the rules, you won’t have any issues passing through security with your toiletries in your carry-on luggage. If you can’t follow these rules, you can always pack your toiletries in your checked baggage.
You access your toiletries bag at least twice per day while traveling. You might as well take some time to organize it and make it as convenient to use as possible. Hopefully, this guide gives you some ideas to save space and make your morning and nightly routine just a bit easier.
Do you pack your toiletries in your carry-on luggage? Share your tips and experience in the comments below!