Packing Toiletries And Beauty Products - une femme d'un certain âge

Travel Prep: Toiletries, Makeup, Meds

Chateau de Chantilly view from entrance. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

While I usually wait until as close to departure as possible to make my final travel wardrobe selections, there are a few other preparations I like to handle in advance. (And I find doing so helps avoid last-minute scrambling or forgetting something important.)

Packing Toiletries And Beauty Products

I find that anywhere from a week to two weeks ahead of departure is a good time to re-organize and re-stock my toiletries kit.

How to select & pack toiletries for TSA. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I keep my EMME toiletries bag packed in between trips, but a few days before we leave, I pull everything out and take inventory.

  • OTC meds: toss anything that’s expired, or mostly used up and replace.
  • Skincare: I go through sample packets, organize by product type and clip or rubber band together. If I’ve decanted any products into small travel containers, I dump any leftover product, wash the containers, and re-fill.
  • I make sure that my liquids* will all fit into a quart-sized baggie. The clear pouch on the EMME bag is also designed to be TSA-compliant for liquids. (While I’ve never had any issue taking the clear pouch from the EMME bag through security, some people have reported they did. If you’re on the cautious side, you can always travel with your liquids in the quart baggie and transfer to the pouch once you arrive at your destination.)
  • Cosmetics: I like to pack a fresh tube of mascara, and new or nearly-new lipsticks for travel. While I love to shop for skincare and some makeup when I travel, I don’t want to HAVE to in a pinch because I’ve run out of something.

Liquids And TSA…

While security checkpoints have become a little more efficient over the last few years (and with Global Entry, the process is further streamlined), I still prep and pack as though everything will be scrutinized. Liquids include:

  • Toothpaste
  • Shampoo, conditioner, hairspray
  • Creams, oils, lotions, sunscreen, liquid foundation.
  • Liquid fragrances
  • Eye drops (unless prescription)

Regarding those sample packets, I always ask for samples when I visit department store cosmetics counters. Sometimes you can get travel sizes of favorite products during “gift with purchase” promotions. Sephora usually has a ton of travel-sized products and sets. Otherwise, you can decant your favorite products into travel-sized containers.

*What I don’t count as liquids:

I usually pack these separately in a cosmetics bag along with my tools (tweezers, eyelash curler, makeup brushes, nail clippers, etc.).

*While I have never had a problem with these at security checkpoints, your experiences may differ. So use your own experience, judgement and comfort level.

Hair Tools And Products

I’ve received many questions over the years about tips for packing hair tools and products. Because my hair requires minimal upkeep and styling, I’ve consulted some of my travel-savvy blogger friends with different hair types who have shared their packing tips and favorite products here:

A Few More Advance Travel Preparations

In addition to packing toiletries and beauty products, here are a few more preparations you can take care of a few days before travel:

✅ Check your prescription medications to be sure that nothing will run out while you’re traveling. You may need to arrange a “travel advance” with your pharmacy to be sure you’re covered.

✅ Call your credit card companies to let them know where and when you’ll be traveling. If you plan on making any larger-than-usual purchases while you’re out of town, make them aware of that too.

✅ Set up a “vacation hold” for your mail if no one will be home.

✅ Download your airline’s mobile app and register, if you haven’t already. This is a great way to stay on top of flight delays, gate changes, boarding notifications, etc.

✅ Locate charging cords for any devices you’re planning to bring (phones, tablets, portable speakers, magnifying mirror 😉)

What travel preparations do you prefer to handle in advance?

Stay in touch.

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  1. June 6, 2019 / 2:23 am

    It’s a good idea to try out your samples at home, to know how long they’ll last. Probably longer than you think. I like solid versions whenever possible–soap, shampoo, body moisturizer. Less spill risk.
    I was once chided at airport security for not including lipstick with liquids. I can (kind of) understand a gloss, but lipstick? On the return, I included the lipstick, and then got chided for crowding up my liquids bag with a nonliquid. Also, tweezers and nail clippers were confiscated on yet another trip. Maybe it was just an agent in a bad mood. Now I put those in my checked bag.
    It’s good to have two credit cards, or a debit and a credit, and to NEVER carry both of them. A friend just got pickpocketed while traveling and he had everything in his wallet; luckily he was traveling with someone who paid his way for everything. Leave it all in the hotel safe or in your AirBnB and just carry what you need for the day. Don’t carry your insurance cards and driver’s license, etc. And above all, not your passport. An ID is good to have in case you have an accident and can’t say who you are. But take something that won’t upset your life if it’s swiped.

