Build a travel toiletries bag to save space

toothbrush orig.jpgYou can lighten your suitcase and be more comfortable on the road if you custom build a travel toiletries bag. You may already have a toiletry bag (preferably with multiple, sealable compartments) - but if you don't, it should be the last thing you buy, not the first. I'll explain why later.

First, you should create a list of the toiletries you use on a daily basis - such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, face cleanser, moisturiser, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, shaving kit and any medications you need. If you're prepping for a longer trip, think about things like nail clippers, tweezers and nail files (remembering that if you're flying these kinds of items need to go into checked baggage as they'll likely be confiscated from your carry-on baggage).

Next, decide which of these might be provided by the hotel or place that you're planning on staying at. You may be fine with using hotel soap or shampoo and conditioner, in which case, great, no need to pack your own.

Once you know what you need to take  on the road with you, time to think about how to downsize them.
If you're a frequent traveller you may have already picked up those hotel freebie mini-bars of soap, shampoo, etc. They're perfect for your travel toiletry kit. I also have a couple of sample-size bottles of my favourite perfume which I refill for travelling.

One thing I'd strongly suggest carrying is either a face washer or one of those small, soft packs of baby wipes. You can also snag those little handwipe sachets that get given out by fastfood restaurants or on planes. Any of these can be used to freshen up your face and hands - which feels great after a yucky day of travel. If you carry a face washer, make sure you also pack a ziplock bag for carrying it when it's damp (a sealable compartment of your toiletry bag would also work).

Now you need to find small versions of the toiletries you want to take with you. Check out the travel toiletries accessories at your local chemist - mini shampoo and conditioner bottles and so forth. You may find it cheaper to buy small size empty bottles and fill them with your own shampoo and conditioner. Rather than mouthwash, you may want to consider the smaller and less prone to leakage breath mints.

Here's one tip I picked up from Wise Bread today - instead of a bottle of shampoo buy a shampoo bar from somewhere like Lush. Basically this is shampoo in the form of a bar of soap for your hair. It's great for travellers because it takes up a lot of space compared to a shampoo bottle, and it won't leak.

Now you should invest in a toiletry bag - preferably one with multiple, sealed off compartments to avoid leakage. I tend to carry 'wet'  items like shampoo or moisturiser separately from the items which can't leak - but if your toiletry bag has seal off compartments you won't need to worry about this. Try to buy the bag *after* you've worked out what will go into your travel toiletry bag, so you know how much room you need.

In the interests of saving space, avoid buying things like toothbrush cases - just put everything in your toiletry bag. If it doesn't have compartments, place the items which might leak in ziplock sandwich bags - you really don't want to taste shampoo on your toothbrush, trust me.

And finally - a tip for international travellers. If you are worried your luggage might go missing (it happens) then consider carrying your toiletry bag with you in your hand luggage. (You may want to carry a change of clothes too). If you're stuck a day or two without your luggage, it will feel better to be able to wash up and shave! Definitely carry any medications with you in your hand luggage - you don't want to be caught without them if your luggage goes missing for a day or too.

Got any tips for creating the perfect travelling toiletry bag? Please leave tips on comments.


    Don't know much about saving space but I know where you can find lovely, ethical toiletry bags and accessories. These products are just devine, and are helping to build trade with people in Vietnam and Thailand who are trying to free themselves from poverty through their amazing artisan skills. Make really good gifts too!

    I'm packing for a trip with a friend and her mom to Edmonton. I'm very afraid that I will forget something and have to borrow it from my friend. That will be very embarrasing. I've looked on a lot of websites but I think I have all my toiletries! Wish me luck!

    Great tips; thought I'd add three comments.

    (1) I travel a lot for work. Always staying in reasonable hotels for maximum of 5 nights. My list is -- toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving brush, razor, deodorant (roll-on is the best size), and comb. Hotels always have soap and shampoo. They often have toothbrushes and toothpaste too, but these are usually terrible.

    (2) Rather than shaving cream I carry an old-fashioned shaving brush with me. You can use soap, body wash, almost anything to create a lather suitable for a decent shave with it. It takes much less space than shaving cream, doesn't leak, and doesn't need to be replenished.

    (3) My toiletries bag has a single compartment and I've never had a problem. Sure I've had a leak or two, but a quick rinse will get shampoo out of your comb and toothbrush. If you're travelling where water is an issue then maybe it's a different story.

    We will be travelling soon and I've been looking for some tips in case I forgot some toiletries. Thanks for the reminders.

    Buy 2 in 1 shampoo/conditioner. If you're going to a city or town (ie, not into the back country) you do not need to take everything. You can buy stuff there.

    I would suggest buying the bag first (provided you're not a complete travelling newbie who has absolutely no idea what to take). It will restrict you to the space you've got and force you to go light.

    +1 for roll-on deoderant.

    Also, my tip for shaving, is shaving oil - it takes a bit of getting used to, and you have to keep your skin constantly wet (shaving in the shower is good), but I love it and it weighs a lot less than gel/cream/foam.

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