A toiletries kit can make up a large percentage of your luggage, or it could be so small it’s barely noticeable. Purging your toiletries can be a great way to lighten your packing, but there are some things that you really shouldn’t be without.

As a general rule, choose things that are in containers smaller than 100ml so that you can carry your toiletries on the plane with you — this also encourages you to pack light! Keep the small bottles and refill them as you go; if you’re travelling with someone you can split the cost of a larger bottle of shampoo (or whatever) then decant it into your two separate bottles, leaving the large one behind.

1. Deodorant

Roll-on deodorant is a better option for travel

Choose a roll-on to avoid problems with aerosols on planes; spray deodorant usually comes in containers larger than 100ml anyway.

2. Soap and/or shampoo

There are many options when it comes to soap. Lush makes a shampoo soap that’s suitable for washing your hair and body, or you could just use regular shampoo as a body wash. We use Head & Shoulders two-in-one and use a Lush container to carry around a medium-sized soap. We also have a small collection of hotel-sized soaps, just in case.

3. Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss

It’s a good idea to get a plastic cover for your toothbrush head to keep it separate from the other things in the toiletries case. Check that the toothpaste is 100ml or less as most tubes are just a little over — most supermarkets have at least one smaller option. Dental floss doubles as minty-fresh string.

100ml toothpaste
Make sure your toothpaste is 100ml or smaller

4. Comb, hair gel, hair ties

You’ll know what your hair needs, but I discovered that a comb works just as well as a brush while taking up a fraction of the space. I don’t use the gel that often, but it is necessary in humid environments, or will be until frizz becomes cool. Boys, feel free to leave out the hairties.

5. Nail clippers and tweezers

You might not use them every day, but you’ll be surprised at how useful they are. Cutting your nails with paper scissors is not fun. Believe me.

6. Moisturiser and sunscreen

How much you need these will depend on your destination, but it’s worth having a small container of both. When travelling in the South Pacific, you should use sunscreen everyday as the hole in the ozone layer makes the sun more vicious than you might be used to.

7. Razor, shaving gel

Generally a razor with replaceable cartridges is a better idea than disposable ones that lose their edge and rust up with alarming alacrity. When it comes to lubricant, a gel will go further than foam, or you could try the tiny bottles of shaving oil that King of Shaves make.

Razor and gel
Choose a razor with a replaceable cartridge

8. Contact lenses, solution, eyedrops

If you are not blessed with perfect vision, contact lenses, solution and eyedrops should go in the case too. Consider getting daily lenses if you don’t wear contacts that often, as they are easier to transport and don’t weigh very much: less than the bottle of solution that you won’t need if you chooses dailies.

9. (Girls only): Makeup

Actually, you don’t need makeup at all. If you wear it at home, start to cut down a bit before your trip… You’re gorgeous enough without it. Plus, you can save a lot of time in the mornings if you cut makeup out of the equation.

However, it is nice to be able to get a bit dressed up, and two or three items can make all the difference: a lip liner, an eyeliner and mascara. Use lip balm under the lip liner to make it look more like lipstick. Do not pack foundation or powder. Similarly, avoid nail polish as it constantly needs to be touched up.

How big your toiletries case is depends on how ruthless you are. We tried to cut down by buying a tiny case that could only hold the essentials, but ended up with an extra plastic bag of shampoo and hairgel secreted in another section of the backpack that we tried to ignore. In the end we bowed to the inevitable and decided to use a larger bag that fits everything, even full-size shampoo bottles (not that we have any of those…). Find a solution that suits you and don’t skimp on the necessities: those around you will thank you.

Your thoughts on "Packing: what to put in your toiletries kit"

  • I usually enjoy your writing very much, Linda, but I found this post slightly offensive. "Boys, feel free to leave out the hairties." Really? What if they have long hair? And make-up is for girls only? This bothers me for two reasons: you are first assuming that all girls thinking of travelling already wear loads of makeup and need to cut down before they can leave, and second that all men thinking of travelling don't use any products that can be classed as makeup. I know guys who use a kind of foundation, various fancy face washes, and sometimes something to cover up blemishes. I'm not saying that you really need these things (for travel or not), but it just bothered me that you made the assumptions that all of your readers fit in to such heteronormative categories.

    on November 11, 2011 at 12:29 pm Reply
    • Hi Sam, Sorry you feel that way. There's a little bit of stereotyping that goes into any writing, especially when you're trying to make a dull but important topic a little lighter. Sure, boys have long hair and use hairties (Craig does from time to time); sure, not all girls use lots of makeup, and some boys do. Sometimes the terms 'boy' and 'girl' are completely useless descriptors. We're all aware of that, but to completely avoid generalisations makes writing unbearably academic in tone; and that's not something we want either.

      on November 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm Reply
      • Thanks for your reply. I realise now that my comment sounded rather hypersensitive and overly critical; it is just an article about packing toiletries after all! I really do like the work you do; that is just a pet peeve of mine, and I was compelled to point it out.

        on November 11, 2011 at 3:02 pm
      • Hi Sam, I know what that feels like: horrible to have your buttons pushed! We'll do our best to keep too many stereotypes (gender and other) out of Indie Travel Podcast, and hope you enjoy your future reading.

        on November 11, 2011 at 4:59 pm
  • Great advice, thanks. Ladies (and men who are so inclined) might consider eyelash tinting or lash extensions. And for ladies like myself, who shave for a cure, I accept that there are such things like hairbands are not something I need. However having One to give away is a great way to win a friend :-)

    on December 21, 2011 at 2:33 am Reply
  • Hi Linda, As someone who works for a company which produces bespoke travel packs and kits, we're always looking for new content to use on our website and in our newsletter - how would you feel about being featured? Naturally, we'll link to you and your website, and promote the article through our SM platforms. Regards, Kit

    on April 27, 2012 at 9:44 am Reply
    • Hi Kit, we'll be in touch via email.

      on April 28, 2012 at 11:50 am Reply

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