5 Tips for Packing Family Toiletries

By: Jane McGrath

Packing everyone's toiletries can be the trickiest part of prepping for a family trip.
Packing everyone's toiletries can be the trickiest part of prepping for a family trip.

What's worse than having to pack your entire daily routine into a travel-size pouch? Having to do that for your whole family. So, in addition to your hygiene and makeup products that you can't do without, you'll have to plan for a lot more. Have teenagers? Plan for makeup bags, 12-step acne products, soaps for sensitive skin, shampoo for colored hair, and of course all the razors, pliers and so on.

Sound daunting? Well, it is. But we'll equip you with some quick tricks to make sure disasters don't ensue.


5. Ensure Sealage

Next to losing your luggage, there aren't many things sadder than opening your suitcase after a long trip to find that everything -- from your underwear to your nice suit -- is drenched in blue shampoo. That's why the most important principle of Packing Toiletries 101 is sealage.

First, close containers tightly. Yes, we know that sounds obvious, but it's important nonetheless. As a backup, get sturdy plastic zip-top bags to hold all possible leakers -- shampoo, conditioner, lotions and other liquid products.


And what about those pesky pump bottles? One trick is to lodge a piece of cardboard under the lip and tape it in place.

4. Use Travel-size Bottles

Some people think these are cute -- others think they are overpriced. But you can't deny that travel-size toiletries are very handy. If you're flying, they usually qualify under TSA restrictions on amount limits. But even if you aren't flying, they can be a great way to save weight and space so that you can travel light.

OK, so maybe that $80 bottle of moisturizing lotion from Sweden doesn't come in those prepackaged travel sizes. Some places sell empty bottles you can fill. Or, simply don't discard your used sample bottles -- reuse them instead.


3. Compartmentalize and Consolidate

A separate compartment can keep your toiletries organized.
A separate compartment can keep your toiletries organized.
C Squared Studios/Photodisc/Getty Images

We maintain you just can't be too organized. And when you're traveling with the family and constantly rushing to unpack and repack, you should be able to pull out the toothbrush quickly, and without having to unpack everyone's clothing.

Most importantly, it helps to separate toiletries from clothing. The plastic zip-top bags we mentioned earlier will do in a pinch, but a compartmentalized toiletry case would be even better. Some even hang conveniently as shower caddies.


And consider consolidating the family's toiletries. Sharing, if possible, will simplify things, and make for a lighter load.

2. Find Solid Options for Flying

The limits on liquids in carry-on bags can be a pain. If you like to travel light -- which gets you a gold star in our book -- you won't need to check any baggage. But, how to get around those liquid restrictions?

There are nifty alternatives to certain liquid toiletries. After all liquids were banned on carry-ons, USA Today highlighted a few, such as deodorant made of mineral salts that work when moistened. Other options include cake mascara, powder mascara, teeth wipes and even solid shampoo bars.


1. Fly, Then Buy

So, this might seem like a cop-out to a "packing tip," but perhaps the best solution to packing toiletries is, well, not to. Some people opt out of packing toiletries altogether. Instead, they wait until they've arrived at their destination and simply buy their necessities there.

Some caveats: You might only be able to do this if your voyage isn't too long -- your family certainly wouldn't tolerate this option for a three-day car trip, for instance. And, the pickier family members won't necessarily be able to find their special skin products in every convenience mart.


Whichever option you choose, just remember: The goal is to focus on having fun with your family instead of fretting over your luggage.

Lots More Information

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  • Baskas, Harriet. "Now What? Alternatives for our toiletries?" USA Today. Updated Oct. 20, 2006.http://www.usatoday.com/travel/columnist/baskas/2006-09-12-baskas_x.htm
  • Cardone, Laurel. "Fodor's how to pack, Volume 9" Random House, Inc., 2003. (May 24, 2010)http://books.google.com/books?id=-1cn5cjNyW0C
  • Gilford, Judith. "The Packing Book: Secrets of the Carry-on Traveler." Ten Speed Press, 2006. (May 24, 2010)http://books.google.com/books?id=0aFtrpZXymMC
  • OneBag.com. "Packing List: Toiletries." OneBag.com. Last updated May 5, 2010. (May 24, 2010)http://www.onebag.com/packing-list-toiletries.html
  • TSA. "3-1-1 for Carry-ons." Transportation Security Administration. (May 24, 2010)http://www.tsa.gov/311/311-carry-ons.shtm