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Beauty

How To Pack A Carry-On Travel Beauty Bag

Expert tips on how to conquer the dreaded airport-issued liquids bag and breeze through security on your next trip.
By Lora Grady, Maryam Siddiqi
How To Pack A Carry-On Travel Beauty Bag

(Photo, Christie Vuong. Produced by Stephanie Han Kim. Prop styling, Nicole Billark.)

Whether you're staying close to home or heading abroad, a vacation is hopefully on your to-do list sometime soon. But after a few years of staying put, we could all use a refresher on how to pack efficiently. To avoid being stranded at your destination (or worse—the airport) without your essentials, a well-packed carry-on bag is a must, whether you have checked luggage or not.

We asked travel pros to share their best travel beauty packing tips for taking your routine on the road.

A Stasher bag filled with carry-on travel beauty packing for travel beauty packing tips. (Photo, Christie Vuong. Produced by Stephanie Han Kim. Prop styling, Nicole Billark.)
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1. Know what you can (and can't) pack in a carry-on

When travelling with carry-on luggage (or bringing beauty products on the plane), liquids, gels and aerosols must be in containers of 100 mL (3.4 oz) or less and placed in a single clear, resealable 1-L bag. (Exceptions include medications, contact lens solution and baby formula.)

Pro tip: Keep your toiletry bag in your personal item for quick access when going through security.

Make sure you know exactly what is considered a liquid before you go as some may surprise you. Mascara is considered a liquid, as is anything deemed 'spreadable.' Also keep in mind that sharp objects, like razors, might be subject to restrictions. For example, disposable razors are allowed, while safety razors are not.

Consult this handy list by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority for the full run-down of what is allowed in checked baggage and carry-ons.

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If you’re traveling to another country (including the U.S.), be sure to check out their carry-on rules as well to make sure your bag meets the requirements.

2. Assess your needs

A hiking trip and a European city break require vastly different necessities. Be realistic about what you’ll use and what can be left at home.

Start by listing everything you’ll need at your destination—and don't forget sunscreen! Your skincare and haircare routines likely won't change much, but the makeup you'll reach for will depend on the location and purpose of your trip.

When it comes to skincare, vacation is not the time to experiment. Those perfectly-sized sample packets of creams and lotions you’ve been saving for your travels? Leave them, unless you’ve used the product before. “You don’t know how your skin will react to new products,” says Toronto makeup artist and Cityline beauty expert Tracy Peart.

It’s especially true as long travel days and new environments can make skin more sensitive. The last thing you want is to end up stuck inside your hotel room with an allergic reaction. “Instead, go with your tried-and-tested routine,” she advises.

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As for makeup products? If you’re not an eyeshadow or cat-eye liner person back home, you won’t be on vacation either.

3. Switch to solids

Travel journalist Maryam Siddiqi's top tip is to ditch liquids. Cramming fewer liquids into your bag will make a big difference, and many brands offer solid skincare and makeup options that rival their liquid counterparts.

Look for shampoo and conditioner bars, sunscreen sticks, toothpaste tablets and solid soaps and facial cleansers. The best part? They're leak proof.

4. Decant your faves

Invest in good quality travel-size bottles and fill them with your favourite full-size liquid skincare products.

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If you don't have containers on hand and your go-to products are bestsellers, you'll likely be able to get your hands on minis.

Canadian travel writer Jessica Lockhart, who is currently based in Australia and is a frequent flyer, swears by travel-sized products. “You can find great products that are only 50 mL in size,” she says. “It makes them much easier to pack.” Once the travel containers are empty, Lockhart refills them with whatever she has at home before her next trip.

5. Rely on freebies

Hotels offer (often fancy) soap, lotion and haircare products. Depending on your destination, they may also have sunscreen and mosquito repellent. Call ahead to find out what they stock.

Ready for takeoff? Shop 10 in-flight essentials we love

Cadence Magnetic Travel Containers, from $19

Cadence Magnetic Travel Containers, travel beauty packing tips.

These magnetic and modular leakproof containers come in three compact sizes and can be customized with labels to match your routine.

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Lelezone Reusable Travel Container Set, $14

Lelezone Reusable Travel Container Set, travel beauty packing tips.

Fill this set of six reusable containers with your favourite products. It comes with its own set of labels so you can easily tell which is shampoo and which is conditioner.

Ember Wellness Sculpt & Glow Bar, $35

Ember Wellness Sculpt & Glow Bar, travel beauty packing tips.

Give your skin a boost with this moisturizing bar, which is shaped like a gua sha tool. Apply upward from the jaw using gentle lifting strokes.

Ilia Multi-Stick, $49

Ilia Multi-Stick, travel beauty packing tips.
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Formulated to be used on lips, cheeks and eyes, this do-it-all stick provides a dewy wash of colour anywhere you need it.

Glossier You Solid Perfume, $41

Glossier You Solid Perfume, travel beauty packing tips.

This soft, sparkling scent will leave you smelling good without giving your seatmates a headache. Pack in your travel bag, purse or backpack without worry.

Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Face Stick, $15

Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Face Stick,  travel beauty packing tips.

With a solid sunscreen stick, you can save room in your liquids bag. This broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen is water-resistant and small enough that you can toss it in your purse.

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Weleda Travel Skin Food, $6

Weleda Travel Skin Food,  travel beauty packing tips.

This deeply hydrating cream is a cult classic for a reason⁠—it does it all! It’s great for dry hands, elbows and feet, and it can even be used on cheekbones as a highlighter.

Charlotte Tilbury Quick & Easy 5-Minute Look, $95

Charlotte Tilbury Quick & Easy 5-Minute Look, travel beauty packing tips.

With a mini eyeshadow stick, lip and cheek stick, and highlighter stick, this handy kit has everything you need to create a gorgeous look on the go. Plus, there are five shades to choose from. These fit nicely in your travel makeup bag with room to spare.

Burt’s Bees Hydrating Facial Towelettes, $10

Burt’s Bees Hydrating Facial Towelettes,  travel beauty packing tips.

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Of course there's nothing quite like a proper double cleanse, but on a long flight, one of these soothing, hydrating wipes will do the trick. Made from 60 percent repurposed cotton, they make it easy to wash your face on the go.

Originally published in 2022; updated in 2023.

While the product in this piece has been independently chosen by our editors, this article contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. 

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