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Old Dec 28, 07, 6:35 am   #1
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Packing & Toiletries Tips for Carry-on Only Travel

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.



Toiletries, etc:

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…


3-1-1- bag:

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.

Shaving Cream:

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.

Casual Clothing:

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.


Other Stuff:

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!

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Old Dec 28, 07, 8:49 pm   #2
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What a great list- Thanks

I dont travel for my job, so I dont get out and about alot. But I worry about my bottles opening so I use a little duct tape on them. In fact I had thrown the roll in on one of our vacations and my husband's rolling duffel bag ripped on the flight out. came in handy for the return trip- otherwise we would have had to purchase a piece of luggage.
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Old Dec 28, 07, 9:52 pm   #3
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Originally Posted by Quickbeam View Post

*** 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!
Have you tried breaking a bar of your regular soap into small pieces? I haven't tried this but guessing that a partially used bar from home would probably work best. I used to carry around travel bars but found that I used the hotel soap 99% of the time.

Originally Posted by Quickbeam View Post
The ladies out there may want to add their particular tips and tricks to the thread below this post.
I dislike checking bags and am not a big fan of lugging around a roller-board either (I usually overpack with all that space). I have been known to pack 3 or 4-day trips in a backpack or my rolling laptop bag. Planning a basic color scheme and comfortable, versitle shoes allows me to pack everything needed into every available nook.

When it comes to liquids, I only take what is needed for the trip + 1 day. Travel "in miniatrue" has been a quirk even pre-baggie. I know what will be available at the hotel & omit them from my baggie. When I buy a full-size product, I ask for a sample size as well...and keep refilling it. This avoids any potential issues with unlabeled products & TSA. It also minimizes $$ lost if the item is lost during my trip. ($5 sample vs $200 bottle...). I also reuse any sample 'squeezy' tubes like hair gel as these aren't the easiest to find in miniature. Sephora's 'sample' containers are great for small amounts of product as well.

I always travel with either a Kiva bag or mega-large Ziploc bag in case something happens to the zipper (or I go shopping ). Don't get me wrong, some days I have to take the 22" carry-on, but I try to avoid it if possible--especially on a non-status airline or small planes (not a fan of waiting on plane-checked luggage to reappear either!).
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Old Dec 29, 07, 12:56 am   #4
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I am the king of light packers

I travel with a very high quality leather backpack and a small travelpro carry bag that (when not overfilled) will fit into the overhead bin even on commuter airplanes like RJ's and EMB's.

I don't like rollarounds mainly because I always take the stairs (a funny fitness mania that I have) and rollarounds inhibit my mobility.

For overnight trips, I can get everything I need into the backpack. My clothes are folded neatly (see below), slipped into a plastic oven bag to keep them clean and slipped into one of the vertical slots in the backpack.

For multiday trips, I carry 3-4 days of clothes in my carry bag. If I am travelling longer than 3-4 days, I use the laundry service at the hotel and cycle my clothes as I go.

I don't believe that you need to pay for any of the fancy travel systems to keep your clothes from wrinkling. They just take up space. Here is how I do it.

First, learn how to fold your shirts and pants correctly. Send you clothes to the laundry and ask them to return them to you folded. When you get them back, look at how they fold the clothes and learn how to do it. I carefully fold my clothes and they always arrive in great condition. 99% of the time I just hang the shirt and pants I will wear that day in the bathroom when I shower and the steam takes any minor wrinkles out.

Second, after you fold your clothes pack them tightly in your bag. My bag has straps to cinch the clothes down, and I cinch them tight! This keeps them from shifting during travel and wrinkling. It also makes my bag thinner.

Great advice in the thread on toiletries. You can find small versions of most toiletries at your grocery store - most have a "sample size" area where you can purchase the small version of toothpaste, lotions, etc. I stock up on em whenever I go.

Travelling light is a state of mind. My wife calls it a sickness, but even she admits that she is impressed with how much I can get in so little space!
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Old Dec 30, 07, 10:28 am   #5
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I've been on the same quest, after having checked a bag on a trip to a family reunion thing.

I'm investing in the packing folders and cubes thing. I've tried carefully folding, carefully folding, etc. and it doesn't work for me. I'd rather spend $100 on some nylon packing aids then have to deal with the dry cleaners. I've tried having them press shirts and half the time they do a worse job than I can do with an iron, and I am 10 thumbs when it comes to ironing. Eagle Creek seems to be overhauling their color selection, so the more hideous color schemes can be found on sale online in various places.

As for shaving, I'm invested in the Gillette Mach 3 system. When you pack, if you store your current cartridge back in the little plastic tray, the handle and the tray take up very little space, its the big plastic display holder that is bulky. I use an Edge gel for shaving, but haven't found a travel size for it. So I use Foamy minis, which can be found in some pharmacies. I've been trying various bar soaps, including a shaving soap bar I got at Walmart. My tentative conclusion is that you want a soap bar that is heavy with moisturizer, like Dove. Plain soap and deoderant soap don't lubricate enough for me. I'll use it in an emergency, but I'd rather plan ahead.

For carrying soap, those hard plastic box things are too bulky. But there's a risk for me in using the stuff the hotel provides, as I am allergic to a lot of stuff. So my intent is to set aside my shower bar when its about half used, and let it dry out. Then I'll carry it in a ziploc. I've done a little experimenting, it does stick to the ziploc but its not too bad. A square of wax paper from the kitchen might help with that. In an ideal world, a small bottle of body wash would be great but obviously that ain't happening now.

I have an Eagle Creek mini toiletry kit thats about 9.5x5.5", and with liquids separately in a quart ziploc, I can get everything else in it quite easily.

