Toiletry packing tips when bringing a carry-on only

Toiletries packing items displayed

What in the world do you pack for toiletries on a three-week vacation with a carry-on only? Especially when you have to follow strict liquid restrictions when travelling by plane to your destination, in our case Europe.

Here are some of my travel tips and essentials when it comes to toiletries being packed in your carry-on or personal bags.

Feel free to watch the YouTube video on toiletries!
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Meet liquid restrictions determined by your country of departure / destination / transit

CATSA approved liquids bag
CATSA approved liquids plastic bag

In Canada, the restriction is that your liquids need to comply with being in a container 100 mL or less and fitting within a 1 litre (L) bag.

Majority of the airports in Canada have CATSA approved transparent liquids bag available for travelers to use to put liquid items in when they go through security. For liquid toiletries, whenever I go to the airport, I try to pick up an extra one to two of these CATSA approved bags for future travel.

Having this transparent toiletry bag is great for figuring out what you NEED and not what you WANT to bring, as you will have to make the tough call on what is in and out of this bag.

For other airports around the world I don’t know if they have these bags available.

It is important to check what are the liquid restrictions for all the countries you are traveling to and from, so you can find out what liquids are allowed / not allowed, size of bag and type of bag to use for your liquids.

These rules can change at any time.

Liquid restrictions are determined by the Country of departure, destination and transit not by the air carrier such as Air Canada.

I typically check the airport website for the Country I’m departing from, transiting through and destined to for this information.

Here’s a link to the Canadian CATSA website for more information on what you can and cannot bring in your checked or carry-on bag when departing from, transiting through and destined to Canada:

Also, to save you from being questioned by security it is best to put your liquids in containers that are labelled.

Tip 1: Have all liquids in a properly labelled container.

Products with labels

Packing toiletries

The way I like to pack toiletries is to refer to my regular routine to remember what I need. I lay out everything that I need onto my bed to see what I have to determine if I need anything else or if I have to pare down.

Tip 2: Lay out everything to see what you’re bringing – keep or eliminate.

Laying out all the toiletries on my bed

Oral hygiene

  • Electric tooth brush for days of eating sugar and carb heavy meals to get a good clean
  • Regular extra soft toothbrush for the morning or to have on the plane
  • Dental floss
  • Toothpaste – these are items I typically get from the dentist, so this is the best time to save and use on trips
Sample size toothpaste I collected from my visits to my dentist

Body hygiene

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner

Choose your dispensing bottles wisely. My husband and I like this type of bottle as the nozzle makes it easier to squeeze out the shampoo.

Bottle with a nozzle

We tested the shampoo bottle between myself and my husband and it has lasted 18 days in total with both of us using a quarter size of the amount each.

Tip 3: Test dispensing bottle while you’re still at home to see how many days or weeks it lasts.

  • Loofa
  • Shower cap – for days you don’t want to wash your hair
  • Body wash – in this case this also doubles for me as a face wash

Tip 4: Think about products that at least double as another purpose to pack less.

  • Shaver and bring an extra shaver blade – Put your shaver in a plastic bag in case things are still wet from the shaver and you have to get to your next destination
Shaver in plastic bag

For body hygiene, remember you can substitute these liquid items with dry shampoo, conditioner and bar of soap, if you have other more important liquids to bring.

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Tip 5: Substitute liquids with dry versions of them, based on personal preference.

After shower / bath hygiene

  • Dry deodorant
  • Lip balm
  • Q-tips
  • Tweezers
  • Small bottles of lotion for hands
  • Baby powder if the place is humid
  • Face moisturizer for the evening
  • Nail clipper and file – Please check with your Country of departure, transit or destination to get information on if you are restricted from bringing a nail clipper, this item was restricted at one point a long time ago
After shower / bath hygiene toiletries

Other self-care items

  • Liquid tears such as refresh tears – My eyes have a tendency to get dry and airplanes are the worst for pumping out dry air!
  • Foot pads
  • Comb
  • Hair elastic bands
  • Bobby pins
  • Hair hold sheet, these are fantastic to keep your hair out of your face
  • Tissues
  • Disposable cloth hand sanitizers – If you don’t want to bring liquid sanitizer
  • Band-aids
  • Polysporin
  • Hydrocortisone cream

I would recommend you book an appointment with a travel consultant doctor or pharmacist for advice on medicines or items to bring when travelling to another country and what items to bring to build a thorough and comprehensive first aid kit.

