Is it normal to be jealous of a toiletries kit? I once felt pangs of dopp-kit envy when I caught a glimpse of a fellow traveler's perfectly organized toiletries bag, filled with little labeled bottles and just the right amounts of everything. As a consequence, I endeavored to unearth the secrets of a lighter, leaner toiletries kit. The following is what I found. Here are eight tips that will help you achieve a perfectly packed, trimmed-down set of products, with everything you need--and nothing you don't.
Get an Organizer
Step one to paring down your products: Invest in a good-quality toiletries bag. The more organized your toiletries kit, the more careful you'll be about what goes in there. Opt for a bag with lots of compartments (clear or mesh pockets are ideal for seeing where everything is stashed) and a loop with which you can hang the bag in your hotel bathroom or closet. Some decent ones include REI's Sea to Summit bag and this mesh, foldable hanging toiletries kit from Magellan's.
Of courses, these bags won't cut it with the TSA, so make sure you put your carry-on liquids inside a clear, quart-sized baggie. Once you're through the security line, slip your zip-top bag into one of the pockets in your organizer and you'll be set.
Pre-Pack Your Bag
Do away with the harried, last-minute attempts to stuff the shampoo you just used into a travel-sized bottle the morning of departure. Instead, set aside some time to arrange a well-organized dopp kit that's ready to go when you are. This way, you'll have plenty of time to carefully edit your toiletries kit and keep out unnecessary and oversized items. Purchase doubles of some products, like a toothbrush and floss, which you'll keep in this bag and use only for travel. (Don't look at it as an extra expense—you'll need to replace your toothbrush and restock on floss eventually, right?) And when you get home from your trip, there's no need to unpack that part of your kit, unless you need to refill some products. Just put it away until your next adventure.
Stock Up on Samples
I've written about this strategy a few times. (Read more in How to Pack for a Week in a Carry-on Bag.) I can't help repeating myself because this is one of my favorite ways to cut down on product overload: Stock up on tiny product samples. My favorite sample-sized products are the ones that come in flat little packets; you can easily fit legions of these into a quart-sized zip-top bag. How do you score them? A number of beauty and skin-care companies sweeten their sales with freebies. Sephora, Aveda, and Smashbox, for example, throw in tiny travel-sized products with orders. Or you can sign up for a beauty-product sampling service, such as Birchbox or Glossybox, which ships packs of sample-sized products to members who pay a subscription fee.
Don't Use So Much Product
Maybe you don't need to pack so many products because you don't need to use so much product. According to Dentistry.com, "Americans, especially young children, put too much toothpaste on their brushes, say members of the Chicago Dental Society." Cheryl Watson-Lowry, DDS, tells Dentistry.com that brushers only need pea-sized dabs of toothpaste to get the job done—as opposed to the quarter-sized squiggles we often see in toothpaste commercials. Same goes for shampoo: Women's Health reports that a quarter-sized amount is enough for an effective wash. Use less, pack less.
Use the Hotel Shampoo
Investigate the products that your hotel, cruise line, or vacation rental has on offer. Then use them. Abandon your loyalty to your favorite brand while on the road and your dopp kit will be worlds lighter. Try not to be so anxious about the state of your hair sans that special volumizing shampoo—you may be surprised by the quality of products available at your hotel. Many major properties provide high-end products in guest rooms. This year, Hyatt upgraded its bath-product offerings and now provides KenetMD skin and hair care. Renaissance Hotels have Aveda products. And W Hotels are stocked with Bliss bath amenities.
Pack Products That Multitask
Two-in-one products have come a long way since Pert Plus. From multitasking skin creams to high-end shampoo-and-conditioner combos, many upmarket beauty brands offer awesome skin and hair care that will help you look fabulous on the road while trimming your toiletries in one fell swoop. Nearly every department-store makeup brand now offers BB creams (BB is short for "beauty balm"), which typically combine concealer, primer, moisturizer, and anti-aging cream and offer SPF protection. Additionally, look for multitasking products like shampoos that double as body wash, dual-ended makeup applicators, and tints for both lips and cheeks.
Pack Solid Products
The TSA's quart-sized bag rule causes problems for many a traveler carting carry-on luggage only—myself included. Especially on long trips, it can be quite difficult to fit all of your liquids into that little baggie. So I buy solid travel toiletries whenever possible. Lots of products come in bar or stick form: There's solid deodorant, solid sunscreen, bar shampoo, solid foundation, stick fragrance, and even bar conditioner. Amass enough of these and you might not even need that clear plastic baggie at all. Even better: You won't have to bother with messy travel-sized bottle refills. It's easy to slice off a small sliver of hair soap and save extra room in that toiletries kit.
Buy Products in Paper Form
What's easier to pack than thin little sheets of paper? Nothing! Packing beauty and bath products formulated as paper is the absolute best way to achieve an ultralight toiletries kit. This paper hand soap is amazing. Additionally, I swear by Olay four-in-one daily facial cloths, which pack flat and take up virtually no room in a toiletries kit. I cut them in half to double my money. Other cool paper products include laundry-soap sheets from Magellan's, paper makeup sheets from Mai Couture, Purell hand-sanitizing wipes, and Listerine breath strips.
--By Caroline Costello