How to Pack Two Weeks of Toiletries in a Carry-On


I’m so glad you guys love reading packing tips, because I sure love writing them! By popular demand, I am talking today about how to pack two weeks worth of toiletries in a carry-on. I was surprised to have so many people request this topic, but clearly, the restrictions on liquids are really challenging! In the interest of full disclosure, I could not tell you the last time that I worried about packing all of my liquids in a quart-sized Ziploc bag. Because I have TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry (Trusted Traveler programs here in the U.S. that you can join), I do not have to separate my liquids out from my bag as long as they are the compliant size of less than 3.4 ounces. Therefore, this topic provided me with an interesting challenge and I was interested to see where I stood in terms of toiletry volume.

Step 1: Identify your essential toiletry items.

There are many products that we use at home that maybe we don’t absolutely need on a trip, especially depending on the nature of the trip. My first step is to think about what I’ll be doing when I arrive. For example, when I went to Nepal, I knew that I would have very few, if any, opportunities to shower, no mirrors, etc. Therefore, it didn’t make sense to bring a ton of bathing products because I wouldn’t have an opportunity to use them and they’d just weigh down my bag. I did need hand sanitizer, multi-purpose soap, etc., so those took precedence.

I decided not to bring my exfoliant because that seemed like a bit much.

Step 2: Ditch the travel-size bottles.

In addition to being horrendously expensive, those mini travel bottles of shampoo and conditioner take up a lot of space, and you need more than one for a two week trip. I was introduced last year to reusable travel bottles called GoToobs that you simply fill with your favorite product. The bottles come in 3 sizes – 1.25 ounces, 2 ounces and 3 ounces – and they have a dial on the bottom that you can turn to show what is in the bottle (shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc). These bottles never leak, and because of the way they are constructed, you just squeeze them and you get every last drop of your product out with no waste or shaking the bottle. These have been a game-changer for me, and I bought them in both the 2 and 3 ounce sizes!

If I had known how much easier these would make my life, I would have bought them years ago.

Step 3: Consider multi-purpose products that aren’t liquid.

I became a little obsessed with LUSH products last year, and a friend recommended that I try the bar shampoo and conditioner. It’s exactly what it sounds like – shampoo or conditioner formed into a bar of soap. I didn’t find that the conditioner worked well for my hair type, but the shampoo is great, and it also doubles as soap! It doesn’t count as a liquid since it’s a solid, and the container it came with keeps it from leaking into my bag, even if there is leftover water in it. I use it as a backup shampoo in case I run out, and as a multi-purpose soap for washing, laundry, etc! I also bring coconut oil with me on my travels because it can be used as a face wash, makeup remover, and moisturizer and you don’t need a lot of it! Below 78 degrees, it’s a solid, so you won’t count it as a liquid in the airport.

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Step 4: Downsize your bottles.

If you’re like me, you probably have some products that are in giant bottles and aren’t easily transferred, even though you don’t necessarily use a lot of them. I have a lot of products like that – tubs of moisturizer, Aquaphor, eye-makeup remover, and coconut oil – and I finally found a great way to transport them. The same people who make the GoToobs also make 0.4-ounce and 2-ounce containers that twist open, called GoTubbs. You can use them for anything – I have eye makeup remover in one, moisturizer in another, and even pills in a third. They take up virtually no space at all and never leak!

I only have the small size, but now that I see the big one, I’m tempted to get that, too!

Step 5: Remember, they have stores and supplies overseas, too.

At some point, you might just not be able to bring everything you need in a carry-on because of restrictions on the amount of liquids you can bring. For example, if you’re going to a hot and sunny destination, you’re probably going to need a decent amount of sunscreen! Well, the good news is, they almost definitely sell sunscreen where you’re going. The same goes for bug spray (although you can use bug spray wipes and pack those, instead). If it’s critical to you to only bring a carry-on, you may have to make some sacrifices. Remember, too, that most hotels (if you are staying in a hotel) have free shampoo and conditioner for use by their guests, and often other products, too. If you can survive without “your” products for a couple weeks, it might be worth it so that you can pack the things you absolutely can’t live without.

No room for a huge container of sunscreen in here!

Step 6: Pack efficiently.

This might sound really obvious, but don’t just shove everything into your quart-sized Ziploc bag and hope for the best. Play around with different arrangements until you figure out how to maximize your space. You’d be surprised what you can fit with a little patience!

It’s definitely possible to pack two weeks of toiletries in a carry-on if you are realistic about what you actually need and how much of it you’ll use, prioritize and have the right storage supplies!

