Top Five Tips for Packing a TSA Bag
After sharing my tips for traveling with only a carry-on suitcase, I received a few requests for follow-up advice on how to manage a hair and make-up routine while sticking to TSA guidelines. I’m happy to oblige, especially because I didn’t think it would ever be possible for me to fit everything I like to have with me in one little quart-sized bag. But believe me when I tell you that if I can do it, anybody can. (If you are a minimalist by nature and only use a handful of products to get yourself ready for the day, then you definitely don’t need my help. Also, I wish I could be you. As hard as I’ve tried to force it, though, I’ve come to accept that I’m just not a wash-and-go kind of girl.)
Before we dive into my top tips for packing a TSA bag, let’s review the carry-on rules so we are all on the same page. Taken straight from TSA website:
“You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. Placing these items in the small bag and separating from your carry-on baggage facilitates the screening process.”
Top Tip #1:
For a long time I tried to use a regular zip-top quart-sized bag to contain all of my little travel-sized liquids, aerosols, etc. – the kind that we all have sitting in our kitchen right now. Inevitably, I’d cram all of my essentials inside, only to reach the top of the bag and not have enough room left to get it closed. And then I’d give up, leave a bunch of stuff behind in hopes of buying it at my destination, or just decide to check my luggage and pay the fee. My aha moment came one day when I stumbled across this TSA-approved travel bag. See how the bag doesn’t lay flat, but instead has an expanded bottom so it sits upright? This design makes all the difference in how all of your bottles and containers stack inside.
I went from being completely frustrated, to being able to pack all of this:
Top Tip #2:
I buy travel-sized bottles of my favorite shampoo and conditioner and body wash, and then just refill them as needed. I’ve personally found that this works better than buying the little travel-sized container sets that are available out there – I feel like the bottles often leak, or the plastic is flimsy and ends up cracking. If you’ve found a great set that works for you, please share in the comments!
Top Tip #3:
My favorite trick for saving space in my TSA bag is to use empty contact lens cases and fill them with my face and eye creams, primer and foundation. Every time I buy contact solution, it comes with a contact lens case – and even though I replace the one I use for my contacts regularly, it didn’t take long for me to assemble quite the collection of extras. It occurred to me one day that maybe I could use these for packing some of my beauty products – they are smaller and thinner than the little round containers that come in the travel sets, and it turns out they hold the perfect amount of product for at least a week-long vacation. If you don’t wear contacts, there are a lot of options available in the Health and Beauty section of any drugstore that you could buy for just a few dollars. Look for ones that have screw-on tops, though – the ones that just snap close will leak.
Top Tip #4:
As far as what’s in my bag, I always pack body wash, and for traveling purposes I let it double as shaving cream. Even the travel-sized shaving cream canisters seem bulky to me, so body wash is a good two-for-one space saving option. Also, I have fairly sensitive skin, especially around my eyes, so I never travel without a small bottle of this eye make-up remover. It’s seriously the only eye make-up remover that I’ve found that takes waterproof mascara off effortlessly and doesn’t irritate my eyes, so it’s worth it to me to make sure I include it. I also pack a mini tube of face wash because the hotel soap is usually a bit harsh. If you don’t have sensitive skin issues to deal with, a pack of good make-up remover wipes could actually take the place of both of these items and save you even more room.
Top Tip #5:
I do make a drastic departure from my usual routine of favorite hair products when I travel and only bring along shampoo and conditioner, blow-dry primer, and my can’t live without hairspray. Along with the other obvious items like toothpaste, sunscreen, contact solution, and hand sanitizer (I won’t get on an airplane without it…), something a bit different that I now make sure to pack is my lavender essential oil. It’s a great natural sleep enhancer if you are crossing time zones or just have trouble sleeping when you travel, so make sure to reserve a tiny bit of room in your TSA bag for a small bottle. The last time that I took melatonin to help my body adjust to a 6-hour time difference, I ended up having scary clown dreams all night, so I decided to try lavender oil as an alternative. Just rub a few drops on the bottom of your feet before bed and let it work its magic.
Do you have any upcoming travel plans? If you use any of these tips when you pack, comment below and let me know how they worked out for you!