How to Pack Toiletries for Travel: The Complete Guide

December 31, 2023

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It’s time to pack your toiletries for travel and, oh my gosh! You may be asking yourself how you can possibly fit all that stuff into such a teeny-tiny 1-quart bag so you can get through airport security.

And even more anxiety-producing, how will you keep things from spilling and ruining your clothes?

In my travels over the years, I’ve learned how to make one product work for multiple applications and how to calculate how much of each item to take. Most importantly, I've learned how to get everything to my location without spilling a drop.

So stay tuned, intrepid traveler. I’ve got all sorts of tips and tricks to help you pack like a pro. You’ll be able to take everything you need, fit it in a small space, and ensure that everything arrives just as you packed it.

How to Pack Toiletries for Travel

Step 1: Create a Toiletry Packing List

Before you even think about packing your favorite products (makeup, cleanser, body wash, etc.), make a comprehensive list of all the toiletry items you'll need for your trip.

And be sure to read Rightsize Your Travel Toiletries, which gives some great tips on downsizing along with some recommended products..

Having a clear checklist helps you remember all the important items you'll need to take with you.

Step 2: Gather Everything Together

There are two approaches when you get ready to pack your toiletries for travel: All-in-one bags or separate pouches. It depends on your preference, how much luggage you bring, and whether you’re flying.

Either way, start by gathering all your travel toiletries together, including what you're going to pack them in.

All-in-one travel toiletry bags

When considering toiletry bags, you want to look for something lightweight and water-resistant, if not waterproof. You'll have a choice of either a bag that hangs or one that sits upright on the counter.

If you carry a lot of toiletries, the BAGSMART Toiletry Bag the WDLHQC Hanging Travel Toiletry Bag, or the July Large Toiletry Bag are good choices.

If you can get by with a little less space, the small Sea to Summit Travelling Light Hanging Toiletry Bag is a winner for a hanging bag. If you prefer a stand-up bag, check out the Peak Design Women’s Toiletry and Cosmetics Bag (which can also hang).

Travel toiletry pouches

If you want to pack all your toiletries in one piece of luggage, then separate your toiletries into smaller pouches or bags. That way, you can snuggle them in between other items in your luggage. For example, you could have a small bag each for your first aid kit, makeup, shaving kit, hair supplies, etc.

One problem with small travel bags or pouches is finding waterproof ones. So, if you’re concerned about anything leaking, put it in its own Ziploc bag before putting it in your pouch. Or eliminate some of your liquids. For example, use dry shampoo instead of liquids, toothpaste tablets instead of a tube of toothpaste, and solid deodorant instead of liquid.

I love Cotopaxi bags—so colorful!—and the smaller of their Cubos del Dia Travel Cubes would fit this purpose. You can use the large one as a packing cube for clothes and miscellaneous items.

And Tom Bihn (my fave for top quality) has a variety of cubes and trays of different sizes. I use the Travel Tray if I’m not flying. If I'm packing my toiletries for air travel, then I use a combination of an All-Fabric 3D Organizer Cube for non-liquids and a Clear 3D Organizer Cube for liquids. And I've recently started using the Ghost Whale Organizers, which come in a variety of sizes.

Special considerations for liquids

The right bag will help eliminate the stress of packing your toiletries. Whether you choose an all-in-one toiletry bag or separate pouches and small bags, look for waterproof or water-resistant bags to contain any potential spills.

Get the best bags you can afford. It will be worth the extra cost if you arrive at your destination with nothing spilled. If you use zip-lock bags, remember they can leak, so be careful.

Travel-Sized Toiletries

Opt for travel-sized containers since they don't take up a lot of space, and if you're flying, they comply with TSA's regulation of bottles no larger than 3.4 oz.

Transfer your lotions, shampoos, face wash, and other liquids into these containers, and label them clearly with a waterproof pen to avoid mix-ups. I learned this lesson after applying night cream to my hair instead of hair paste. Yep.

If you’re not concerned about ultra-light packing, my favorite way to pack my moisturizer, night cream, and makeup is with Cadence capsules. Reusable and environmentally friendly, these various-sized capsules can be transported together or separately so you can tuck them in empty spaces throughout your luggage. You can order labels for the top, or you can create your own labels.