    • Wendy
      June 6, 2019 / 4:43 am

      Good info, thank you. I never thought of leaving 2nd card in room

      Also I am a convert to the Emme Bag, I love it. I was reluctant In switching as “I already had a system “, which consisted of multiple bags for multiple categories of products and tools. I ended up needing a tote just to carry all these bags, not to mention the disorganization at a small sink. I was also reluctant because all of the large cost of the cosmetic bags

      Well, I finally said enough is enough and bought one bag! Emme, Bag, thank you Susan for giving me back my suitcase space. I am a true Believer in how great this Bag is and amazed at how much it can hold

      Another tip, I wash my hair twice a week I book an appointment at home day before with my stylist so at a minimum I have a blow out. After 4-5 days Of travel I will get another blow out in the city that I am in. Saves lots of room in suitcase.

      Travel well

    • Jill Ann
      June 6, 2019 / 3:13 pm

      My husband & I bring different credit cards. So if he gets pickpocketed, I’ll still have a card that we can use. I do carry all my cards, ID & passport with me, but I use a crossbody bag with a fairly thick strap. And I bring a copy of our passports, which I leave in my suitcase. Fingers crossed, but we’ve traveled a lot in Europe and never had any incidents.

      • Susan Harper
        June 7, 2019 / 7:37 am

        My in-laws are military and they say to always carry your passport with you in a secure place when overseas …just in case. Keep a copy in your suitcase. I have an anti-pickpocket cross body, but am careful. Husband and I bring different credit cards too.

  2. Margot
    June 6, 2019 / 4:52 am

    For my quite long hair I usually only wash every 2-4 days so for a 10 day trip I carried the basics (shampoo & conditioner), a very small container with 3-4 portions of the styling products I use (2 products mixed together), used the boat/hotel hair dryer, and took my hair straightener (since I can straighten or do simple curls with it) which ended up not working with the European electrical system no matter what I tried – the best laid plans! I also took a travel size dry shampoo for emergencies.
    I did take a few styling options – a couple of Brighton ponytail holders
    (which I feel really dress up that basic style), hairpins for buns, regular holders for braids.
    At first, we only carried copies of our passports per online advice but ran into a couple of instances where only the original would do. If you don’t want to carry your drivers license maybe getting a state ID would be a good idea. My husband travels often for business and he uses his state ID at the airport, etc. If it gets lost or stolen it’s not nearly as disrupting to your life as a stolen/lost license.
    Per TSA website I could take my knitting needles and small folding scissors (although I lost them in Paris. They allowed the scissors once but not the second time. I couldn’t help thinking the female agent just liked them! Lol!). Somewhere in TSA info I read that the round cutting medallions are not allowed. Maybe because those cutting slots use tiny segments of razor blade to cut?

    • June 6, 2019 / 7:07 am

      The only time I fly is abroad, so I need my passport. I don’t know if local authorities in other countries would recognise my Québec Health Card, would anyone here? Here, that would be the equivalent of a State ID, but they are universal. Usually I leave my passport in a safe where I’m staying/working, but often seminar participants from the Global South can’t do that without a risk of police targeting them. Bar shampoo is a good idea, but are there any for curly hair with a definite kink?

      I’d love to travel with only a carry-on, but my problem is sharp things like a really sharp knife (for food prep, no, not to mug someone!) a corkscrew, tweezers, sharp scissors along with needles and thread…

      • Terri
        June 6, 2019 / 8:56 am

        I use solid shampoo from Lush and they do have a solid for curly hair!

        • Janet R
          June 6, 2019 / 1:25 pm

          Hi Terri, I’d like to try the Lush solid shampoo. Do you know if it’s suitable for coloured hair? Also, what do you do for a conditioner or does Lush make a conditioner bar as well? Thanks :).

          • Carillon
            June 6, 2019 / 2:51 pm

            I color my hair and use the Lush Godiva shampoo and I usually don’t need a conditioner with it, although they do have solid conditioners too.

