I love traveling with as little encumbrances as possible. There are many things I’m willing to sacrifice for the sake of traveling light—the main one being choice. For an entire month of traveling, I only pack the following clothes: two pairs pajamas, one hoodie (I wear a jacket on plane), a scarf, one pair of pants (I wear jeans on plane), one skirt, one pair shorts, seven tops (one I wear on plane), one cardigan, lingerie, and one pair of shoes (one pair I wear on plane).
“Wear one pair of jeans for a month,” you ask incredulously? I have. One particularly cold May in Italy Jon and I had to each wear our sole pair of jeans almost every day.
By the end of the trip, I would just take them off at night and stand them next to me.
I jest…they weren’t that disgustingly dirty, but they certainly weren’t fresh.
Other than clothes, I bring a tablet, phone, camera, monocular, small journal, travel cribbage board (it’s a necessity for us), foldable bags, corkscrew, compression socks, sound machine, towel, envelopes, travel lock, adapter plugs (for Europe), and sunglasses/case.
But there is one category I won’t cut back on (at least not on its substance)—toiletries. I will downsize those products like they’re a retirement home, but I’m not willing to completely get rid of my beauty potions and lotions.
How does a person carry makeup, creams, cleansers, health supplements, medicines, hygiene products, and other toiletries without weighing herself down like a pack mule? Here’s how I pack all the goodies I need to feel my best and freshest while still traveling light.
- Buy When You Get There: For toothpaste and contact lens solution, I bring a small travel-sized container of each and then buy a full-sized product when I get there. The small size is just to get me through the first night and to bring back with me so I have a back-up if there are delays, but that way I’m not bringing multiple small bottles of contact lens solution or several tiny tubes of paste. I also do this with body lotion, too. I don’t even bring a small bottle. I just buy a larger one when I get there and have fun trying out the local beauty products.
- Pack What Won’t Be Available: Depending on where you are going, it may make sense to pack a few first-aid items. For instance, it’s difficult to get ibuprofen in Europe so I pack those. Bandages are plentiful, but they’re also tiny and useful so I pack them, too. I also pack triple antibiotic cream for blisters since I’ve had difficulty finding this abroad.
- Repackage Vitamins: Instead of bringing a bunch of bulky bottles, take the vitamins out and put them in small Ziploc bags (snack-size). They take up a lot less space and if you count them out correctly you bring nothing home.
- Get a New Label for Rx to Repackage: For prescription medication, ask your pharmacist if they will give you your prescription label separately so you can carry it with you. Once you have the label, you can then transfer your medication from those bottles into snack-sized bags.
- Consider Solid Shampoo & Conditioner: For shampoo and conditioner, you may want to consider solid forms of the two. For trips longer than a week, I just buy them at my destination or use what is provided. I honestly can’t recall the last time I packed either shampoo or conditioner. If we are staying in a hotel, I use what they are offering and if we are staying at a rental without amenities then I just drop by the local store. This is infinitely more fun for me since I get to try out cool new products. Too frequently, I’ve returned home with an extra bottle of one or the other that I’ve fallen in love with.
- Leave the Hairdryer at Home: Rentals and hotels supply these. It may not be as good as yours, but even the travel-sized ones are bulky.
- Be Wary of Taking Hair Tools Abroad: Seriously reconsider bringing any hair tools if you are traveling abroad. Even though the tool may say it converts to the electricity of the country you’re visiting, sometimes it doesn’t. The converter you attach to make the plug fit won’t help if the motor itself isn’t configured to convert from 110 volts to the European standard of 220 volts. Take it from someone who has burned out a hair straightener that was supposed to be dual voltage…think twice about if you’re willing to risk your hair tools.
- Find Hair Products that Multi-Task. For me, I just bring a small bottle of 10-in-1 leave-in spray and a small can of hair spray.
- Use Sample Jars to Downsize Skincare Products: I take a lot of skincare products (eye cream, serum, face cream (day and night), toner, cleanser, sunscreen, and a prescription dermatological product) so one would think right there that my beauty essentials take up a lot of space…but they don’t. The month before I leave I pay special attention to how much product of each I use so I know the amounts to set aside. I have sample jars (purchased on Amazon) that each hold 10 grams (.35 ounces) of product, which I fill with the creams I need more product of like face cream, sunscreen, and serum.
- A Contact Lens Case Works for Really Small Amounts: For eye cream, which I need even less than 10 grams, I just use a little cleaned out sample container from Sephora or a contact lens case. If you’re going for only a week, you might be able to just use a couple contact lens cases to hold all your creams and serums.
- Silicone or Plastic Bottles are Great for Downsizing Liquids: For liquids, like toners or cleansers, I suggest 3-ounce silicone containers from Amazon. If your toner has alcohol or acids in it though, I recommend getting regular plastic 3-ounce bottles (Dollar stores have them) so the toner doesn’t make the silicone gummy.
- Look for Makeup Multi-Taskers: If you can find products that have multiple applications (and you like) then bring those along. They can certainly reduce your baggage.
- Downsize Your Makeup Wardrobe: Although when I’m at home I love having lots of lipsticks and eyeshadows to choose from, when I go on vacation I put one lipstick in my purse and pack a complementary eyeshadow palette that can go from day to night. I also bring all the other makeup essentials (foundation, concealer, powder, bronzer, blush, eyeliner, mascara, brow gel, highlighter) I need, but only one of each product. For a makeup diva like myself, it’s difficult but I’ve done it for years now and survived…even through a professional photo shoot.
- Find Mini Sizes of Your Favorite Products: You will notice that until now I have avoided recommended travel-sized items—that is because I generally find the packaging confoundedly bulky. Makeup is one area where it might make sense to find a smaller package, especially given how bulky some items can be. If you can find a mini and save a bunch of room, this would be the time to do it. For liquids, you can just put some in a sample jar or contact lens case like you would a skincare product though.
This toiletry packing list has made it so I feel my best on vacation and ready for whatever comes our way. I travel light, yet want for nothing.
Please share your packing tips with me in the comments below; I’m always looking for new ideas. Happy travels! Amy
Other packing blogs:
Tips for Packing Light: https://roaminghistorian.com/2018/01/21/travel-tips-packing-light/
Odd Essentials I Can’t Travel Without: https://roaminghistorian.com/2021/09/05/packing-list-for-vacation/
Tips for Best Way to Pack a Suitcase: https://roaminghistorian.com/2016/01/17/packing-tips-best-way-to-pack-a-suitcase/
Check out our fabulous photographic prints on our Etsy shop for yourself or as a gift.
Are you looking for a fun small-group tour in Europe or the United States? Roaming Historian is an affiliate of The Tour Guy. They offer unique experiences, small groups, special access, and exceptional guides. Use our affiliate link, Tour Guy, or visit our page dedicated to them to learn more about the Tour Guy.
Disclosure: Roaming Historian may derive revenue from affiliate links and other sources, which helps offset the costs of bringing you the information we do. The blogs and reviews posted on this website are of our own opinion though.