Let’s get really honest here: for me, the hardest part of switching to a carry on, from a checked bag, had nothing to do with my clothes.
My entire struggle lay in one clear plastic quart Ziploc bag. It was the Bermuda triangle of small spaces: necessary, finite, with too many options.
In fact, I had so much trouble that I commandeered some of my husband’s half-full quart Ziploc bag for my own uses (the new version of eminent domain in a marriage). But over the last few years, I’ve waged many skirmishes against this hated little bag and it’s slowly succumbing to my will.
The quart Ziploc bag is the spot where people tend to run into trouble. Yet, this is where we can save more space, especially in carry on situations. I know, it’s hard to regulate and downsize our products into one little bag. I feel your pain.
Over the years, I’ve tested, sworn, swapped out, and perfected products to include in my quart Ziploc bag to fit my three specifications:
- proven to work
Remember, that to abide by the TSA rules for what can be packed in carry on luggage, each passenger may pack 3 ounce bottles or less, into 1 quart sized ziploc bag, and 1 bag is allowed per passenger. This is affectionately referred to as the 3-1-1 rule.
Pack Your Favorite Products
Can’t live without a specific moisturizer? Not to worry, you can still pack it. Simply re-package it into something smaller and travel-sized. In other words, squirt some into a smaller container and take it with you.
Some of my favorite smaller containers are re-purposed from their original intent:
- Contact cases to store cover up, tinted moisturizer, eye cream
- Squeezable bottles from trial sizes of shampoo, lotion, day moisturizer, sunscreen
- GoToob: tougher than your usual re-purposed trial-sized bottle, these are ready to be filled up again, and again.
Leave it Packed
Have you ever found that sublime balance between excess and just-enough? The trip where you never wanted for anything and where your products worked beautifully?
And now, on the eve of your next trip, you’re rushing around to recreate that bliss. You can stop this disaster in its tracks: don’t ever unpack your quart Ziploc bag.
Take your quart Ziploc bag on a few trial-run trips and test your products. See if you like them, or swap them out for other products that might fit the Three Golden Rules of Quart Ziploc Bag Paradise:
- proven to work.
Keep refining until you find that perfect balance again.
When you do, don’t unpack your quart Ziploc bag. Nestle it away with your other travel gear and when you’re packing for your next trip, it’s ready to go.
Find What Works
Okay, now we’re ready for the good part: what to put into your quart Ziploc bag? What products are you currently using that could be swapped out for more-travel friendly products?
Of course, these are items that I’ve found work perfectly for my skin and hair types. The products you choose, and your results, may vary. Get inventive and try new items. (Oh darn, an excuse to try that new hair balm you’ve been eying!) You’ll find some that work perfectly on the road just like they do at home.
I’ve broken the products down into three main categories: hair, makeup, and face.
I’ve started with the hardest one: hair products. Right now in my bathroom there are five different kinds of hair products. Each one is specifically formulated to tackle a different hair issue. But are there really five different hair issues I face on a normal morning?
No. Definitely not.
I’d be willing to bet it’s the same for you. Figure out what your Number One Most Horrible Hair Issue is that you battle on a daily basis. That’s the issue you’re packing for.
Here are some products that travel well:
- Klorane Extra Gentle Dry Shampoo with Oat Extract: non-aerosol powder so it packs into your bag. This is what I travel with and it’s awesome.
- Argan oil: amazing for taming flyaways and a little drop goes a long, long way; bring it with you in a contact case
- Dr. Bronner’s Soap: use for shampoo, shaving cream, body wash, mouthwash
- Trick for shaving: use hair conditioner for shaving cream
- Bar Shampoo, from a company like Lush. Add their little travel tin and you’re ready to roll.
As for makeup, I aim for dry products whenever possible to save room in my quart Ziploc bag. These dry products you can pack right in your carry on.
For instance, instead of cream blush, I pack powder. Sure it means packing an extra brush to apply, but that’s minimal. Or get a eyeliner crayon instead of liquid eyeliner. You can even get dry foundation instead of tinted moisturizer.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Tarte waterproof eyeliner with Amazonian clay (I use this daily and love it!)
- Dry Minerals foundation with SPF 15
- Covergirl blush
- Maybelline powder bronzer
What about perfumes? Rollerball perfume applications have become popular recently. But what to do when your favorite fragrance isn’t available in a rollerball application?
Here’s a little known secret that’s well-loved by airline attendants: most major perfumes or colognes have a perfume oil version. A perfume oil is a concentrated version of the scent that you rub into your wrists.
I’ve been using these oils for five years now. They travel extremely well, keep their scent, and don’t smell any different than the super-expensive misting perfumes. My favorite part: the little vial lasts a long time since you only apply a little oil at a time.
Buying a few glass vials, some perfume oils and spending an afternoon nets your own rollerball perfumes. Oh, and did I mention they cost a fraction of the cost of those designer fragrances yet smell just as lovely?
Here’s how to get started and where to buy:
- Roll-on vials
- Perfume scents like Giorgi Armani, Ralph Lauren, and more
- Designer fragrance perfume oils
Try the solid cologne Shawn recommended in his Dapper Dude Packing List.
Let’s tackle the elephant in the room, shall we?
You don’t need to bring your normal sized 6+ ounces of moisturizer or foundation with you.
Really. You don’t need to. Even at home, you don’t go through an entire bottle in a week. Being on a trip isn’t going to change your routine.
If worse comes to worst on your trip, and you run out of product, consider it an opportunity for adventure. It’s a foray — nay, an expedition seeking untold treasures — into the local culture to find an alternative product. It won’t be hard since we all live in this world, and we all want to look good, regardless of where we live. I’ll bet you’ll find something amazing.
So, be brave. Squeeze some lotion into a smaller container, and take that smaller container with you.
Or, pick some very travel-friendly products, like:
- Argan oil: famed for its anti-aging, moisturizing, acne-fighting powers; use 1-2 drops on your face
- Garnier BB cream: SPF, face moisturizer and a bit of coverage
- Olay night cream: creamy perfection, a little goes a long way
- Bar soap instead of body wash
- Wet wipe makeup removers
My Standard Quart Ziploc Bag Packing List
- Bumble and Bumble sea salt spray
- Neutrogena UltraSheer Dry Touch Sunblock 55 SPF
- Secret deodorant
- The Honest Company healing balm (works wonders on super dry skin!)
- Dove Oxygen Moisture Conditioner & Shampoo (when I stay at a hotel, I forgo these as they usually have them in the rooms)
- One old contact case with night face moisturizer and argan oil (for moisturizing dry lips, skin, hair)
- One old contact case with BB cream and regular face moisturizer
- The Body Shop Tea Tree Face Wash
- Contact solution
It’s possible to beat the quart Ziploc bag and pack everything you need in it. With some clever thinking and abiding by the three rules (multi-tasking, essential and proven to work) you can travel with awesome hair, makeup and face products that you know make you feel good.
Remember to always re-package your products into smaller containers. And don’t be afraid of running out of product on the road — it’s only an excuse to have an adventure.
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