    • Jill Ann
      June 6, 2019 / 3:18 pm

      I used to bring my curling iron on European trips, but after struggling with adapters (blew out a fuse on one), and, as you mentioned, European electrical systems, I just bought a curling iron at Boots for about £18. I got a plug adapter for the European outlets, so I can use the iron in both UK and the rest of Europe. Makes life much easier!

  3. Terri
    June 6, 2019 / 4:54 am

    After years of some international travel and a lot of US travel with the same products the same way, on my return trip through Gatwick a couple of weeks ago my entire bag was heavily scrutinized and repacked by security because she considered all the items mentioned above to be liquids. That had never happened before and she was surprised to hear I’d been through Gatwick’s north terminal with the same bag packed the same way just the week before without question. So to see your list….yes, even heavy creams are liquids, as is a tube toothpaste of any size, although my implements were spared as was my lone lipstick (I’m not as stylish as y’all). Fortunately we had enough time for the nearly 30 minute delay this practical lesson caused! The agent’s demeanor was kind, and we had a good convo as I kept my cool.

    • Janet R
      June 6, 2019 / 1:31 pm

      My experience is similar to your’s Terri, in that I experience inconsistencies in ‘liquid scrutiny’ at the same airports, seemingly dependent on who checks your gear on the day. I have been travelling full-time for almost two years: in Europe, USA, Canada, NZ, Australia, Vietnam etc and this is one of the most frustrating parts of packing my gear, and has now made me switch from purely carry-on, to checking one bag in the carriage, so that I don’t risk losing some of my ‘liquids’. I always keep my cool too, as I appreciate the security risks, but some consistency in checking would be welcome, at least in the same airport lol!!

  4. Cheryl
    June 6, 2019 / 5:10 am

    I put my prescription meds in those little plastic zip-lock bags you can find at craft stores. They’re about 1×2, and pack flat in my toiletries bag. I get copies of the drug/prescription label from my pharmacist and stick it on the bag. Haven’t had an issue.
    Also, Paula’s Choice sells samples of most of their products, as well as travel sizes. The samples last 2-3 uses and are all under $1 each. Great hack if you like their products.
    Good post, Susan. I always love your posts about travel…clothes choices, etc., and this is right up there with them. Thank you.

    • Pam
      June 7, 2019 / 7:09 am

      Love Paula’s Choice products. I also carry her samples when traveling. Three free with each order.

  5. Marcia
    June 6, 2019 / 5:26 am

    Just a note about credit cards. Check the card’s expiry date far enough in advance so that you can order an early replacement if the card will expire while you are travelling.

  6. Suzanne
    June 6, 2019 / 5:39 am

    I have been told more than once that toothpaste is a liquid. I also like the small foil packets of peanut butter but on our last flight from heathrow an announcement was made about not eating nuts or peanut butter. We had the pb plus granola which all had to stay in our bag. I have a small European friendly hair dryer which I like to include even though I only wash my hair every 3-4 days as well. I also bring an empty water container that I fill when we get through security. I always check a bag, so most toiletries go in there. Because we have family in Europe, we often go for several weeks and a carry on just is not enough. I also include compression socks for long trips and ear plugs. I always have my nook stocked with books.

  7. Katrinka
    June 6, 2019 / 5:59 am

    Lots of great information here. We’re going to England in a few weeks and having this updated information about “liquids” will help prevent issues going through security. I will also start my packing with my toiletries and meds so perfect timing on this blog, as usual, Susan! I’m going to check out the Emme bag. I have a very old Rick Steves toiletry bag that needs to be replaced. Thanks for the discount!

    • Janet R
      June 6, 2019 / 1:36 pm

      Katrinka, I recently received my Emme bag (thank you for the recommendation and link, Susan!) and am delighted with it. I bought the small bag and it fits my essentials plus a few extra items, with just my (full-size) shampoo and conditioner needing to be placed in a separate bag, for which I use a ziplock to avoid leakages.

      • Katrinka
        June 7, 2019 / 6:17 am

        I keep changing my mind about which size to get! I compared the measurements of the original with my old toiletry bag and it’s very big! We’re going to England for 10 weeks and I have several items I need to bring that will last the entire trip. We’re only changing cottages twice but will go away for 2-night trips while we also have the cottage. I thought I could use the smaller bag for those excursions. Still trying to figure this out!

