secrets of carry-on only travel: toiletries

July 5th, 2011 / by / in: travel / 1 Response

One of the hardest parts of carry-on only travel (at least for me), is the toiletries part. Canada and the US follow the TSA rule of no liquids over 100ml (3oz), and everything has to fit in a 1 quart ziptop bag.

It took awhile, but I’ve assembled a kit of carry-on toiletries and makeup that’s completely separate from my regular toiletries and makeup. The secret? Mini everything!

I’ll start with makeup. Since I’m a snob (again, refer to the title of this blog), I don’t buy drugstore makeup so most of this stuff is from Sephora.


I am obsessed with buying these sorts of little kits that Sephora sells. (Benefit here and Smashbox here). I try to buy ones that contain mini versions of stuff I use on a daily basis. (I LOVE the Smashbox primer.) They are usually relatively inexpensive too. I’ve found sets like this for all the makeup brands I use on a regular basis and now have mini versions of pretty much everything I use.

Another tip: I try to find non-liquid versions of cosmetics when I can, and/or use multi-purpose items. Why use liquid foundation when you could use a solid foundation OR use a tinted moisturizer?

Sephora-brand sets are a good deal too and come with a variety of brands. I love the SPF one — it’s only $25 and comes with a variety of tiny sunscreens that are PERFECT for travel.


Pretty much the same deal here. I buy travel/trial sets so that I have minis of the things I use. Philosophy is my skincare line of choice.

And don’t forget makeup wipes! They don’t count as a liquid, so they’re excellent for travel. Sephora also sells brush wipes so you can clean your brushes on-the-go. I usually have better things to do than clean my makeup brushes while travelling, but I like the idea.

For shorter trips, I bring a package of these Yes to Cucumbers wipes. They come in a mini size with 10 wipes and cost $2 or $3 at Shoppers Drug Mart. Even if you aren’t part of the carry-on only club (yet!), these are good to have in your bag. I like to get on long flights makeup-less and put on makeup before landing.

I can’t travel without lip balm, and this one by Fresh is my favourite. I’ve shared my love for it before, but I’ll say it again. FAVOURITE LIP BALM. I also have the other three colours, but the rose is the best.

A good mini moisturizing hand cream is always a must as well. (Airplanes like to suck as much moisture from your body as they can. They’re vicious that way.) I like this one because it’s also anti-bacterial! I also have a mini bottle of Coriander lotion from Kiehl’s that I love — it works as a hand lotion and a body lotion.

If you’re reading this and don’t feel like spending time collecting myriad mini versions of everything, there’s always the easy route of dumping your stuff into travel bottles. I suggest getting one like this Sephora set (sold here) than comes with a FUNNEL. (I capitalize because it’s important.) If you’re impatient like me (who has time for funnels?) you will end up with makeup and shampoo and lotion all over your counter and your hands and yourself. This is probably why I don’t go the travel bottle route.

I realize that this is sounding like a big Sephora ad, but I honestly buy almost all of my makeup there. (Sephora is not paying me, but I wish they were.) I have an embarrassing number of Sephora points. Anyway, a good thing about ordering online is that Sephora always throws in a bunch of samples. These are super useful for short trips, or just for saving and trying out something new. Another good thing about ordering from Sephora is that I get United miles.

One thing I DON’T buy at Sephora is makeup brushes, but I’m using theirs for illustrative purposes. All of my makeup brushes are from MAC. At Christmas, MAC sells brush sets with travel-sized brushes and I have accumulated several of these over the years. A good set of travel-sized brushes is very useful. (You could also just buy a travel set and use them all the time. MAC brushes last forever.)

I’ve written about cute ziptop bags before, and these ones from Sephora are pretty fun. Of course, you could just use the regular Ziploc ones from the drugstore. (I do, all the time.)


For shorter trips, I usually use the hotel shampoo and buy a bottle of hair conditioner when I arrive. For longer tips, I’m a fan of Lush’s solid shampoo bars. They work really well, and don’t take up any precious liquids space in your carry-on. For other assorted hair products, I have more minis from Sephora.  One of my favourites is a very tiny mini bottle of Josie Maran’s Argan Oil.


Solid perfume is your friend. It’s portable and best of all, frees up more room for other liquids. I’m kind of obsessed with this Diptyque Philosykos solid. I also like to order perfume samples from Luckyscent. They’re cheap, and they come in very, very tiny vials so they take up almost no space.


Mike doesn’t have a lot of toiletries in his carry-on. He usually has a mini toothpaste, some moisturizer, some man perfume, and some shaving cream. In any case, he likes Kiehl’s moisturizer (with SPF!) and Jack Black shaving stuff.



I love Asian-style face masks (you know, the kind that cover your face and make you look like a scary monster). They’re ubiquitous in Asia, but difficult to find here. Myfaceworks is a Canadian company and I was happy to find them. Their masks are perfect for travel. (They’re kind of expensive though, so I need to just stock up on Asian masks next time I’m in Japan.)

I had a brief love affair with La Fresh wipes. They make wipes for everything. Anti-bacterial wipes, nail polish wipes, deodorant wipes, insect wipes, SPF wipes, tooth-cleaning wipes, glasses wipes, the list goes on and on. I still carry a couple of these around (the screen cleaning wipes are great for cleaning my iPhone!) — they’re useful for emergencies. You know, nail polish and sunscreen emergencies.

I’ve written about before, but this is probably my favourite product that they sell. (If I could find it somewhere in Canada, that would be even better!) Spray it on your clothes and they magically get less wrinkly. Awesome for travel.

Lastly, my number one carry-on item is… Wet Ones antibacterial wipes. $3 at the drugstore but SO USEFUL. I wouldn’t ever travel without these now. They’re especially good for wiping down gross tray tables.

I should post a photo of my ziptop bag of mini toiletries, but that will have to wait for another entry!


1 Comment to secrets of carry-on only travel: toiletries

  • […] anything that isn’t at least loosely tied to travel. (I have blogged about nail polish and carry-on toiletries before, but they’re both travel-related.) This is a more tenuous link, but I have to mention […]

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