Other items to pack

  • Portable hook – Whenever we’ve stayed at hotels or AirBNBs, there always seems to be a shortage of hooks for clothes
  • Stain pen
Tide stain pen and portable hook to hang on any door

Got a friend / significant other / family member coming along…

Tip 6: If travelling with additional people, consider bringing toiletries that you can share to save space.

My husband traveled with me, so in his toiletry bag he also brought these items:

  • Sunscreen lotion for extra lotion and for sunscreen if needed
  • Refillable perfume / cologne bottle
  • Hair gel
  • Mouthwash
  • Small bottle of detergent – To hand wash clothes as we only brought about a week’s worth of clothes for a three-week trip
  • His own electronic toothbrush head – We only needed to bring one electronic toothbrush body, which was me, and one charger for it

Keep in mind too, you don’t have to be super prepared like me as this is my own personal preference.

If you’re going to a hotel like we did, if the hotel has decent lotion, shampoo, conditioner, bodywash and soap you can use those too to get by during a long trip, especially if you find that you’re running out of supplies on your end.

Always know that you can buy all these items in any of the countries you are going to and just need to be flexible with what you get.

Tip 7: Consider using hotel toiletries to supplement your own or purchase at a local store.

Packing your liquids into the 1L bag (100ml per container)

There is a technique to get all the liquid toiletries to fit the CATSA approved liquids bag.

It’s like playing tetris, where the key is to shape the bag like a cylinder and to have items that are flexible packed into the smaller crevices of the bag.

Tip 8: Apply the tetris mindset and you will find ways to make everything fit.

All my liquid toiletries fit in the 1 litre CATSA approved liquids bag

Liquids at the security checkpoint at the airport

Keep in mind I didn’t be pack these liquid items into my carry-on luggage.

Instead, I packed the liquids bag into my personal item bag, as I’ve had to take out my liquids bag and put it into the security bins that you put your stuff in when you go through security.

It’s way easier to put the liquids in your personal item bag than your carry-on luggage, where you have to go through the hassle of unzipping the whole luggage. 

Trust me, when you’re at security you should have everything readily accessible as security lines go pretty fast and this is a way to reduce stress when going through security.

The CATSA approved liquid toiletries bag needs to go into my personal backpack for ease of access at security

Bags to put your toiletries in

During our trip we moved from hotel to hotel and country to country.

I put my toiletries in a water proof bag as things tend to get wet in the washroom and I can easily wipe and sanitize these bags as I move from place to place.

I avoid fabric bags as sometimes you maybe in a hurry to pack and may drop your bag on the dirty floor or that your liquids may explode (has happened to me) if the cap wasn’t sealed on tight.

Waterproof toiletries bag

And just in case, here is the…

The entire toiletry packing list

  • Electric toothbrush
  • Electric toothbrush head
  • Electric toothbrush charger
  • Extra soft bristle toothbrush
  • Dental floss
  • Toothpaste
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Shower cap
  • Body wash
  • Loofa
  • Shaver
  • Shaver head replacement
  • Deodorant
  • Lip chap
  • Q-tips
  • Hand / body lotion
  • Baby powder
  • Face moisturizer
  • Nail clippers (bring nail file if needed)
  • Foot pads
  • Hair comb
  • Elastic hair bands
  • Bobby pins
  • Hair sheet holder
  • Tissues
  • Disposable cloth hand sanitizers
  • Band-aids
  • Polysporin
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Liquid tears (Refresh tears)
  • Portable hook
  • Hair gel
  • Refillable travel perfume bottle
  • Mouthwash
  • Sunscreen
  • Liquid detergent
  • Liquids bag provided by airport
  • Ziploc bag
  • Waterproof toiletry bag

Check out these other videos as you travel pack for your next vacation!

Packing tips: Carry – on
Packing tips: Personal item