        • Katrinka
          June 9, 2019 / 5:58 am

          Decision made. I bought the original. Thanks for the discount, Susan!

  8. Carillon
    June 6, 2019 / 6:01 am

    I use Lush’s Godiva solid shampoo and tooth powder to save space. I take very small scissors with blunt ends and never have a problem with TSA or Europe travels, but they were taken away in Costa Rica. I also purchased the EMME and love it. We had a different one, but it seemed bulkier than the EMME.

    • June 7, 2019 / 12:26 pm

      I need to use a toothpaste for sensitive teeth and enamel protection (Sensodyne, but usually identical pharmacy brands) but I can buy a small tube here if travelling carry-on only. It is easy to find in Paris or Amsterdam (main destinations except for trips to Italy). In the Netherlands, Belgium, and now in some French and German cities, HEMA is more or less the equivalent of Monoprix. There is a small HEMA at Schiphol airport which can provide several essentials if you had to surrender them, such as tweezers or small scissors. They also have decent cleansing cream and conditioners.

      I also wear little makeup. Old hippie I know, but very happy with Burt’s Bees lip shimmer in the Plum (darkest shade). My lips are naturally quite dark. The essential is a charcoal brow pencil, as my salt and pepper brows are a bit frightening. Black too harsh, brown too red. Almost never wear foundation.

  9. Lee Ann
    June 6, 2019 / 6:35 am

    Love this post! Thank you! I wear prescription glasses, so I always pack my most previous pair of glasses in a corner of my suitcase. Just in case something happens to the current pair, I won’t be totally blind!

  10. Katherine C. James
    June 6, 2019 / 6:38 am

    We follow a lot of the same steps, though it’s been a while since I traveled abroad. In the autumn, I hope. This is an excellent reminder checklist. Thank you.

  11. Elizabeth
    June 6, 2019 / 6:41 am

    I too have switched to an EMME bag thanks to Susan’s advice, but found the regular size too large for my 21” carry-on limitations; switched it out for EMME’s smaller bag which seems better-suited for my needs.
    I rely on hotel/B&B hairdryers but pack my old school Velcro rollers which can nest inside each other & weigh nothing to style my thick chin length hair. Bought a small travel curling iron which is useless- if you’re tempted by travel products catalog copy, don’t bother with this, it’s too small to do much!

  12. Rondi
    June 6, 2019 / 6:44 am

    Suggestions for packing vitamins and supplements for carry on? The original containers are too large so can they be repacked in any way?

    • Susan B
      June 6, 2019 / 7:09 am

      I usually put mine in a small baggie.

      • Karen
        June 6, 2019 / 8:06 pm

        I recently switched to THE PILL BAG which can be purchased from Amazon. I find that they are more compact than ziplock bags if you’re going away for two weeks or more. I also love the EMME bag!

        • Macaroni
          June 9, 2019 / 4:44 pm

          Oh, I like that! Great idea.

    • meg
      June 6, 2019 / 10:07 am

      I pack my vitamins and supplements in Ziploc bags. I write on them with a sharpie marker, and have never had a problem. My husband does the same thing.

  13. Tess
    June 6, 2019 / 7:08 am

    Great tips, thanks! RE the variability of what’s allowed: I had my point-tip tweezers confiscated, and have seen toothpaste and mascara considered liquids (or gels). I also saw a TSA agent and a woman discussing whether her lipstick (which he had fully extended) was a solid or a gel. Seeing as how it didn’t need a container to maintain its shape, solid seemed obvious, but TSA is not into physics discussions.

  14. Holly
    June 6, 2019 / 7:11 am

    Great ideas for my toiletries EMME bag which I recently purchased per your recommendation. How do you obtain your skin care and hair product samples? I’m not familiar with Paula’s choice as suggested. Since I have sensitive skin prone to the occasional skin break out, I’m fairly selective on my skin care items.

    • Susan B
      June 6, 2019 / 7:30 am

      Hi Holly, I usually just ask at cosmetics counters (and stick to brands I’m familiar with and have used before). Stores like Sephora and Ulta will also often have samples available.

