3 Tips for Packing Toiletries

Packing toiletries is never an easy task.


How much of your favorite shampoo or face cream should you take on your next trip? What’s the best bag to put them in? What if they explode? These are just a few of the questions that might run through your brain when you’re packing toiletries. There’s a lot to consider

Follow these three tips for packing toiletries to help take the anxiety out of the task.

packing toiletries

1. Pick the Right Bag

How do you know which bag is right for you? That all depends on what you want to get out of it. Some help you stay better organized, while others are simply easier to fit in your bag. Let’s look at a few basic types.


The cube is cute and compact, so you don’t have a ton of room to overfill it. And if you pack a lot of bottles, you can stand them all upright in organized rows. But if you have lots of random stuff, it gets lost in a big pile. Not to mention the cube can be clunky. If you’re planning to take just a carry-on, it likely won’t fit well inside. Most cubes are a bit too tall to fit on one side of the carry-on bag.

Pros: Compact and easy to organize bottles

Cons: Everything could end up in a pile and too tall for most carry-ons



Hanging bags are great if you want to stay organized once you arrive at your destination. Just hang it on the towel rack, and presto! You’ve got everything you need right at your fingertips—you never need to fully unpack. But the con of a hanging bag is that it’s easy to over stuff. This makes it hard to fold up neatly for packing.

Pros: No need to unpack

Cons: Hard to roll up neatly to fit in your suitcase



The great thing about a pouch is that it tucks neatly any to any nook and cranny. You can squish it between stacks of clothes or in the side of your bag. But it’s really impractical if you want to find anything easily. All of your toiletries get dumped into one cavernous space.

Pros: Tucks into any empty space

Cons: Difficult to organize neatly



My personal favorite is the square bag, particularly the kind with two distinct sides that come together when you zip up the bag. I put all my liquids, like face creams, sunscreen, contact solution, perfume, and shampoo on one side and all my dry goods, like my comb, toothbrush, and Band-Aids on the other side. No matter how much I cram inside, it always closes up flat. And it tucks perfectly inside a carry-on bag.

Pros: Fits perfectly inside a carry-on, hard to overfill, and easy to organize

Cons: Can be a bit on the large side


2.  Sample Sizes

Take only what you need with you on vacation. I know a lot of women who take a big bottle of shampoo or lotion for a weekend getaway. You simply don’t need all that stuff. Think about what you’re really going to use, and take just that.

Nowadays, you can get sample sizes of just about every kind of toiletry—soap, shampoo, hairspray, Vaseline, deodorant, and more. Head to your nearest big box department store or even a dollar store, and you’ll find a vast selection to choose from. They come in appropriate package, making a spill or explosion much less likely. I don’t take anything I can’t get in a sample size.

Packing toiletries

If you simply can’t find what you’re looking for, get a set of travel bottles and make your own samples. But again, only take what you need. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve filled an entire bottle with my favorite shampoo only to forget all about the leftovers when I got back from vacation. By the time I got around to me next holiday, it was either a goopy mess or no longer my preferred brand. The same thing goes for just about any type of lotion or potion. And that stuff’s not cheap. Don’t pour good money down the drain by taking too much.

Pro tip: Get the squishy travel bottles. With these, you can squeeze out every last bit of lotion or shampoo, unlike those hard plastic bottles. They may be a bit harder to track down and cost a few extra dollars, but you’ll waste a lot less product.


3. Don’t Unpack

If you travel a lot, have a bag pre-filled with all your favorite stuff so you don’t have to worry about packing toiletries for each trip. Just grab and go. For example, I travel at least three or four times per year. Plus I go camping 15 to 20 weekends each year. I use my toiletries so often that it’s not worth unpacking them. I have doubles of all my standard stuff. packing-toiletries-double

These are just a few ideas for packing toiletries. What other ideas do you have? What’s your favorite type of toiletry bag? Do you have any tips for the best hanging toiletry bags for men? Share your ideas on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

The Great Carry-on Debate: 7 Packing Tips You Need Now

Preparing for a vacation is hard work. Consider these packing tips to help you decide if you need the big bag or the carry-on.


To carry on or not to carry on? That seems to be the question of the hour. And it’s one I consider often—not daily but close.

Almost every time I open the cover of a travel magazine, the featured story offers some sort of packing tips or tricks for fitting everything into a smaller suitcase or putting together more outfits with fewer pieces.

mary-poppins-bagNow, I’m a little like Mary Poppins. I can cram copious clothing options into the tiniest bag. But I’m far from practically perfect, particularly at packing. I’ve traveled enough to know that just because I can fit something into my bag doesn’t mean I should, especially with airlines imposing loftier fees for exceeding weight restrictions. But it doesn’t mean I follow that rule all the time.

So, I as I sit here reading another review of the ultimate capsule wardrobe for a 10-day Canary Islands cruise or how to fit 40 pieces of clothing into a pint-sized shoulder bag, I can’t help but wonder…why? Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely times when size matters. But I often read comments from people stressing out because they just can’t make it work. And I’m one of them.

Travel can be stressful enough without the added packing pressure. I’m on the side of traveling light whenever it makes sense. But that’s the key—knowing when it makes sense. Here are my packing tips for figuring out when it’s best to take the bare bones and when it’s most ideal to indulge.

run1. Are you going to be moving from one place to another? And how often?

If you are moving around a lot, a carry-on is the way to go. No one wants to lug around a hefty bag to multiple locations, which many include various flight connections or plans to travel by train to several destinations. Not to mention, without a home base you can’t unpack. Digging through layers of clothes inside a suitcase just isn’t practical. Pare it down to the minimum.

clock2. Are you short on time?

If you have a tight layover, waiting for checked baggage can be a deal breaker. Pack a carry-on so you can dash from one gate to another without worrying about your checked baggage.

ship3. Do you have a captive audience?
Cruising and touring offer a creative challenge to the fashion conscious, especially if you’re like me and have a particularly unique wardrobe. Other women will notice if you wear the same thing over and over again. I find it difficult to leave home without a few extra outfits for trips where I know I’ll run into the same people often.

journal4. What’s your budget?

I’m cheap, so if I’m traveling within North America, I’m not likely going to spend the extra $25 each way to check a bag. But for overseas travel, I’ll take advantage of the free baggage allowance and check a bag if I’m not moving around a lot or short on time between flights. Why not?

woman5. How do you feel about laundry?

If you hate doing laundry, do you really want to do it on vacation? Smaller bags mean less room for the basics—socks and undies—so you’ll need to wash them throughout your trip. On the flip side, if you don’t want to be bogged down with piles of laundry when you return home, pack light and look for a laundromat. I hate unpacking. In fact, I often don’t fully unpack until I need an item that was last seen in my suitcase or until my next trip when I need to use the bag again.

bike6. What types of activities will you be doing?
If you have a lot of different types of activities planned, packing light simply may not be an option. If you’re going to climb mountains, swim with sharks, take walking tours, and enjoy the local nightlife, it might be worth the extra few bucks to check a bag that can carry everything from hiking boots and sneakers to flip-flops and stilettos.

world7. What makes you happy?

Finally, if it’s going to cause you nothing but angst to try to fit everything into a tiny bag or give you hives because you can’t take that extra sweater, just do it. Forget the hype—I know it’s trendy right now, but do what makes you happy, whether it’s delighting in the joys of fitting everything in that one small bag or throwing everything but the kitchen sink in a good old-fashioned full-sized bag.

Try these helpful packing tips to decide if you should take a big bag or a carry-on for your next trip.