Packing & Toiletries Tips for Carry-on Only Travel
First off, let me say "thank you" to the owners and moderators/admins here at Flyertalk for making this whole thing possible. I stumbled across Flyertalk when looking for the most effective way to fly "carry on only" for some recent business trips. I have always checked my bags and since these were short, 3-day business trips, I wanted to try my hand at carry-on-only travel. If it wasn't for Flyertalk, my experience would not have been as positive as it was.
I generally research the heck out of something when I feel the urge to learn more about a topic and I went a bit nuts researching everything I could about carry-on-only and lightweight travel. Of course the information was scattered all over the place. I felt it would be beneficial to put much of what I learned in one place for the convenience of future travelers so they don’t have to go through everything I did. I hope this information helps some people make their carry-on travel a bit easier! These are all only my recommendations/suggestions/tips. Take what you can from them and leave the rest. I’m a guy, so these tips are from a male perspective. The ladies out there may want to add their particular tips and tricks to the thread below this post.
I decided to go all out and purchase a Red Oxx Air Boss business travel bag, recommended by Doug Dyment over at OneBag.com (a great site for one bag carry-on only). This was a BIG MISTAKE! The bag is of excellent quality, but to me it weighs too much for shoulder-strap-carry with just three days of business clothes (3 each of shirts, slacks, undershirts, underpants, pairs of socks), one lightweight casual shirt and pants, toiletries, and a computer (plus components). I have a small body frame (5' 8", 140 lbs) and it was very uncomfortable to drag this thing from one end of PHL to the other. If you have a small body frame and want to go with only one bag, get one with wheels or backpack straps! Next time I'll put the computer, accessories, and toiletries in a small daypack and carry the clothes (only) in the Air Boss in my hand. With just the clothes it's pretty light.
Eagle Creek makes packing “cubes” and “folders” which turn any bag into a piece of luggage. The folders DO work to keep your clothes from wrinkling, and the cubes are the most convenient way that I have found to keep your smaller articles of clothing all together (socks, etc). For those of you in the Charlotte, NC area, there is a store at Concord Mills mall called Sun &Ski Sports that has the Eagle Creek “The Organized Traveler” cube set (one each full, half, and quarter cubes) and “The Ultimate Traveler” set (one 18” folder, one full cube, one medium sac) on clearance for $14 and $22 each respectively – this is less than the cost of the larger piece in each set! They had green stripe and black colors when I last checked.
Next, the toiletries! Kip Hawley's silly TSA 3-1-1 rule is a real pain in the neck when it comes to carrying on your normal liquid toiletries. Happily there are a few options and some things to be aware of. Walmart has a decent selection of travel toiletries, but no one in my area beats Target and their huge selection (depending on store). On line, Minimus has travel-size everything…
You can get the 3-1-1 compliant 1 quart ziplock bag (henceforth: "the Kippie bag") for your travel-sized liquids at the grocery store. If you don't need that many bags, you can buy a pack of 7 Hefty zip bags specifically for carry-on travel at WalMart in the Health and Beauty Aids section. They'll be in the bins with all the travel sized stuff. Remember that everything you put in the bag must be in a 3oz. or smaller container.
Another option that appears to be one of the better ideas out there is the Easy Traveler system which lets you fill your own containers rather than buying the travel sized, more expensive, products.
Be warned, though, there have been reports of some TSO's confiscating (throwing out) Kippie bags when the containers don't have the manufacturer's labels designating the size of the containers as 3oz. or smaller.
Get a cap for the head of the brush instead of a full toothbrush case. It takes up much less room in your toiletries bag.
If you want to skip the whole "liquids/gels" thing, you can get tooth powder. Eco-Dent is one of the more popular ones, and Lemon-Lime is supposed to be the more popular flavor.
I looked all over for a tooth powder with fluoride and could not find one. The "evidence" sited by Eco-Dent that their tooth powder helps with remineralization (and hence, sensitivity) appears frivolous at best, so I personally just go with a tiny toothpaste tube. I refill mine using two tube caps epoxied together at the ends and drilled through so that they act as a connector between my big tube and my little tube. I connect the two tubes together and give one firm squeeze and the little tube is full. Why refill? Because I can't find my toothpaste in a small tube - it only comes in large ones.