  15. Diane Horn
    June 6, 2019 / 7:18 am

    I found this article to be very helpful as always enjoy reading your travel suggestions. I have a question about packing EMME bags. When filled with products do you lay flat and open in your suitcase (as I do with my current system ) or do you zip it up and place that way? I’m asking because I “try” to pack in a carry on size suitcase whenever possible and am always looking for packing tips.

    • Susan B
      June 6, 2019 / 7:26 am

      Hi Diane, I usually fold up and zip my EMME bag. But depending on your luggage and how you pack, you may find it easier to pack open/flat.

  16. Jane2
    June 6, 2019 / 7:48 am

    I travel with a very tiny, very efficient hair styling iron and depending on where I’m going, a travel hair dryer. If I need product, I purchase at my destination.

  17. Elizabeth
    June 6, 2019 / 8:06 am

    I’m your age, Susan, and I’ve been travelling overseas regularly since 1972. So I’ve learned to streamline my packing habits, but I’m not perfect!! Here are ideas that make my travelling easier.
    -get a good haircut that only needs a brush, squirt of product & a hairdryer(use ones in hotels or ask at front desk for one)
    -take only 3 make-up items: lipstick (usually throw one into each bag=3), mascara & tinted moisturizer with SPF (I love expensive Clarins Super Restorative Tinted Cream SPF 20 and cheaper Yves Rocher Solaire Peau Parfaite SPF 30, also tinted)
    -small jar of night cream & small container of good hair conditioner(free ones in hotels usually not good, but their shampoos are fine)
    European women always seem to have great simple haircuts and minimal make-up and they look so smart! Why spend the morning fussing with hair & make-up when you’ve come so far and spent so much on transport.
    IMPORTANT: always pack a change of clothes, nightie and extra panties in your carry-on should your suitcase go missing. If you’re worried that your carry-on might be gate checked, pack extra top, panties, socks, thin nightie in your handbag. C’est tout!

    • June 6, 2019 / 5:49 pm

      Thanks so much; Lush is a Canadian brand and easy to find here. Although I’m mostly white, I have a definite “African” or “Negroid” kink as my maternal grandfather was Obama-colour. By the way, I also have blue-green eyes. I’ll check that out.

  18. Carol Montanti
    June 6, 2019 / 8:40 am

    I travel with a dual voltage curling iron, most of them seem to be dual voltage, and find it is enough to tame my thick wavy hair without taking my straightener. Then I only need the adaptor for the plug. There is always a hair dryer, it seems. I take facial wipes ( a new package) to dodge the liquids rule, a package of wipes doesn’t count ( or so far it hasn’t). Choose a product that you know you tolerate for face and eye makeup removal.

  19. Suz
    June 6, 2019 / 9:13 am

    I agree with leaving your passport in the safe but take it with you when going to buy an EU SIM card. We were just in Belgium and had to go out a second time to get our SIM because we did not have our passports with us, a photocopy is not acceptable.
    From the tsa website, lipstick/lip balm are solids and do not count as liquids….
    One thing I find is that the tsa is not very consistent. With the trusted traveler, in Vancouver it sometimes closed so you go through regular tsa. Then you may have to take out the liquid bag. If you take it out in the trusted traveler line, they sometimes scold you and if you don’t they want it out (Montreal). This is what I have experienced recently in Canada. So again it would be nice if it was standardized. I like to follow the rules but need to know them first !
    One thing I always do now after is take my time packing everything back up as this can be stressful and may lead to something overlooked.
    I thought this article was helpful, and you can search for items on the site for guidance.

    Thank you, Suz from Vancouver

  20. Anon
    June 6, 2019 / 9:16 am

    I take a copy of my eyeglass prescription, stapled to my optician’s business card. There’s always my prescription sunglasses, if needed.

  21. Lyn
    June 6, 2019 / 9:26 am

    Bring a nightlight for the bathroom so you don’t have to turn on a jarring bright light if you get up during the night. You can buy tiny USB nightlights that go in charger plugs. Even better — buy a European-style USB charger plug. It’s so much easier than the adaptor/US plug combo, especially since I no longer bring any actual electric appliances with me. A USB charger plug is all I need. (And take a European plug for a nightlight on cruises — they often have no American-style outlets in the bathroom.)

  22. Chandra
    June 6, 2019 / 9:51 am

    I make copies, front and back, of everything in my wallet and place in the bottom of my suitcase.

