3 Makeup and Beauty Packing Tips to Prep for Holiday Travel

Published in: Beauty Tips

3 Holiday Travel Makeup and Beauty Packing Tips (2)

This post is part of a content series sponsored by Clarisonic.

2011 will go down in my diary as the Year of the Suitcase. I took a total of five trips this year, which is nothing, I know, compared to hard-core travelers, but it was a lot for me.


And one fantastic side effect of those trips was that they forced me to upgrade my approach to packing. I went from starting the year as a contender for “Crappiest Packer Ever,” and ended it as a middleweight semi-pro packer with a handful of new tricks.

If you have plans to fly (or drive) over the next few weeks, here are three things you can do to eek out a few more cubic feet for makeup and beauty in your luggage.

1. The door is a jar

I’m a gal with a weakness for products, and there’s only so much room in those TSA-approved plastic baggies. By filling up little sample jars with your must-have skincare and other liquid products, you can fill your allowed plastic bag to the brim.

Sometimes you can find the little bottles at drugstores, places like Bed Bath & Beyond and even Target, but I like the free ones from Nordstrom. They hold less than an ounce, but for most things that’s usually enough product to last me a couple of weeks.

(I ask my favorite makeup artists if I can have a couple of them every so often when I visit a counter.)

Don’t forget 3-1-1

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) 3-1-1 program limits the size and number of liquid-filled products that can be brought aboard planes in carry-on bags. Travelers can bring aboard liquid-filled bottles no larger than 3.4 ounces (100ml) by volume and must store those bottles in a single quart-sized, clear plastic zip-top bag.

Oh, and ever since the time I accidentally used my face cleanser on my hair, I’ve taken to putting labels on the jars, small rectangular ones from Office Depot, and I write the name of each product with a waterproof Sharpie, just in case the outside of the jar gets wet.

For my next trip — and yes, I admit it sounds a little OCD — I plan to add numbers to the labels to indicate the order in which the products should be used.

I guess I just like the idea of seeing the jars all lined up on a shelf… πŸ™‚

(TIP: Empty contact lens cases will also work in a pinch.)

3 Holiday Travel Makeup and Beauty Packing Tips (1)

2. Does the brand make a travel version?

Some beauty products aren’t easy to squeeze into new jars, like a dry shampoo, and for those things, I try to track down travel-size versions, like the little 1.4-ounce bottle of Oscar Blandi Pronto Invisible Volumizing Dry Shampoo Spray To Go ($11), the portable Clarisonic Mia ($119) and the 2-once bottles of Bumble & Bumble Gentle Shampoo and Super Rich Conditioner ($7) in the picture at the top.

There are a few stores I frequent to find portable products, like Sephora (they usually keep them near the cash register), Target and Bed Bath & Beyond.

And then after your trip, if there’s still any product left in the minis, you can always stash them for emergencies in your car, a purse, a gym bag or on your desk at work.

3. Keep a tiny bag for touch-ups

If I have to catch a 6 a.m. flight and need to get out of the house by 3, I kid you not, I’ll get up at 2 to make sure I have enough time to do minimal hair and makeup, because I like to look put together at airports, even at jacked up times (you just never know whom you’ll meet!).


True story — A friend of mine, when she was just about to graduate from business school, was freaking out about not having a job. She decided to visit her family over spring break and took an early morning cross-country flight.

Even though her flight was early, she decided to do her hair, put on some makeup and wore a nice outfit. On the plane, wouldn’t ya know it, she ended up sitting next to an executive at Revlon, and by the end of the flight, she’d scored herself a job.

On trips I also like to bring a tiny makeup bag filled with touch-up products like powder, liner, blush and lipgloss, and I keep it separate from my larger travel makeup bag, usually in my purse or in a front pocket in my luggage.

That way, if I have to spruce up, I don’t have to go digging through my luggage to find what I need.

If you have plans to travel this season, travel well and safe, and hopefully streamlined. πŸ™‚

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



Like this post? Tell your friends!

So far, 27 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Fieran says:

    Thanks for the tips Karen!

    I usually force myself to go bare-faced on long haul flights (8-12 hours) as I have oily sensitive skin that thinks getting clogged up is fun. I do however carry little tubs of cleansers and moisturizers to clean my face before I sleep off in-flight. I also have a pan of MAC’s Studio Fix foundation and some transparent powder to use when I arrive at my destination or if I have a layover so I don’t scare anybody at the airport πŸ™‚

    For shampoo, body lotion and other liquids, I’ve started using GoToob tubes (http://humangear.com/GoToob.html) that are amazing. They are leak-proof and squeez-able, though they do have a tendency to release way too much product if you don’t squeeze gently.