LEAVE A COMMENT: What is your biggest packing challenge? Do you tend to pack a ton of toiletries, or a little?


14 thoughts on “How to Pack Two Weeks of Toiletries in a Carry-On

  1. Great post. I have always struggled with the toiletries component. I’m going to have to look into these GoToobs because they sound so beneficial.

    1. They are seriously great! I wish I had known about them years ago. It would have saved me a ton of money!

  2. I’m a pretty light packer so that has never been an issue for me!

    My application was just conditionally approved for Global Entry an my interview is next month. I’m excited about that. Maybe a post on the application process/benefits/experiences of the travel programs would be good?

    1. That’s a great idea, Fritz! I’ll definitely do that. You are going to love Global Entry! It is seriously the best thing ever, and always having pre-check is amazing!

  3. I use GoToobs too! Fun fact, you can get them at Nordstrom Rack! FYI, they are great and never leak, but I swear that they are prone to evaporation over time. I leave them in my travel bag and I feel like I’m always filling them up.

    1. Yay, GoToobs! I didn’t know you can get them at Nordstrom Rack – that’s awesome! I never thought about them being prone to evaporation. I feel like I need to do a scientific experiment!

  4. Along with packing cubes, I totally need those GoToobs.

    When I went to Hawaii, I didn’t bother packing sunscreen because I was staying with a friend and I knew I’d be able to use hers.

    My biggest issue is always separating the want from a need in products.

    I also have Global Entry/Nexus and it’s amazing! Such a game changer in the airports.

    1. Girl, YES! Get packing cubes and GoToobs and thank me later. They will seriously change your life. I don’t know how I ever traveled without them (packing cubes especially). It really can be hard to separate the want from need, but I just try to be realistic. I think because I travel so much, my experiences are fresh in my mind – like oh hey, I never changed my clothes from my day outfit to “going out” clothes, so I probably don’t need to pack a “going out” outfit for every day. Same rule applies to toiletries. It’s easy to forget when it has been a while, though!

  5. First of all I have to thank you for introducing me to the packing bag things that you put into your suitcase to separate items. I used them for the first time going to Hawaii and they were seriously life changing! My Type A was doing backflips at the organization and ease of finding things!
    That said, I actually have those travel bottles but could definitely use the tubs for things like my flying meds 🙂
    Lastly, I made the mistake of waiting to buy sunscreen in Hawaii because two tubes cost about $60…and, we didn’t even use one of them so I left it there. UGH.

    1. YES!! I’m so glad you bought the packing cubes and realized their life-changing powers! Now you will find yourself wondering how you ever lived without them before. I feel you on the sunscreen – that happened to us in Curacao as well. It was outrageously expensive! But losing your luggage is a pain, so sometimes we just roll the dice.

  6. Can you take sunscreen in a carry-on? I thought the size would be too big. I would like some cubes for Mother’s Day…lol or maybe a nifty backpack. Just kidding!

    1. That’s my point – sunscreen is usually too big to put in a carry-on (unless you purchase a travel size or put the cream in one of the travel bottles). If you’re going anywhere sunny for two weeks, you’re going to need more sunscreen than that, so it comes down to whether or not you want to deal with checking a bag. If not, you can just buy it there and use it. I’ll put that gift idea in the suggestion box 🙂

  7. I may look into these GoToobs. My biggest issue usually winds up being body wash – bringing enough of it. I have two small travel bottles of body wash (probably 1.5oz each?) that I just refill… I could easily solve the issue by getting a 3oz bottle for it, but whatever…. 🙂

    And I’m with you on TSA Pre-Check… changed my life! Well, that may be a bit of an oversell. I got it in May of last year, and was so grateful to have it when I went to Cleveland and Philly for the RNC/DNC. The lines flying home weren’t as bad as I was expecting, but TSA Pre took away any worries I had. And, I didn’t have to take my laptop and liquids out, that was huge. When I flew back from Tucson in December, I realized how spoiled I had become, because they didn’t have the Pre line open at the time — they didn’t have enough people working! I didn’t have to take liquids out, but I still had to take off my shoes, and take out my netbook, I think… and I was behind everyone taking everything out….

    1. Ugh, yes! It is terrible when the Pre Check line is not open! That happens on our early flights here because our airport is really small, so they don’t even bother. It absolutely KILLS ME to have to take my laptop out. I normally travel with a bag that makes taking it out not a big deal, but it always seems like the times I have to take it out are when it is packed in a daypack that is filled to the brim (for an international trip or something) and taking it out is a huge ordeal. I am totally spoiled too!!

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