  23. Ainsivalavie
    June 6, 2019 / 10:57 am

    Make sure your passport is up to date! That might seem obvious but certain countries will not recognize a passport that is within three months of expiring. Contact the consulate or embassy for the country or countries you are visiting to find out the expiration time they allow. I remember hearing about a couple who won a trip to Italy but when they arrived at the airport one was denied entry at customs because the passport was going to expire in six weeks. Even though they would travel to and return in less than ten days.
    Also extended wear contact lense wearers…bring enough extra lenses or if bi weekly wearers bring another pair…AND your glasses!!

    • June 6, 2019 / 6:45 pm

      Thanks so much; Lush is a Canadian brand and easy to find here. Although I’m mostly white, I have a definite “African” or “Negroid” kink as my maternal grandfather was Obama-colour. By the way, I also have blue-green eyes. I’ll check that out.

  24. Kathy
    June 6, 2019 / 11:05 am

    I found that purchasing a EU flat iron/dryer in Europe made my international travel life (flight attendant) so much easier. I needed to have a dryer that can accommodate a diffuser. I purchased the flat iron and blow dryer @ MonoPrix in France. ✈️

  25. June 6, 2019 / 11:40 am

    Yes, this is what I do as well. Maybe a little less strict but more or less the same and I have a toiletries bag like you show. Very handy to hang on the bathroom door.

  26. Judi
    June 6, 2019 / 12:09 pm

    I actually contacted EMME customer service about their clear plastic pouch being TSA compliant, because it does exceed the TSA dimensions (at least mine does, I think I must have the large bag). Their rep said that they stand by their claim that it is TSA compliant, and the only complaints they’d had were from travelers going through Heathrow. Just an FYI. I have traveled domestically and to/from Mexico and have not had a problem in 3 years, but I still carry an empty quart ziplock in my carryon just in case! (I was caught out uncompliant one time in the early days of the liquid restrictions and had to toss everything, never want to make that mistake again!)
    Also, second the users who recommend traveling with a shampoo bar – may not be for all hair types but with my super-short pixie cut, it’s awesome and makes for one less liquid to squeeze into that bag! I use Chagrin Valley Butter Bar, it’s also a bit conditioning so it’s like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc all in one!

    • June 6, 2019 / 6:50 pm

      I’d look like some kind of ghoul with a pixie cut, but I’ll see if it will do for my kinky locks.

  27. Macaroni
    June 6, 2019 / 1:18 pm

    1. Scan your passports and email yourself a copy.

    2. Drugs of choice: Ibuprofen, melatonin, and hydrocortisone cream.

    3. Small ziplocks for everything in the toiletries bags, which get nested into 1 of 2/3 large quart sized bags. Bag 1: shower items (easy to grab shower); Bag 2/3: sink/other

    4. When prepping toiletries I gave a mini cube for overnight flights: melatonin, eye mask, toothbrush/paste, eyeglass holder, hand sanitizer

    5. 2 days before flying: pedicure/sometimes haircut/blowout.

    • Jeanne J
      June 6, 2019 / 2:47 pm

      I like your idea of using a small cube for overnight flights. My carry-on tote gets disorganized, in spite of its pockets. I’m going to try your idea.

      • Sheila-Merle Johnson
        June 7, 2019 / 10:34 am

        What is a cube?

        • Wendy
          June 7, 2019 / 6:33 pm

          I think they’re referring to packing cubes. They are lightweight (nylon/poly?) fabric “boxes” with zippers, used to pack in a neater or more organized way.

          • Macaroni
            June 9, 2019 / 5:42 pm

            Yes packing cubes from Eagle Creek. And, I use the shirt folder–which I use for dresses and pants, and all my clothes I don’t wan to wrinkle.

  28. Hiluhilu
    June 6, 2019 / 1:39 pm

    Great tips! I also leave my passport in the hotel, but carry my US passport card with me for ID. Check with your bank/card company regarding PIN numbers. We were told that they could not start with a 0 and changed them. I bought a cheap brush-style hair dryer last time I visited Europe and will take that back with me. It’s great for drying and styling at the same time and for refreshing one’s hair style in between. I’ll check out the solid shampoo, thanks for the tip. What’s your experience been with wipes? Are they considered liquids or solids?

    • Susan B
      June 6, 2019 / 1:41 pm

      I’ve always packed my makeup remover wipes with my solids, never had an issue.

