Who is this guide for:
- Longest trip you’ve ever taken. Maybe you’re a 1-week a year traveler and now you’re going for 2 or 3 weeks. Or perhaps it’s your first time doing a month long journey or more.
- Last long trip packing didn’t work out well. Couldn’t lift your suitcase? Tried buying foreign products that didn’t work?
- New travelers. What should I bring?
What does this guide cover:
Part 1 of the series covers Toiletries. We will discuss clothes, shoes and accessories in upcoming posts.
Why am I writing this guide:
In my extensive travels around the globe I have discovered how difficult it is to purchase or replace certain items in other countries. Here in the United States, we have an incredibly diverse set of products to choose from and we are able to purchase even more online. This is not the case in other countries. I have yet to travel to a destination with more choices than here in the US, or better prices. (Did you know… Some foreigners pay to have a US address so they can buy products that cannot be shipped to their country or that are significantly cheaper?)
Let’s Start with Your Head
Hair and Face
Think about how you care for your hair and face. If you have special or favorite hair or facial care products, it is best to bring them with you. Once you get to where you’re going you might not find those products at all and if you do the price could be MUCH more expensive. What I have found is typically you can find toiletries in larger grocery stores and drug stores or pharmacies but it’s not as common to find specialty stores. One problem is knowing what the specialty stores are called in that country. For example, here in America we have beauty supply stores where we can buy our favorite shampoo. What is that called in Thailand? Who knows!
You also probably don’t want to spend hours of your vacation time finding shampoo. So unless you want an adventure finding your brand of face cream or aftershave, take it with you. You can cut weight by using smaller travel containers. I’ve even at times pumped the exact number of days of shampoo (plus a couple to be safe).
Makeup is a similar, you may or may not find your favorites. Although there are certain destinations where you may discover fun choices, like finding Makeup Forever in France, a major competitor of Mac. If you will be in a western country or continent in a larger city, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a place to buy some decent mascara.
If you care about the ingredients in your personal care products, definitely take them with you. Again, the US is more forthcoming with this information and it is much easier to make healthier choices. Remember labels in foreign countries are not likely to be in English unless of course you’re in an English speaking country (just call me Mrs. Obvious). Even then, the Brits and Aussies use different words so no guarantees their term matches the one you’re used to.
My husband was never able to find a decent contact lens solution that properly cleaned and lubricated his contacts for a price he was willing to pay so we always brought the good Renu bottle. I made sure I had a brand new tube of my favorite lip balm because I couldn’t find one overseas that didn’t dry out my lips.
I highly recommend having a emergency pack of feminine hygiene products. These definitely vary by country. You can find them everywhere but they might not be what you would expect. I have found the quality to be much lower in most places.
First Aid and Skin Care:
Better safe than sorry when it comes to even the slightest injuries, especially open wounds that could get infected. If you buy a little kit, take just what you need and toss it in a ziploc bag to save space and weight. Include:
- Antibacterial wipes or gel
- Antibacterial ointment
- Blister care
- Aloe vera
- Bug spray
- After Bite
Vitamins and supplements are in my “nice to have” category. I take what I can. If I’m going for a couple months, I know I’ll start missing certain supplements. Those are the ones I try to fit. I believe that certain destinations like the Mediterranean have higher quality food, water and supplements. I found the supplements in France to be some of the best in the world so now I know I don’t have to pack supplements to France!
Once again, downsize! Don’t pack the bottle. Move to ziploc baggies and tuck into shoes or small pockets.
- Hair care
- Cleansers/soaps, creams and lotions
- Toothpaste (I use natural fluoride free paste which I have found on occasion, but I don’t like to risk it. I love these 4oz tubes on Amazon that are perfect!)
- Contact lenses and solution
- Lip balm, especially ones with sunscreen if needed
- Shaving products including razor blades
- Deodorant (I don’t use antiperspirant which contains aluminum so I always pack my favorite.)
- Feminine hygiene
- First aid (This is a nice light, compact version)
How much space should all these toiletries take in my suitcase?
Clothes and shoes should be taking up about 75% of your suitcase. Toiletries shouldn’t be more than about 15%. You can fine tune this based on your preferences.
- Place everything in ziploc bags before packing! Trust me, anything can and will leak when you least expect it.
- Fill the inside of shoes with toiletries in ziploc bags.
- Downsize packaging – bottles, containers, make anything that can be smaller smaller!