  2. Nika says:

    This is perfect! I’ll be flying home in a couple of weeks. Thanks for the great tips! πŸ˜‰

  3. Vonvon says:

    Great tips, Karen! I always put my 3-1-1 in an Urban Decay makeup /wash bag that has been TSA-approved. It was part of some GWP. And I always keep that for travel use.
    Vonvon recently posted … Nail Polish Galore – Courtesy Of My Friend

  4. Jen says:

    That is a crazy story about your friend!!! Wow! I usually don’t even bother with hair and makeup (and I always, always wear contacts because my eyes get so dried out on planes), but maybe I should reconsider this approach. πŸ˜›
    Jen recently posted … Progress

  5. cncx says:

    I travel a lot (monthly), and one thing I do that cuts down on a lot of stress is keep a makeup/skincare travel bag that stays in my carry on in the ziploc bag. my non-negotiables are in there (e.g. the items I could not go 24 hours without comfortably- mascara, moisturizer, eye cream, my favorite lipstick) in travel sizes. So when I pack I just don’t even think about it and I never have to worry about not having deodorant, toothpaste, night cream…
    It can be a waste and I would be worrying about spoiling if I only travelled once a year, but it is a great system for me at this point in my life. When I go between the US and Europe I pack a second bag and put it in my checked bag, because those liter ziplocs fill up quick.
    A plus of the liter ziploc 3-1-1 system is that I had to take a hard look at what I really have to have, because space is so limited. I’ve really streamlined my routine that way!

  6. Nina says:

    air travel has become so limiting and complicated. we honestly avoid taking air trips these days …

    it doesnt help that we are both extremely claustrophobic. πŸ™‚

  7. Ruchita says:

    Thanks for the tips! I don’t travel that often, but when I do, I try to keep everything in a single carry-on.

    The 3-1-1 bag is my nemesis because I feel really limited by the type of products I can take with me. I like those little jars in the picture and I’m going to keep those in mind next time I travel.

    I am with you on doing hair and makeup for travel. I had a 6 AM flight recently, but even though I was dead tired, I felt more pulled together after styling my hair and putting on some makeup.

    Also, my kitty Ella likes to help me pack by sitting on or inside my suitcase. πŸ™‚ For that reason, I always carry a travel size lint brush with me!

  8. Advah says:

    Love that story! (sigh, I’ll keep my fingers crossed) And yes, perfectly timed post as I’ve to start thinking of packing up for Christmas..

  9. NeenaJ says:

    My sample stash (from Sephora, Target, etc.) was getting out of control, so I started packing them instead of my regular products when I travel. It’s a bit of a gamble since an unknown could irritate your skin or cause break outs but, when else am I going to use them all?

    A small lipstick palette is awesome. I filled my Japonesque 6-compartment one with a red, a bright pink, a brown and several nudes of different textures. Never have to worry about not having packed the right color.

    I visit my parents at least once a month, so I made my own “boyfriend drawer” there. I bought full size products of the things I use regularly (deodorant, toothpaste, cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen & a toothbrush). This way, I don’t have to pack any toiletries. I even stashed a spare pair of PJs and undies!

  10. Kim says:

    These are great tips and I always label my bottles as well. I only take a handful of trips per year now, but find that I’d almost always rather check my bag so I can have as many gallon-sized ziploc bags as I want (in case of leaks, of course). I’d rather wait at the baggage claim than drag around a bag. I’m just getting lazy in my old age. I do keep my key make-up items in a ziploc in my purse, just in case the airline loses my luggage, though. πŸ™‚

    And I’m also with you on the early morning flights. Almost all of mine have me leaving the house at 4 AM. It wouldn’t even cross my mind not to shower and do my hair/make-up just like it’s a regular work day. We’re hours away from pretty much everywhere I fly – and I definitely don’t want to feel grubby, scrunched next to some stranger for that whole time. πŸ™‚

  11. nat says:

    I have a question. Can I put my makeup in a separate bag from my liquids in my ziplock bags? I always had put my makeup, skincare and such together in my carry on. The rest I’ve always packed in my checked luggage. I’ve heard you can have a separate makeup bag to put in your purse or carry on, just as long there’s no liquid, with also having your TSA approved ziplock with your liquids, etc. Someone please let me know!