    • Sheila-Merle Johnson
      June 6, 2019 / 4:48 pm

      What’s a US passport card?

      I carry a ConAir butane cartridge cordless curling iron with me. It’s not as hot as the corded ones, but it works fine. I also put all of my toiletries and cosmetics in ziplocs. They are lighter than the bags like Emme’s.

      Thanks for your travel articles. They are helpful and stimulates good discussions. @sheilamerle1

      • Hiluhilu
        June 7, 2019 / 8:51 pm

        It’s a credit card-sized card that serves to validate identity and US citizenship. On domestic flights it satisfies the Real ID requirement. It can be used in lieu of a full passport for certain land border crossings, but not for international air travel. I got it when I renewed my passport and like the idea of a compact official ID. See

  29. Janet R
    June 6, 2019 / 1:53 pm

    Another very helpful post, thanks Susan! Couple of things I find useful as a full-time traveller: I take photos of all my important documents and cards, including my eye glass prescription and a letter from my doctor about any medications I’m carrying. I store these on my smartphone in a ‘travel’ section, in case I need them. I also scan and email my travel/health insurance policy document. I also send copies of these documents to a family member in my home country (Australia) as a back up for emergency.
    My one luxury item is a small travel hairdryer as I don’t always find them en route. It’s a high quality one, dual voltage with a safety switch-off, folds in half and weighs about 300g. I opted for one with a USA plug and I use a small adaptor with it in Oz and elsewhere.

  30. June 6, 2019 / 2:02 pm

    I like to do as much preparation as possible in advance too. According to TSA rules, mascara is considered a liquid. Since it’s the one makeup item that I simply can’t do without, I always pack it in my 1 quart ziplock bag. As far as hair, mine is wild and curly. I don’t use appliances on it even at home, but I do depend on mousse to keep it under some semblance of control. Since I can’t take that with me when I travel carry-on only, I’ve found a curl cream that works reasonably well and decant some of that into a 100 mL container. Perhaps all credit card companies are not the same, but the last time I called mine to let them know that I would be traveling, they told me that it isn’t necessary to do that anymore. One less prep step was fine with me!

    • Patricia
      June 6, 2019 / 9:17 pm

      A couple of years ago we flew into Frankfurt and our card was declined at the car hire desk – we hadn’t alerted the bank, as per their advice. Now we always call in advance, they tell us it’s not necessary, and we tell them our story!

  31. Linda
    June 6, 2019 / 2:32 pm

    I bought the travel mirror but found the lighting and magnification were not sufficient for my aged eyes.

  32. Jeanne J
    June 6, 2019 / 2:43 pm

    In Italy last year, I found that I didn’t need a travel hair dryer as the hotels all had them (luckily, since I didn’t take one ;)), but my dual-voltage curling iron was really useful for “emergency” touch-ups – interesting to me, since I rarely use one at home. I just had a hunch…
    Like others, I scan my important documents (itineraries, passport, fronts and backs of credit cards, prescription list from doctor). I upload them to Google Drive, but any cloud service or cloud-based email would work. That way, if my luggage and/or handbag is lost or stolen, I can still get at the documents from some other computer or phone. Maybe overkill, but it puts my mind at rest.

  33. Angela in NZ
    June 6, 2019 / 4:30 pm

    My best tip is a comprehensive packing list (currently 3 pages!) which I have personalised from Brenda Kinsel’s. For each trip we print off a copy and meticulously check each box starting with the advance prep. There are sections for checked and non checked bags as well as essential items such as meds. We are still making alterations as we travel more and discover what we may have missed or is superfluous. It’s a great tool for both international tours and domestic road trips.

  34. Sheila-Merle Johnson
    June 6, 2019 / 4:53 pm

    I lost my travel list compiled over 30 years, so I too am using friend and colleague Brenda Kinsel’s list as a basis for developing a new one – a laborious task. @sheilamerle1

  35. Wendy L.
    June 6, 2019 / 9:32 pm

    So many great tips! The only one I would add is MUJI brand travel containers. They have a wide assortment of sizes in tubes, tubs, squirt bottles and are lovely quality and inexpensive.