If I'm flying, though, I prefer to travel carry-on only. So then, I use Palette by Pak for my makeup. I ordered one with the long-handled spatula, and it’s super handy for scooping the last drops out of bottles and jars at home. I’ve been using the Palette for over a year and haven’t had any problem with leakage.

For sunscreen, moisturizer, etc., I use GoToobs and GoTubbs by Humangear. There’s never been a spill with any of them, either.

Another option friends have recommended are the leak-proof Kitsch Travel Containers. The nice thing about them is they pack flat. Some have complained about them being tricky to fill, though, so you may need some patience (not one of my key strengths).

A favorite idea from some of my readers is to use old contact lens cases. Label them with permanent markers, as sunscreen, toothpaste, and hair gel can look the same after a few days on the road! And paint clear nail polish over the label so it doesn’t come off during travel.

If you’re taking travel-sized bottles or generic empty bottles and jars, consider removing the top and putting some saran wrap over them. Then, put the top on again to help prevent leakage. At least put them in a Ziploc bag in case they come open during travel.

And don’t fill any bottles all the way to the top. Changes in altitude cause changes in pressure, so you need to leave 20% or so for the liquid to expand.

Step 3: Pack Your Bag

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Now that you have your supplies ready, it's time to start organizing your toiletries.


Use the compartments and pockets in your toiletry bag or if you don't want everything in one bag, you can use pouches and mini bags. Assign specific sections or pouches for different categories of items – skin care, dental care, hair care, etc. This way, you don’t have to rummage through the entire bag to find what you need.

Layer Strategically

Place larger items at the bottom of your bag and smaller items on top. Place flat items on the bottom and against the sides if you're using an unstructured bag. This will save space and give the bag some shape. Items you’ll use more frequently, like a toothbrush and toothpaste for quick freshening up, should be easily accessible.

Label Everything

Clearly label each container with the product's name. This prevents confusion when you're reaching for an item. Yes…I’ve put moisturizer in my hair instead of hair paste, so I know what I’m talking about here!


All medications must go in your personal item, not even your carry-on bag in case you have to gate-check your carry-on at the last minute.

Keep electronics separate

Use separate bags or stuff sacks to corral your hair dryer, curling iron, electronic toothbrush, and other electronic items you might be traveling with.

Special considerations for air travel

When flying, TSA regulations come into play due to security restrictions on liquids:

    • Liquids in 3-1-1: If you're carrying liquids in your carry-on, adhere to the TSA's 3-1-1 rule: each passenger is allowed one quart-sized, clear, resealable plastic bag containing liquids in containers of 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less. Heathrow Airport in London may be different, so check their website first if you're flying there. All other allowable liquids must go in your checked bag.
    • Keep Essentials Accessible: This way, you can quickly take them out during security checks.
    • Remember, there will be stores! The amount of toiletries that fit in a quart-sized bag should be sufficient for a short trip, so you won't have to worry about running out. If you're taking a long trip, use the space to pack the most important things and buy the rest at your destination.

Step 4: Regularly Re-evaluate Your Essential Toiletries

As you travel more, you'll refine your skills to pack your toiletries for travel. You'll also learn which of your favorite beauty products and other toiletries are truly essential for your comfort, and which you can leave behind for awhile. Be sure to assess your toiletry kit after each trip. Did you use all the items you packed? Were there items you wished you had brought?

Make notes on your toiletries packing list. This feedback loop will help you optimize your toiletry packing list and organization strategy over time.


When packing your toiletries for travel, choose the best toiletry bag for your packing style—either an all-in-one bag or several smaller pouches. Either way, you want to have your liquids together and easily accessible when going through security.

Solid toiletries or travel-sized toiletries packed in leak-proof containers will ensure you arrive at your location with everything intact. Filling bottles to 80% capacity and using leak-proof bottles will prevent spillage. No puddles when you open your bag, no ruined clothes!

Be sure everything is labeled and in its proper place. You want to strike a balance between organizing efficiently with layers and pouches and being able to remember where things are.

With a bit of planning and attention to detail, you can master the art of organizing your toiletry bag and make your journey all the more enjoyable.

Safe travels! ✈️🏝️🚢

P.S. Let's learn from each other. If you have a favorite toiletry bag or container, let us know in the comments below.

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