Introduction: 3 Months of Toiletries, One Small Bag, NO REFILLS Carry-On

About: I am a year round outdoor educator traveling around the world taking youth into remote places to do cool stuff. I have been doing leather work since I was 8 at my parent's leather shop and love making things…

The photo above is every toiletry item I need for 6 months. Seriously, without refilling anything. And I carry it on-board, not in my checked luggage. And that includes menstrual products.

Full-size bottles take up too much room, but travel sizes run empty in a matter of weeks. I've hacked this problem so that I'm not replacing anything for at least three months. The other key to travel toiletries is to find the smallest version of big items like toothbrushes and hairbrushes. Have I mentioned I'm a bit obsessed with tiny things?

TSA Carry-on Basics

  • No liquid, gel or aerosol over 3.4 ounces / 100ml
  • All liquids/ gels should fit in a quart-ish sized clear-ish bag.

My bag is bigger than a quart sized and not really very see through. My boyfriend's toiletry bag is not see through. TSA is not that picky.Some people will tell you that 'all your liquids/gels have to be in that single bag, including lip balms and medical stuff.' THIS IS NOT TRUE. If you have a lip balm or a little tube of lotion in your "personal item" they won't stop you. How ridiculous would that be? 'I'm sorry ma'am, the lip balm in your purse has to be in the quart sized bag.' They just don't do that. I also have Neosporin, iodine, and aloe tubes in my med kit and have NEVER had a problem. Not a single time. These are considered medications and thus do not have to be inside of the quart sized bag. They should be under 3.4oz unless they are prescription and you have a doctor's note.

How to Go TINY

  • Find multi-functional products
  • Buy the smallest, lightest versions of essentials you can find
  • Go solid or powdered: water = weight. Solids last longer than liquids.
  • Repackage everything you can into the right size container

Step 1: What's Inside

Here is a quick list of what's in my bag. Please keep reading for detailed info on what I take and how to hack products to last 3 months and fit in your carry on!

What's Inside:

  • Deodorant 2.5 oz
  • Shampoo / soap /shave bar in travel case
  • Solid Conditioner in a GoTubb
  • Micro Hairbrush + Mirror
  • Sunscreen 100ml
  • Necklace
  • Travel Razor without the case + extra blades (I take men's Gillette blades because they're compact)
  • Menstrual cup
  • Concealer
  • Toothpaste
  • Sonic toothbrush
  • Floss + toothpicks
  • Eyedrops
  • Perfume (Travalo Bottle)
  • Hair ties, bands + bobby pins
  • Mascara (travel size)
  • Lip Balm
  • Lip Gloss
  • Micro nail clippers
  • Tweezers

Step 2: Soap, Shampoo, Shaving Cream = TOO MUCH STUFF

All those little travel bottles of liquid shampoo and conditioner are taking up too much room, plus they last less than a couple of weeks. Ditch them for a shampoo or 'all-in-one' bar that will last months. A shampoo bar provides a lather that is usually rich enough for shaving and as a body soap. My absolute favorites are the Coffee Shampoo Bar and J.R. Liggett's shampoo bar in the square soap case. I am currently using the square case for my square bars, but the GoTubb is my all-time FAVORITE soap/conditioner/odds-and-ends container.


I am crazy picky about deodorant and only use the unscented kind. One 2.5 oz tube of deodorant lasts me more than a year, so if I'm planning to be gone that long, I take a whole tube. If you're planning to be gone for a shorter amount of time, follow my DIY Travel Deodorant tutorial to put your favorite deodorant in a travel size deodorant tube.

Step 3: Teeth

It is so important to take care of your teeth while traveling. The last thing you need is a root canal in a third world country.

Toothbrush: I feel like my teeth aren't really clean unless I use an electric toothbrush. I found that tiny sonic battery powered brushes are widely available. I found mine at Kroger for $10 and I saw the same one at CVS for $15. Alternatively, you can get the Slim Sonic ($15) which is nearly identical, from Amazon. I'm pretty impressed with how tiny this toothbrush really is and it uses one AAA battery- easy to replace.

Floss is also important, but even the smallest rolls come in relatively large containers. I bought a bunch of tiny zip lock bags to organize my toiletries, took the roll of floss out of the container and put it in the little zip lock. Takes up half as much room. I also bring GUM Soft Picks toothpicks which come with their own little case.

Toothpaste- This is a bit easier to find around the world, even in travel sizes, especially in Asia. If you are picky about brands and want to bring your favorite, transfer your paste into the size tube you choose. A variety of tube sizes are available here. You could also consider tooth powder, which eliminates the water, thus making the amount you carry last longer. Here is a DIY tutorial on tooth powder from Wellness Mama. I take Toms toothpaste in the 3oz size which lasts me a long time.

Step 4: Hair + Razors

Brushes- For the benefits and feel of a nice brush, grab the Swissco Mini Brush- or find it at Sephora for twice the price. If you can live without natural bristles and want to save space, grab a micro folding pop brush with a built-in mirror from Amazon.

Conditioner- There are two great options for travel conditioner- a conditioner bar or a powder rinse. I make my own conditioner bars. Here are two great recipes. I keep my bar in the GoTubb. An acidic rinse is extremely popular and a great way to smooth the shaft of the hair after shampooing, but traveling with apple cider vinegar won't work. Marie of Humble Bee & Me has an awesome recipe for a powdered acidic rinse with herbs to detangle and add shine. Just put a bit in a cup of warm water to dunk your hair.

Bobbies and Bands- When I travel, I go super minimalist when it comes to things to put my hair up with. There are plenty of awesome ways to do my hair with an arsenal of less than ten bobby pins, five strong pony bands, and a dozen clear little bands.

From my experience, the best razor for travel is the Venus Snap Travel Razor. It says its a "women's" razor, but it fits all Gillette razor heads. The heads it comes with are gigantic. Leave those big heads at home, ditch the case it comes in and just rubber band your razor to a slim case of men's razor heads. You'll save tons of space and have plenty of refills. Gillette brand razor heads are easy to find around the world so replacing them is hassle free.

Step 5: Dealing With Menstruation

No post on toiletries is complete without a discussion about menstruation products. Remember my obsession with tiny and long-lasting? Tampons and pads are perishable resources. Relying on them requires a constant source to buy them, and using them creates a constant stream of trash into landfills. Tampons are incredibly hard to find in some parts of the Middle East and many parts of Asia. What do you do when you want to go swimming and there aren't any tampons at the shops? Say goodbye to tampons and pads forever with a menstrual cup. You need just one cup for the next seven years.

Here are the advantages:

  • Hypoallergenic surgical grade silicone
  • No recorded cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome
  • Does not disrupt natural lubrication and pH of your vagina (like tampons)
  • Lasts 7-10 years
  • Environmentally friendly- no more landfill waste
  • No strings to embarrass you in your bikini
  • Nothing to "pack out" or put in a bear bag while backpacking

For more info, check out my blog post on menstrual cups

Step 6: The Bag

Buy a small bag you like, and buy things that fit inside of it. Or, buy the smallest, most multi-functional and lightweight items you can and then buy a bag they fit into. Remember that if you are planning to carry-on your toiletry bag should be about the size of a quart zip-lock. I do not use a zip- lock bag because it would break in a few weeks. Many people online will try to tell you is HAS to be in a quart size ziplock. This just isn't true.

My bag is roughly quart sized, but it is a bit bigger and is kinda see-through. I have never had problems going through security.

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