    • Anna says:

      That shouldn’t be a problem, as long as there are no liquids or gels. There are a few things I’m not sure about (mascara) so I always put it in my gallon bag, just in case.

      • Nat says:

        Thank you πŸ™‚ I’ve heard that you can, and I’ve also heard that you can’t. I’m always worried about packing my makeup in my checked luggage. Scared it will get damaged. Now I know that I don’t have to.

  12. Yelena says:

    great tips! my trick is if you have a long layover, leave your hair and make up for then. haha. i travel alone so this keeps me from going into those expensive airport stores and buying things haha. also saves me time in the morning i can just get up and go. Of course i will have done the basics like shower and let my hair air dry, but i leave the full hair and make up for a long 2hour layover to keep me busy and get extra sleep in the a.m.

  13. Chris25 says:

    That story about your friend is pretty awesome! When I travel, I try to wash my hair immediately before the trip so I can leave my shampoo at home (if it’s a short trip). I love solid shampoo bars and I try to save mini bottles so I can reuse them.

  14. Alexis says:

    Instead of using individual jars/contact lens cases, I use those 7day pill boxes from the drugstore. Each compartment holds a decent amount of product.

  15. Eva says:

    I just started using Clarisonic and am OBSESSED with it. I didn’t know they have a travel size, I was getting worried about how to live without it for the holidays! Thanks for the tips πŸ™‚

  16. No one would EVER give me a job after they sat next to me on the plane – I’m always wearing no makeup, a ton of moisturizer, and a huge pashmina wrapped around my head to block out light:)

    My absolute favorite travel bottles are the ones that Korres gift sets come in – they’re heavy plastic and never leak. Though I too have put shampoo on my face before bc of not labelling….
    The Blossom Shed Beauty Blog recently posted … Duchess Marden Skincare

  17. Aimee says:

    The story about your friend is awesome! I still wouldn’t wear make up on the plane though.. my skin just sucks it all up. It’s gross.

  18. I use the Bare Minerals makeup, and I save those little jars when they’re empty to put all kinds of stuff in. Also I use spice jars — those are what I tend to store my hairpins in when traveling.

  19. BeckBeck says:

    This post could not have been timed better, as I literally *just* bought a plane ticket to visit my grandmother-in-law next month. I’m only going for a weekend (hubby will be there longer because his job is sending him to the general area) and I was trying to scheme a way to get all my mandatory supplies consolidated so that I don’t have to pay $25 to check a bag just because it has beauty products in it. The sample jars idea is genius – I might actually use emptied-out jars from cream shadows that have dried up instead, just because I already have them.

  20. Jess says:

    Are there any restrictions on powders? (eyeshadows etc) or creams?

  21. Jen says:

    Last year I did a lot of work travel and got to like using extra contact lens cases for facial moisturizer, lightening cream, night cream and hair cream. I also would road test samples from Sephora at times, especially serums.

    I also evaluate the shampoo and conditioner bottles in hotels because sometimes I like to use them to carry my own facial wash, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion for future trips.

    Another thing I like to do use put my makeup brushes, eyelash curler, tweezers, mascaras and perfume rollerball in one of the glasses in the bathroom. Then I don’t have to root around in my make up bag for them. It doesn’t save more than a few seconds but does save mental stress when rushing to get ready.

  22. The website 3floz.com is specifically for travel sized items of beauty products. Also, if you’ve ever bought products from DHC (love their olive oil cleanser!) they include samples in their catalog and with each order.

  23. Perri says:

    I’m flying out on Monday and I packed my Oscar Blandi dry shampoo- the $11 travel size is perfect. For shampoo and conditioner, I just use the mini empty containers you can buy at Target (or similar places).
    A thing I recommend to bring on the airplane is the travel size Evian spray to refresh your skin. I am going on a 8 hr flight so I think it will come in handy. πŸ˜‰

  24. andrea says:

    I have theory that every woman needs 3 make up bags, 1 small for keeping in your handbag on day to day basis, 1 medium to take cosmetics on holiday and 1 large for keeping all your cosmetics that aren’t in the other 2 lol. I’m terrible and packing I always need to take the kitchen skink
    andrea recently posted … Cath Kidston Make Up Bag Range

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge