Whether you’re packing for a long trip or a quick weekend getaway, it’s easy to leave things behind and realize it too late. Make a habit of packing a toiletries kit with the essentials, and you’ll never have to make an emergency trip to the drug store as soon as you arrive at your destination again.
If possible, keep the following items in your designated toiletry kit at all times. Purchase duplicates and travel-sized versions of your favorite items so that you don’t have to move them back and forth whenever you leave and get home. And with all of that in mind, here are the top 13 items to always have in your toiletries kit.
Additional Face Masks
This one is crucial for 2021 as the ongoing concern of COVID-19 is still present throughout our lives.
As mask mandates remain, these items become absolutely essential for your everyday life. Be sure to pack plenty of extra masks in case you misplace one or more. We’ve all seen masks on the ground littered about over the last year or so, and I’m sure we’ve even misplaced a few ourselves (I know I have), so be sure to keep several additional ones in different places throughout your luggage and person. You don’t want to keep them all in one container in the off-chance the entire container goes missing.
This one’s going to vary a lot from person to person, so there’s really not a one-size-fits-all approach to packing meds in your toiletries kit. This is why medication should be one of the first things you think about when you get to packing.
Obviously, if you take any prescription meds, get those in your kit first and double-check that they’re there as you’re walking out the door. Next should come anything you take every day like a vitamin or supplement, and lastly, medication to manage any pain or discomfort you may experience during your trip. Almost everyone has had a perfectly nice outing spoiled by a headache or stuffy nose, so bring any painkillers, antihistamines, or acid reducers you can see yourself needing while you’re gone.
People who take a lot of different pills, vitamins, or supplements should think about getting pill organizers for trips. Travel-sized versions of these are easy to find online and at any store. Keep in mind that medically necessary medications such as inhalers, ointments, and liquids—items that would otherwise be restricted—are fine to bring, you’ll just need to have them checked with TSA.
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
This combo counts as one item because, really, what good is one without the other?
You may love your electric toothbrush when you’re at home, but ditch that for something smaller that won’t leave your toiletry bag. Get a designated travel toothbrush—ideally one that comes in its own case, bonus points if it’s compact. Foldable toothbrushes that collapse are a great, affordable choice. As for toothpaste, any travel-sized kind will do, but toothpaste tablets are a convenient option too. These often come in reusable metal tins, so they’re a favorite among eco-conscious travelers.
If you want to go the extra mile in keeping your breath fresh while traveling, grab some disposable mini toothbrushes. No water necessary for these—perfect when you want to freshen up on a plane.
Shampoo and Conditioner
No matter where you’re staying, you’ll be glad to have your own hair products when you’re there. Hotels and resorts do usually provide complimentary shampoo and conditioner, but it’s rarely as good as you hope it will be. These days, you can buy mini versions of just about any brand of shampoo, but if you can’t find your favorite, just grab a small reusable squeeze bottle the next time you’re at the store.
Many people like to take shampoo bars with them because there’s no risk of spillage and they last much longer than regular shampoo. Whatever you decide, remember the TSA restricts all liquids in your carry-on to a maximum of 3.4 ounces.
First Aid Kit
You should never be without a first aid kit of your own when you’re traveling, but that doesn’t mean you have to try to pack an entire pharmacy into your toiletry bag. Just stick to the essentials: bandages, antibiotic ointments, tweezers, gauze, and some sort of antiseptic. Nail clippers would also be a great addition. Grab a first aid pouch or box that completely closes and bring along anything you use regularly at home.
Again, choose these items wisely to ensure that you will be allowed to bring everything. For example, instead of bringing a bottle of antiseptic that would have to count toward your liquid limit, grab some antiseptic wipes. And rather than pack a gel ointment, choose one that is more like a balm or cream.
Bringing deodorant is a no-brainer, but it’s also an item that’s easy to forget (and awful when you do leave it behind). Purchase a deodorant specifically for traveling and make sure it never leaves your toiletry kit.
Try to avoid gel- or spray-type deodorants if you can as both of these fall under the liquids category. Instead, stick with a tried and true solid deodorant—travel-size, of course—or pick up some deodorant wipes, which are excellent for long trips and travel well.
If face wash is normally part of your daily routine, don’t forget to bring some along when you travel. Try to choose a face wash that is as gentle as possible to avoid having to moisturize frequently, and make sure you test whatever kind you get before leaving for a trip to avoid an adverse reaction (a situation made exponentially worse when you’re on an airplane).
Facial cleansers, like shampoo and conditioner, are easy to get in bar form as well. Plenty of brands are even approved as facial and body bars, and two-in-one options like this should always be purchased when they are available.
In lieu of face wash or sometimes in addition to, many people like to pack disposal face wipes when they travel. This is especially great if you’re going to be in a plane or car for an extended period of time and you won’t have access to a sink. Look for some that double as makeup removers if this is something that would be useful to you.
Earplugs or Headphones
If you’re the type of person that has trouble falling asleep when there’s noise happening around you, don’t forget to put something to dim the sound in your toiletry kit.
The only issue is that headphones, especially the noise-canceling ones, can be a bit bulky. Try to find some foldable ones that come in a hard case to save space and money (as it’s easy for headphones to get broken when they are loose in your bag). These are not at all hard to find at affordable prices through online retailers, and you probably don’t want to travel with more high-end items than you need to anyway. If you prefer, noise-canceling, bluetooth earbuds are widely available too.
As for earplugs, this item can actually function both to block out sound and to reduce pressure in your ears when flying, if you pick the right ones. Look for plugs marketed as aviation earbuds or airplane earbuds for this; these are often disposable. If you’re sensitive to pressure changes and think saving your ears from relentless popping sounds nice, you’re going to want to make sure a pair of aviation earbuds makes it into your toiletry kit as well.
Comb and/or Hairbrush
Forgetting a comb or hairbrush on a trip, though fixable with a quick visit to the nearest store, is a hassle. Make sure this travel essential is in your trusty toiletry kit.
There are many travel hair brushes to choose from that take up less space than a typical hairbrush. Some are simply shrunken-down versions of the standard, some have no handles at all, and others fold into themselves. If you find a good one that comes with a case, grab it to save yourself time picking hair off of everything in your toiletry kit and generally keep things more sanitary.
If you’re a comb user, a collapsible one should do just fine. Look for one that is anti-static to and suitable for your hair type to cut down the time it takes you to get ready in the morning even more.
While lotion and moisturizer are technically permitted in carry-ons as long as they do not cause your liquids to exceed 3.4 ounces total, it can be difficult to keep all of your items under this tight limit. This is why you should bring a multi-purpose balm in place of lotion or cream, which is better anyway because it’s much more versatile. Cosmetic items in solid form do not have to comply with any volume or weight restrictions.
A good multi-purpose balm can often be used safely on your hands, body, face, and lips. Some can even be applied to your hair or used as ointment. Everybody knows how dry airplanes can get, and a balm can solve a lot of the problems this may create for you.
Trimmer or Razor
You may not need to bust out the razor or trimmer for a short business trip, but you certainly don’t want to get caught without one when you really need it.
Electric razors or trimmers are permitted in your carry-on or checked luggage, though these aren’t always the easiest to travel with. Disposable razors are more portable and also permitted as long as the blade part is completely covered and secured in your bag. Safety razors are only allowed when they do not have blades. Do NOT bring any blades not contained in sealed individual cartridges in your carry-on. If you must bring these, you’ll need to get them checked.
If you bring shaving cream, aftershave, or any other type of shaving products, they’ll count toward your liquid limit of 3.4 ounces.
You may not usually use sunscreen year-round, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of a place in your toiletry kit. And really, you should be using it no matter the season, especially if you’re going to be flying.
Believe it or not, your skin is at a much greater risk of being damaged by the sun when you are flying than when you are on the ground. This is because the sun’s rays are more intense at higher altitudes, and airplane windows don’t always help much with this. A lot of people swear by applying sunscreen whenever they fly to protect their skin, and this is something you should be doing too if you’re not already.
Last but not least, pack sanitizer to keep yourself safe from germs. The last thing you need when traveling is to contract a cold that could have easily been prevented with a scrub of sanitizer after touching a communal doorknob, handling money, and before eating.
Single use hand sanitizer wipes are a solid option and not better or worse than a regular gel or liquid sanitizer, and the same goes for hand sanitizer spray. Whatever you prefer is fine, as long as you have something. As you’ve probably experienced once or twice, you can’t always count on hotels and airports having their sanitizer dispensers fully stocked.
At least for now, you don’t have to worry about hand sanitizer affecting your liquids allowance. Per the TSA’s current COVID-19 travel guidelines, every passenger is allowed to bring up to 12 ounces of liquid hand sanitizer without penalty. However, if you do decide to bring this much, know that you will need to check it with TSA.
Remember that, besides sanitizer, all of your liquids, gels, and aerosols must not exceed 3.4 ounces. Additionally, anything that falls into these categories must be packed together in a one quart size baggie that seals completely. Failure to do this may result in your items being confiscated and/or check-in being delayed. Keep this bag in your toiletry kit for faster check-in.
A good toiletry kit can take some of the guesswork out of packing and alleviate some of the stress that comes with remembering you left something important at home. Having these 13 must-have items in your travel bag will put you in good shape to have the best trips possible, every time.