5 Hacks for Packing Toiletries in Your Carry-on Suitcase

Frequently-changing airport security rules can make packing your carry-on luggage challenging – especially when it comes to liquids. If you’re planning to travel with carry-on luggage, it is absolutely essential that you adhere to the 3-1-1 liquids rule.


What’s the 3-1-1 liquids rule?

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) explains the limitations on liquids in carry-on luggage on their website:

“You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes through the checkpoint. These are limited to 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. This is also known as the 3-1-1 liquids rule.”

While the 3-1-1 liquids rule varies slightly from country to country, it’s easiest to plan ahead and avoid having your toiletries confiscated at the airport. 

Over the years, travelers have developed several tricks to ensure their toiletries meet these carry-on restrictions. Below you’ll find five hacks to help ensure you can bring all your beauty products and toiletries on board.


1. Make a list.

Write down the products you will need to bring on vacation. A list helps you organize and ensure you don’t leave anything behind.

Whether you use a handwritten checklist or keep a spreadsheet, you’ll save time in the long run if you create one master list you can refer to for every trip.

This is an example of the essentials to help you get started:

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Shower Cap
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Leave in Conditioner
  • Soap/Body Wash
  • Loofah
  • Razor
  • Deodorant
  • Body Moisturizer
  • Face Moisturizer
  • Sun Block
  • Eye Cream

After reading the tips below, determine if you need to pack these items or if you can get them at your destination.


2. Travel-size isn’t necessarily the best size.

Consider how much product you use on a daily basis during trips. If you’re traveling for one week, is your full-size foundation or toothpaste really necessary?

Even travel-size containers, while easy to pick up at the grocery store, are not always practical.

One hundred milliliters (3 ounces) may be too much product for beauty items such as face wash, moisturizer and cleanser. All you might need is a pea size amount.

Instead of buying travel-size toiletries, use smaller 10ml, 25ml or 50ml containers and decant the exact amount of product you’ll need for your trip.

This is particularly useful for makeup products such as foundation or concealer. You definitely won’t need full sizes for the average vacation.

Voila! You save space in your liquids bag and lower your baggage weight, too.


3. Use toiletries provided by your hotel or purchase items upon arrival.

One of the easiest ways to save space is to use the toiletries provided by your hotel such as shampoo and conditioner.

Sacrificing your regular suds for a one week trip is a small price to pay if it means saving space and weight in your suitcase.

Some hotel chains provide a variety of toiletries including razors, shaving cream, toothpaste and other essentials. Contact your hotel before your trip to find out what they have available.

If you’re traveling for longer than a week, then consider buying as you go. This strategy is particularly useful if you’re traveling with your family or staying in a vacation rental for a long period of time. It may cost you a little more to buy items at your destination, but it can save you much grief at the airport.

4. Replace liquids with solids.

Some companies have developed toiletries in solid form due to the 3-1-1 liquids rules, such as sunblock, shampoo, conditioner, bug repellant, moisturizer, soap, makeup sticks and laundry detergent. You can also replace liquids with powders and wipes.

Bonus tip: decant solid toiletries into small travel containers to minimize your luggage weight and space!


5. Use Samples for Short Breaks

Save product minis from holiday sets or gifts with purchase and use them on short, 1-3 day trips instead of bringing larger items.

Makeup is the easiest to downsize. You can get free samples at makeup counters, so make sure to ask the next time you go shopping!

Following these tips help you meet the 3-1-1 liquids rule with ease and make traveling carry-on-only possible every time you travel.


About the Author

Alexandra Jimenez teaches women how to pack in a light, stylish and efficient way on Travel Fashion Girl, the No.1 blog for female travelers. Originally from Los Angeles, she quit her corporate fashion job in 2008 to travel the world and has since been to 45 countries and counting.