I've set aside two shoeboxes to store travel toiletries. I'm working on having 2 full containers of all the minis that I tend to use. I just hit Walmart last night but they didn't have much, but I'll check out Target. Your toothpaste refiller is brilliant; I'm surprised epoxy performed well, those caps feel like low density polyethylene and that stuff's hard to glue.

On the one-bag thing, unless you can get your total load down to like 15 lb I think the idea is bad news (excepting travel packs designed for backpack use). No matter how good the shoulder strap is, your body is simply going to be unhappy if you're carrying an unbalanced load. You should try ofloading your laptop and some other heavy stuff to a laptop case so you can balance the load somewhat and walk upright. Its like carrying gas cans; believe it or not, its easier to carry two 5-gallon cans than one.
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Old Jan 5, 08, 12:26 am   #6
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I picked up a bar of shaving soap at RiteAid today. It is labeled "select Shave Soap" made by van der Hagen Enterprises, www.vdhent.com. It is a round bar tha comes in a reclosable plastic clamshell-like thing that would be convenient for travel. It really requires a shaving brush, but it did seem to lubricate better than the Williams bar more commonly found. If one had to go without an aerosol gel or foam, this would be a decent bet.
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Old Jan 5, 08, 1:00 am   #7
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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.
Pffft. No respectable FT'er pays for these. I always grab a handfull of the "free" ones at the airport security lines.
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Old Jan 5, 08, 3:37 am   #8
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The Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate thing is not nonsense. Sure it won't kill you but for many people (myself included) it causes severe skin reactions. I stopped using soaps containing it and everything was fine. There are plenty of natural soaps available cheaply without it so it isn't a big deal to get away from.

It's like MSG in food...might not bother everyone but for some it is a BIG deal and since it is in most processed foods some folks have to make an effort.

I agree a lot of 'health tips' are nutty but some are real.
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Old Jan 5, 08, 4:12 am   #9
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Thanks for the great tips! Although I prefer to check my bags (hate totting along stuff and watching it) these are great tips for even those of us who check bags because space is a valuable commodity. I think this thread is just about sticky worthy.
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Old Jan 5, 08, 7:11 am   #10
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just because you got to carry 3 oz liquids don't mean you gotta buy 3 oz liquids. Many US hotels distribute liquid toiliteries in 3 oz containers. many european hotels distribute 100ml(3.4oz) toiliteries. refill them from the larger bottles. I don't know how TSA can tell most liquids apart. I have never seen a confiscation. when I am putting my shoes back on after the foot check, I can see all the confiscated items in bins at the end of the suitcase ramp. never seen any smalls.

drug stores have huge supplies of sealable 90 & 100 ml plastic bottles in the pharmacy. put a perscription label on them if you are really that worried.

for small soap. buy something decent and expensive. they come pretty small, or carry a good liquid soap.
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Old Jan 5, 08, 7:18 am   #11
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Originally Posted by slawecki View Post
for small soap. buy something decent and expensive.
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Old Jan 5, 08, 7:42 am   #12
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I travel so much that I don't have to worry about buying solid soap. When I stay in a hotel where I like the soap, I tip the maid and get extra bars to take along.

In Spain every hotel I've stayed in supplied the soap in a plastic travel case! I've reused these many times. Great idea!

I really do like Gilchrist and Soames and have bought an entire travel kit from them and refilled those bottles from full sized ones I bought on their site. www.gilchristsoames.com

The Gilchrist and Soames soaps are so well milled that they last a very long time....many trips.

I love Redoxx but know that I can't overload them as they can get heavy if you do so.

Brilliant topic! We need this! Thank you!
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Old Jan 5, 08, 9:20 am   #13
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Bed Bath and Beyond stores have a full department of travel sized toiletries at inexpensive prices.

I like to use these and sometimes will toss remaining products in the trash if I need to lighten my laod a bit more.

If I really need to lighten the load to bring back purchases I will bring old/cheap underwear and throw away as I go. I'll even save an old pair of sneakers for the outbound flight or just walking around and toss them before the return trip.

Last edited by JayBrian; Jan 5, 08 at 10:30 am
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Old Jan 5, 08, 5:36 pm   #14
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I've collected a few small glass lotion pots over the years - the little trial size things you get in those cosmetic company bonus offers. They hold maybe 5-10ml of moisturizer or whatever large lotion you care to transfer into a tiny container, they're already labelled as cosmetic to avoid any potential TSA issues, and they're tiny, tiny, tiny whilst still managing to hold enough for a week or two of travel.

Apart from my moisturizer, the only other liquid I regularly bring with me is my perfume (no, scent police, I do not wear it on the plane, but I do like to have it on hand; though I have been tempted to spray it around when there is a particular exuberant plane farter in the vicinity). Whenever I purchase a new bottle, I ask the staff to throw in a few of the sample size vials for travel purposes and they are always happy to oblige.

If anyone's in or travelling through Canada, especially Western Canada, it's worth stopping by a Rocky Mountain Soap Co. store. They have wonderful, all-natural soaps, and in their retail locations they offer them in "hotel" sizes for $2 a piece. Perfect for a short trip, and they fit in those mint tins - the small ones you get at Starbucks and other spots.
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Old Jan 5, 08, 8:40 pm   #15
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caswell massey makes their excellent shaving soaps in travel sizes, I love that stuff

It's available in 1.7 oz tubes, 2 oz jars, and a 3 oz bar (which fits most hotel coffee mugs perfectly)


It's no where near as cheap as the trial size from the drugstores, but once I tried it years ago (it was a gift) I've never used anything else. Large size for home, small size for travel.
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