  36. Lee Ann
    June 7, 2019 / 5:25 am

    This may be “overkill,” but when I check a bag that includes my toiletries kit, I drop the kit into a big (2 1/2 gal) ziplock baggie. It’s another safety in case the toiletries leak. And then on the way home, we can pack wine (olive oil, etc) into the baggie, cushioned by dirty clothes, into the suitcase to travel home.

  37. Katrinka
    June 7, 2019 / 6:36 am

    I keep changing my mind about which size to get! I compared the measurements of the original with my old toiletry bag and it’s very big! We’re going to England for 10 weeks and I have several items I need to bring that will last the entire trip. We’re only changing cottages twice but will go away for 2-night trips while we also have the cottage. I thought I could use the smaller bag for those excursions. Still trying to figure this out!

    • Rondi
      June 7, 2019 / 7:51 am

      I find I need the same amount of toiletries for a weekend trip as I do for a longer trip. I pretty much use the same products every day so the number of products does not change much because of the length of the trip. What changes, of course, is the amount of clothing.

  38. Sheilah
    June 7, 2019 / 6:40 am

    I consider myself to be very security conscious of my valuables when traveling- I carry a zipped purse with zipped pockets inside and leave my passport, most of my money, airline tickets and so forth in the hotel safe, only carrying with me what I will need for that day. Yet I still had my wallet pickpocketed in London and my purse stolen from a chair I was sitting in in Puerto Vallarta on days when I was carrying my debit card because I needed to stop and get cash. Thieves at major international tourist destinations are very fast and very skilled. What I learned from this is not to travel with a debit card from which you have automatic deductions taken- Insurance, utilities, charitable donations, web subscriptions, etc. I discovered and reported these thefts to my bank within a few minutes, the card was canceled and I was not out any money, and I still had the credit cards and money in the safe to continue my trip. However, the real misery was when I returned home and had to deal with finding which auto deductions were on that card and changing all the payment arrangements, which took days. I also had a card declined and canceled in Paris, with the same consequences, even though I had notified the bank of my travel itinerary, because I tried to make two separate purchases in the same boutique (I saw something else I wanted just as my first purchase was being completed.) According to the bank, that was considered to be “suspicious activity.” That day, I was not carrying a second credit card, and my one shopping day in Paris was ruined. Now my debit card stays home when I leave. Travel is certainly a learning experience.

    • Carillon
      June 7, 2019 / 11:47 am

      I always travel with a travel purse, with locking zippers and mesh panels and straps that can’t be cut. Also, the strap can be fastened to a chair, so no-one can just pick it up. I have a friend who had her purse stolen off her lap and never even realized it. I think thieves are more likely to target one that is easier to get into. My current favorite is Arden Cove.

      My husband uses a Scottevest, but I find them heavy, if I load them up. He almost lost his iPhone in Paris, when some cute gypsy girls surrounded him. He felt one try to unzip the outside pocket. I just pushed my way through the group, but he was trying to be nice. Hah! He will never live that down and he learned a valuable lesson not to store stuff in the outside pockets that he cares about.

  39. Debbie
    June 7, 2019 / 12:23 pm

    For lotions, face creams, etc. I’ve found brands that come in tubes. The tubes take less space than jars or bottles, and compress over time. I rely on the shampoo the hotels supply. I’ve discovered my hair doesn’t look any different. For make up removing wipes, I use some that are dry — Olay gentle clean. I actually cut them in half and it’s sufficient to wash my face — I don’t need a whole one. I count out how many days I need and don’t bring extras. Also, for a nightlight I’ve taken a small battery-votive. I make sure I turn it off every morning and have a fresh battery.

  40. Sheila-Merle Johnson
    June 7, 2019 / 6:02 pm

    I keep a small checking/savings account in a local branch of a large bank – enough money to avoid any fees. Then when I travel I put enough money in the checking account to cover the cash expenses for the trip and I cancel the link to the savings account. That way if I lose it, thieves only have very limited access. The account comes with a debit card which I use to get cash. I use my United Explorer card for purchases, lodging, meals, etc. because it has no fee.

  41. June 11, 2019 / 9:05 am

    So much great information on your site. I find your readers comments helpful also. I get so involved with all your great information. I always find myself going back and learning some helpful hint before a trip.

    • Susan B
      June 11, 2019 / 9:28 am

      Thanks so much, Sandra!

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