I use an old two-blade razor for my travels, and I did find a travel case for it a long time ago, but it had since broken. I was carrying it in a plastic sandwich baggie to try to prevent it from damaging anything else in my bag when I recently happened across a nice razor case at Drugstore.com (free shipping at the time) made by Radius. It fits both my travel 2-blade and my daily use 5-blade razor.
Since most of my airline travel is business travel and the company pays the tab, all of the hotels are the "over $100/night" type and I know shampoo and soap are going to be there waiting for me in the room. However, I did investigate other options for the future.
Bar soap is, of course, one of the best ways to go if traveling carry-on only. It weighs less than liquid soap and you avoid the hassle of using the Kippie bag. Dial White and Dial Tropical have gotten good comments in various places around the web, as has Dove soap. Ivory Classic apparently dries some folk's skin terribly, so be warned. Those same folks have reported good experiences with Ivory Aloe.
*** Unfortunately carrying a bar of soap is messy business no matter how you cut it. I'd love to hear from folks about how you handle the potential mess of carrying a damp bar in your luggage!
Bar shampoo is a great way to get around the liquids thing as well. Lots of folks talk about Lush solid shampoo, but I also found another: Basin. The bars are larger and less expensive.
By the way, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a GOOD thing to have in your shampoo bar. It's the detergent that removes bacteria, dirt and excessive oils from your hair. Some internet conspiracy theorists/marketers may try to convince you that it's bad four you and you have to go "all natural". Baloney. SLS also foams and works well even in hard water - another thing to consider.
You can get travel-sized shave gels, or even smaller travel sized Barbasol shaving cream (Harris Teeter or Target) and drop it in the Kippie bag, but personally I find that bar soap works very well. Rub the bar directly on wet stubble and work into a lather with a wet hand. If you want to get a little fancy, you can use a shaving brush. Old Dominion Soap company sells a nylon brush (the SB-7) which is good for travel. I purchased one and tried it out and it seems to work just fine for me.
“Paper” Soap, Shampoo, Shave Cream, etc.
Another entirely different option is "paper" shampoo sheets and soaps made by Travelon.
The product consists of a small package with thin solid sheets of either shampoo, hand soap, conditioner, body wash, and even laundry wash and shaving cream. Pull out a sheet or two (with DRY fingers) and the sheets dissolve into the product when water is applied.
*** I have not used these, but would love to hear from people who have!
Gel and roll-ons HAVE to go in the Kippie bag. You can get a travel size solid deodorant and drop it in the Kippie bag, or get an inexpensive full-sized solid and don't drop it in the Kippie bag and take your chances. It seems that for some unknown reason some TSO's consider solid deodorants to be liquids. Apparently the TSA teaches their employees a different brand of chemistry than what I learned in high school, but that's another rant for elsewhere on the forums...
Surprisingly, I found that the Axe travel sized antiperspirant/deodorant has a very mild scent, so I went with one of those. I also found some (old but still good) Speed Stick travel sized deodorants at a flea market recently (Oldsmar near Tampa, FL) for 3 for a buck.
Another option is to go with one of those deodorant crystal sticks, which won't need to go in the Kippie bag and is unlikely to be mistaken for a liquid. These are found at Target and Walmart. I used one years ago and I can report that it actually does work quite well provided you aren't engaging in "heavy sweating"-type activities.
How about some quick hints for casual clothing? My suggestion: aim for nylon if possible. Nylon clothes dry very quickly, weigh very little in the luggage and are easy to care for. Starter makes great nylon long pants for lounging around in, which I found at Walmart. I also found nylon athletic long sleeve shirts that weigh almost nothing. For years I have had a pair of nylon packable shorts that fold into their own back pocket that I bought at the Oldsmar flea market near Tampa. During a recent visit to Oldsmar I found one vendor who had some "new and improved" models on a rack for $11 each. I did find one online source of my original shorts: Sportsman's Guide still has a few medium Black and Khaki left.
Right now you can get Shout wipes in a four pack at Walmart for dealing with stains while traveling. Target has larger packs in the laundry aisle. These can be a lifesaver and do not need to go in the Kippie bag. You can also get Tide in similar-sized tiny little packs (0.25 oz, I believe) for doing laundry in the hotel sink. Technically these contain liquid so should go in the Kippie bag. You can also get Woolite in single use packets in various places on the web.
That’s all for now!
That's all I can think of for now, but that's a lot! Feel free to add your corrections, comments, and tips/suggestions so other folks can benefit from your experience!