How to pack all the holiday toiletries you need into hand luggage

Recently I managed to dodge flight cancellations and mile-long airport queues and found myself on holiday, lying by a pool in a sunny holiday hotspot, cocktail in one hand and novel in the other.

In a moment of spontaneity on a particularly drizzly evening, my boyfriend and I decided to book a last-minute getaway, seemingly stumbling upon a good deal – until it came to pay for the flights. £20 extra to print a boarding pass? £30 to reserve a seat? £50 – each person, each way – to check in luggage, only for it inevitably to be left languishing in the airport baggage reclaim graveyard? No thanks. So for the first time ever, we attempted a week-long holiday taking hand luggage only.

I don’t find it hard to whittle down my holiday wardrobe (cut-off denim shorts are appropriate for every occasion, right…?) but as a beauty editor, I’m not exaggerating when I say that usually half my case is filled with skincare, SPFs and summery new launches that I want to try when I'm away.

Squeezing all of my essentials into one plastic bag was a challenge, but here’s how I did it – and managed to save myself around £150 in baggage check-in fees…

How to pack all your beauty products into hand luggage

Do your research

If you’re staying in a hotel, find out what is stocked in the bathroom, if they’re replaced as often as you need, and if there’s a hairdryer – read reviews, or email the hotel to ask. If you’re not particularly fussy about what brands you use, this will save you having to pack things like shower gel, shampoo and body lotion.

Streamline your routine

Can I go a week without shaving my legs? Can I sleep without a pillow mist? Can I ditch my eye cream and instead use my serum all the way up to my eyeballs? These are all serious questions I asked myself, and the answer was: yes. Your skin isn’t going to fall apart if you forgo your 10-step skincare routine for a few days, and trust me when I say that no one will notice if you haven’t contoured.

Also don’t pack any product that’s too precious or expensive, just in case it leaks, gets confiscated by security, or has to remain behind in your hotel bathroom.

Make solid swaps

Soaps, shampoos, conditioners, deodorants and even skincare can be found in solid bar form nowadays, saving valuable space in your plastic bag. Once a rather niche corner of the beauty world, now plenty of mainstream brands are creating waterless products. I’ll be packing one of the three new Kiehl’s Concentrated Cleansing Bars, £20.50 here, and Aussie Shampoo and Conditioner Bars, £9.99 each here, (which smell just as good as the bottles) in with my dry items.

Lose liquids elsewhere in your beauty routine, too. Pack powder or stick makeup like bronzers, eyeshadows and concealers instead of cream ones. Choose an oil-absorbing sprinkle-on powder instead of an aerosol dry shampoo. You can even buy toothpaste tablets, which you crunch on then brush with as normal – try Brushd Toothpaste Tablets, from £4.99 here.

Make the most of minis

Sure, you can decant your favourite formulas into smaller bottles, but I honestly never do this (too fiddly, too messy, too easy to forget what’s what). Instead, I stockpile any miniature beauty products from Christmas or birthday gift sets. Alternatively, if you’re signed up to a beauty subscription service like the OK! Beauty Box, you’ll usually get a mix of full size and travel size products in your monthly box – save anything under 100ml for holidays.

If you want something specific, lots of top brands sell mini versions of their bestsellers, which are usually temptingly lining the queues for the tills. Although don’t expect brilliant value for money – the prices per ml of these pocket-sized products are often hoiked up higher than inflation.

Share your skincare

Now’s not the time to be precious about what counts as “men’s” and “women’s” products. At home, my boyfriend and I fight for space in the bathroom cabinet, but on holiday we’ll play nicely, sharing as many products as possible. In addition to the hygiene essentials, we’ll both use the same cleanser, serum and moisturiser – all simple, hydrating and free from strong active ingredients. I’m not even above spritzing on a Sure For Men antiperspirant (although I draw the line at using Lynx Africa as my holiday fragrance – thankfully Jo Malone’s colognes come in 30ml bottles.)

Make space for multi-taskers

Bronzer can be used as eyeshadow, tinted lip balm can be used on the cheeks, and oils like the iconic Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Purpose Dry Oil, £12 for 30ml here, can be applied to the body, face and hair.

Streamline three base products into one with a product like Ultra Violette Daydream Screen SPF50 Tinted Veil, £38 here, which is your moisturiser, primer and coverage all in one (don’t rely on this as your only sun protection, though – Ultra Violette advises applying over the top of a dedicated SPF).

Buy essentials at the airport

Realistically there was no way I could squeeze enough SPF50 into those plastic bags to last us a week, so I bought a couple of bottles of my high-street favourites once past security, plus a few generic essentials like toothpaste and spray-on deodorant, too. In total, I spend about £30 at the airport – so all in all a vast saving on those £200+ on luggage costs…


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