Women’s Travel Toiletries 16

Traveling light with a well packed bag can make a good trip better. What you bring and what you leave behind depends on your personal tastes. Nothing is more personal than women’s travel toiletries. It’s a tricky topic, and I am not speaking for every woman, but I’ll give you my spin.

Every woman has her own beauty routine, depending on age, style and upbringing. I don’t actually remember my mom ever training me on how to use cosmetics, so I don’t use many and don’t think much about it. Other people devote a large space in their brains to it. I know that it is virtually impossible to make a list of women’s travel toiletries for every single woman, but perhaps my minimalism is a way to start.

Let’s review the basics. Keep in mind that no matter what your beauty routine, I suggest keeping it all in a TSA approved 3-1-1 container, which amounts to a quart sized ziplock bag. I know this sounds insane or impossible, but I promise you that I actually do it this way. Toiletries can weigh a ton, and minimizing here can save weight. I am on the road far longer than most people and I still keep it to that small size. You can too.

Sarah’s Most Basic Women’s Travel Toiletries Kit

Shampoo- I prefer something that smells nice, preferably like a Hawaiian beach. Concentrate your favorite yourself by leaving it in a dish on a counter.

Conditioner- I’ll pay more for a good conditioner, because higher end ones can be used sparingly and last longer. They also make my hair softer!

Toothbrush– Manual, electric or battery operated, it’s up to you.

Toothpaste– Baking soda toothpaste is good for better breath, but even better, it can be used for bug bites and acne as well.

Moisturizer– I stay away from Retinol formulas since I’m often in the sun. I always pick a light moisturizer with at least 30 SPF. An inexpensive one can double as sunblock at the beach.

Deodorant– Paste deodorants are more compact and last longer. I choose a natural formula for better health, and it is shockingly effective even for stinky people. If you choose to try this, use it for a week or two before departure to get used to it.

Makeup Essentials

No two women will ever agree on what makeup is essential. I have skin with blemishes, so I need some sort of base. Other than that, I keep it simple with mascara and lipstick. I have so little time in the mornings when I travel and little time to check my makeup later in the day. For this reason, I suggest long-lasting products.

Face powder– BareMinerals is all I will use. I don’t like the look or feel of base makeup, I think it makes me look older than necessary. This is a light, mineral based powder that you brush on. It looks natural and feels like nothing. Great for concealing bad skin. It has sunscreen properties too.

Lipstick– Revlon Colorstay is the only way to go. Accept no substitutes, they just don’t work as well. This stuff will last a full 24 hours or swigging beer and munching pasta and pizza. I prefer the natural colors this line offers. If you’re flashy, it may not be your thing. The lip gloss on the end of it is nice to use on chapped lips.

Mascara– I have yet to find a particular mascara that I just love. Manufacturers seem to be inconsistent on this. It must be waterproof and go on without clumps. My current pick has served me well this season.

Eyeshadow- This is not a necessary item, but sometimes it’s nice to have a little flash when I need to be girlie or fancy. You know what i’m saying. A few lines offer small eyeshadow pods with a single color, I’ll take something that is cheap and I can toss if I need to.


I have long, straight hair. You may not. The hair products you choose depend on your style. This is where a lot of women will waste weight and space, so try and simplify your hair style if you can. Nobody cares what your hair looks like, other than you. It’s ok to leave behind the gel and styling irons. Really. And if you’re still not convinced, ask your hair stylist to give you an easier style before leaving.

Hair elastics- Even if you have short hair, these can come in handy to hold things together, like cords.

Hair clips– Small grip clips are good for all lengths of hair on days you just can’t even. Great on hikes to keep hair out of your face. Perfect for long hair styles. I’ll use these to hold cords together or to clips things together in my bag. Multipurpose.

Hairspray- This isn’t really a necessity in my view, but I’m a minimalist. Try to live without it, you can always buy it at your destination.

Comb or brush– I prefer a comb, and I tend to splash out a little here. Cheap combs can tangle or get caught in my hair, so I’ve bought a couple of nicer, handmade ones. Even my super sensitive kiddos will let me comb their hair with them!

Razor- I found this nifty razor that comes with its own little case. Goodbye to broken razor handles and slashed fingertips!

Additional Items

Makeup Remover– I don’t actually bring anything here, I just use soap and water. My readers, however, have strongly suggested makeup removing wipes. And when I say strongly, I mean really insistent. I can see the value, the wipes can be used for other kinds of clean up in a pinch.

Floss- Rolls or picks? Both types of floss have their uses. A roll of floss can double as string or twine to tie things together. It’s great for cutting soft cheese. I prefer the picks as they are easier to use. Gross but helpful tip, wash the picks and reuse them.

Tweezers– I cannot live without my tweezers. Not just for grooming, although that is important, especially in Italy. I also find them useful for first aid, as an impromptu screwdriver, and as a grabber if I drop something down a drain. Millions of uses.

Sunblock- Solid sunblock is the way to go. The liquid stuff always ends up all over everything, but maybe that is because I’m a little messy. I’ve tried a few solid sticks, and I still prefer the Neutrogena stick. It’s meant for kids, but I refuse to grow up, so I think I can still use it.

Eyeliner– Very subjective item. I don’t typically use it unless I’m trying to impress someone, occasionally to impress myself when I’m feeling shabby. I do love that Colorstay line, it really lasts.

Pills and Medications- I keep my pills in a tiny Altoids tin within my toiletries kit, and then have the overflow in a pouch in my bag.

Contact Lenses- Liquids weight a lot, so I have switched to daily contacts. No solution needed and no case. No worries about cleaning well.


That’s about all I would use in a women’s travel toiletries kit. I’ll bet you have some favorites and hacks that I haven’t thought of, so share them here or on my Facebook page. Get out there and travel, beautiful, you look FAHH-bulous!


About sarahinitalia@yahoo.com

Sarah Murdoch is a tour guide and guidebook writer for Rick Steves Europe. Her blog, Adventures with Sarah, focuses on packing tips, travel stories and advice for planning the best trip possible.

16 thoughts on “Women’s Travel Toiletries

  • Laurie

    I love your choice of deodorant. I have tried many different kinds since I gave up anti perspirants. Nothing seemed to work as well as the “toxic” anti perspirants. They just didn’t last long. Even though it is expensive I decided to try the Milk & Honey deodorant. I am so glad you recommended this product. It Works !!! It lasts a long time, does a good job and smells wonderful. Worth the extra money.
    Thank You Sarah!!!

  • captainzesty

    I love the tip about daily contacts! Do they have to be packed in the 3-1-1 container?

    From what I’ve seen, you tend to switch between contacts and glasses, so don’t have to pack a pair for every single day you’re gone. I tend to only wear my glasses at night/early AM/flying.

  • SJ

    I too am always looking for tiny containers, and was “eyeing ” up 🙄contact lens cases in the Dollar Store yesterday wondering if they would be leakproof.
    I save all the sachets that you get in magazines, and take a few in my carry on: shampoo, lotion, moisturizer; as well as a small lipstick and a stub of an eye pencil, case my checked bag is delayed.

    I don’t take a regular cosmetic bag. Instead it all goes in one of those clear zipped bags that
    pillowcases come new in.
    I use one for my first aid kit too. Saves a few ounces.
    It’s an art shrinking everything down, but a good challenge!

  • Carol

    I have found that waxing my legs and under arms prior to a trip saves me from not only having to pack a razor and saving cream but also from shaving in what can sometimes be very cramped showers.

  • ashlye

    + a tiny pot of cream blush to brighten cheeks (can also be used on lips). i use coconut oil to remove waterproof mascara. i buy the packets in a box at trader joe’s. one packet will last two or three days (i use it to shave too). the packets have never leaked. i decant the packet into a spare pot (from travel section at target) as needed. i also love the neutrogena sunscreen sticks!

  • Angie Hansen

    On my last trip to Europe, I found myself in need of a good eye makeup remover. I bought this little pot of balm at the Sephora in Krakow, and it was perfect! Sometimes soap and water just isn’t enough. I highly recommend this for traveling when you are trying to be minimalist.

  • CMN

    Hmmm… was trying to think “what else, what else, have I been carrying around this year in my kit…?”. The one thing I’d add is a travel-size bottle of Febreeze. Has made ALL the difference in getting extra wear out of clothes after hot, stinky days — especially when there isn’t time for drying or a laundry visit. Also has saved the day for refreshing clothes/my hair/jacket/etc. after being in a smoke-heavy environment. I carry it in my 3-1-1 bag and it’s absolutely worth that little extra bit of weight!

    • Linda Shore

      A better less chemical way to destink clothes is spraying with cheap vodka. The cheapest you can find. It does the trick & doesn’t leave a scent.
      I also pick up those packets of coconut oil & use them for moisturizer.

  • Mary

    My toiletries packing depends on duration and location of travel. For a domestic long weekend, I take a whole lot less than for a 3 week trip to Europe. For international trips, I take a small amount of makeup in my carryon. Then I wash my face, brush my teeth and floss, take a sleeping pill, apply ear plugs and sleep mask and try to zone out for as much of the trip as possible. I often eat at the airport rather that stay awake for meal service that is usually two hours into the flight. A glass of champagne when I get on the plane is hard to turn down.
    But for my international travel, I check a 25 inch bag that has enough toiletries to last the trip. But in my carryon, I put a single application of makeup in my 311 bag to apply just before arrival at the destination. So I land looking fresh not like I just crawled out of bed. So I am always on the lookout for the tiniest containers to put that make up in. Obviously makeup counters at the department store will often give travel sized stuff if you will try on their stuff. But even it is bigger than I need. So I use a contact lens case. One side for day cream; the other for foundation. One side for night toner; the other for night cream. Then the smallest sized travel container for blush, eye shadow, eye liner (I use a refill that is 1.25 inches long), and mascara. A contact lens case with shampoo on one side and conditioner on the other. A 1 oz jar of body lotion and a 0.5 oz jar of powder with a small puff. Deodorant (even just a slice of a stick that I can rub on). Disposable bath cloths and disposable makeup remover sheet. Put one or two in a snack sized plastic bag. Now I am ready not just to put make up on during the flight, after I sleep, but if my checked bag gets delayed a day (has never happened so far) I have enough for a day or two. I also pack one set of panties and bra in case my bag is lost. And my husband and I crosspack so we each carry one outfit for the other in our bags, so again, if one bag is delayed, we have one other set of clothing.
    I also calculate how many days one ounce of shampoo, lotion, etc lasts prior to packing, so I know for those longer trips how much I need to bring. Because of allergies, I am not eager to try new brands on the road.
    My biggest problem is meds. Because of chronic disease (I refuse to stop traveling just because I have several chronic diseases), I have to take a big slew of drugs. I would hate to have to find medical care, explain my rare disease to someone whose English may be limited, and get the drugs I know will work right away and hopefully avoid medical evac back to the US. All those drugs, plus my daily drugs are packed in my carryon so they will arrive with me (and be available on the flight if needed). I wish I had a better solution for that. I also take a couple days worth of OTC drugs for the minor inconveniences of life (diarrhea, constipation, mild cold, etc.) Again I want to take what I know works and will not cause allergic reactions. I would love it if you could survey those on your tours that have chronic diseases and see if they have suggestions for cutting down on the volume and weight of drugs. Some of the drugs I take are not even available in Europe. And with the time difference it is hard to get my doctor here on the phone to explain my diseases to a doctor in Europe. I don’t go to third world countries because if I get sick, I get really sick fast. At least most of Europe can provide what I need, especially if I have the drugs with me. But I don’t want to stop traveling and can live with the restrictions my doctor has placed on locations of travel and activities while I travel. BTW, I stopped doing tours because I may have a day when I need to stay in bed and rest; or take a morning or an afternoon off. If it is a bus travel day, I don’t have the option to stay put. And we have traveled enough that I can do the research and make all the arrangement myself. Yes, any help with the multiple drugs I have to carry would be appreciated!’

  • Linda

    I’m also a pretty minimal makeup person, and have found Este Lauder’s Little Black Primer to be a perfect mascara on it’s own. No clumps, flakes, or smearing at home in the Hawaiian heat and humidity. $25.00 on Sephora!

      • Kimiko

        Maybelline Full & Soft waterproof is my daily mascara. Costs about $8, less if you find it in sale. Stayed on perfectly when I ran a 10 mile race last year. Stays on in 100 degree days, doesn’t run or smear, even if I have cried or literally been rained on. Very highly recommend. Also, it does not bother my sensitive eyes ( allergies and I wear contacts), and it’s easy to remove!

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