When heading off on long-term travel, packing your toiletries can be a bit difficult. You’ll be gone for a long time, so you want to have everything with you that you regularly use at home.

It’s important to maintain personal hygiene, but some people go overboard when packing toiletries for travel – everything in the bathroom cupboard gets thrown in, regardless of how often it’s used. So, how can we reduce the amount of toiletries in our bags?

1. Be ruthless
Consider each item carefully before you put it in your toiletries bag. If you only use it once a month, do you really need it? Can you go without it for the duration of your trip?

2. Travel with someone
Having a travelling companion can help to lessen the weight of toiletries you’re carrying. Have your own toothbrush of course, but share everything else. Find a toothpaste, shampoo and hair gel you both like and just buy one of each.

3. Buy a smaller toiletries bag
Lots of people have enormous toiletries bags that inevitably get filled with unessential items. Once you’ve decided what you’re taking, buy a bag that’s just big enough to fit everything in, or a tiny bit bigger. It will help you to avoid impulse buying.

4. Don’t bother with mini-sized items
When travelling short-term, mini-sized toiletries can be really useful. But if you’re heading off for a month or more, you’ll just get frustrated with them, as they’ll run out and you’ll spend a lot of your time trying to find somewhere to refill them.

Small toiletries in a plastic bag for flights.
Buy small toiletries for short trips, though!

5. Buy full- or medium-sized items
Instead of mini-sized, buy full-sized items, the same as you would at home. Don’t buy the biggest size though, and avoid special offers like “25% extra free”. 200ml shampoo is a good size that should last you a while.

6. Use 2-in-1 shampoo for everything
It isn’t necessary to have specialised items for each part of your body. 2-in-1 shampoo cleans every part pretty well, and can double as clothes wash as well. Find a brand that suits your hair, and use it as both shampoo and body wash. It might be a little more expensive than soap or shower gel, but having only one bottle instead of three or four will really make a difference to the size of your toiletries bag.

7. Don’t replace items until they’re finished
Don’t carry around spare items. Most of the time you’ll be able to replace an empty bottle within a day or two of running out. If not, there should be some sort of replacement available to tide you over. If you’re really nervous about becoming dirty, keep a mini-soap in your toiletries bag for emergencies – you can use it if your hotel doesn’t provide hand soap, or if you run out of body wash or shampoo. It won’t be quite the same, but it’ll tide you over until you can replace your essentials.

Roll-on deodorant is a better option for travel

8. Use roll-on deodorant
Roll-on deodorant tends to be packaged in smaller bottles than spray-on, and lasts longer as well. Plus you won’t annoy your dorm-mates by filling the dorm room with your particular smell.

9. Cut out electric items
Don’t even bother with electric toothbrushes, razors or hair straighteners. Take a plastic toothbrush and disposable or standard razors, and find a way to do your hair that doesn’t need electricity. Not only will it lighten your load, but you also won’t have to spend so much of your time hunting for a power plug near a mirror (they seem to be unheard-of in some parts of the world).

10. Buy a mini-towel
While not strictly a toiletry item, your towel can be one of the largest items in your bag. But you don’t need all of that surface area! Your local sports or outdoors shop will sell highly absorbent mini-towels that take up a lot less space. They come in a variety of sizes, but one that is the size of a normal handtowel is more than big enough to dry yourself off after a shower. If you use your towel to lie on when you’re at the beach, take a sarong instead – you’ll get all the surface area you need, and it will double as a skirt in times of need. Even if you’re a guy.

So, what are you waiting for? Dig out that toiletries case and get ruthless.

What’s in your toiletries kit? Share in the comments.

Your thoughts on "Ten ways to reduce your toiletries on long trips"

  • or just carry a toothbrush and toothpaste and shampoo/soap! your backpacking, you dont need the rest!

    on July 11, 2008 at 10:41 pm Reply
  • Good list, if a little long, but try 'Camp Suds' for soap as it works as shampoo, body soap, laundry soap, dish washing soap, etc. Essentially, anything you need to clean can be cleaned with Camp Suds and it's biodegradeable and it doesn't dry out the skin or hair.

    on July 13, 2008 at 6:56 pm Reply
  • Thanks for that Genevive, I hadn't heard of Camp Suds - it sounds perfect. I'll have to keep an eye out for it - hopefully it comes in an anti-dandruff edition! Matt - yep, I think dental stuff and shampoo are my top two, but I definitely need deodorant as well! Plus, since we often are working on the road, having hair gel is a priority for us.

    on July 16, 2008 at 4:10 pm Reply
  • I know that REI carries Camp Suds. I tried the camping section of a sporting goods store once but that was useless. If there were a store more devoted to camping you might find it, or something like it, there. Because it's a multipurpose soap I don't think they have an anti-dandruff formula but it does have scents in it that are supposed to be bug repellent. :)

    on July 20, 2008 at 8:24 pm Reply
  • Bringing a mini-towel seems like a nice suggestion, but you never know the kind of provisions that will be provided to you on trips.

    on July 23, 2010 at 11:53 pm Reply
  • Yes, if you're staying in hotels, you'll probably not need all this. If you're couchsurfing or staying in a hostel, however, you'll need to provide for yourself.

    on July 24, 2010 at 5:09 am Reply

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