How to Pack Toiletries for Air Travel

Toiletry products can be very messy things if they spill so the last thing you want is them leaking all over your clothes and other things in your baggage.

There are things you can do to not only ensure that your toiletries arrive at your destination without spilling everywhere but also how you can get around the carry on liquid rules by taking solid equivalents or decanting shampoo etc into travel-size bottles.

Hopefully you will find a few useful tips here to help you pack toiletries safely and also not get your toiletries confiscated at the security checkpoint.

best way to pack toiletries for air travel
How to Pack Toiletries for Air Travel 1

How to pack carry on toiletries

You cannot just scatter your toiletries around in your carry on bag and expect to get through the TSA security checkpoint at the airport without experiencing delays and problems.

Any toiletry items that are considered a liquid under the TSA liquid rules must be placed in a one quart size bag. This is is basically a toiletry bag that is both transparent and resealable plastic bag. Your liquid toiletries must go in this together with any other liquids you may be carrying.

However, you cannot pack liquid toiletries that are in a container that is larger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) as they are not permitted through airport security at all. Note that it is the size of the container, not the amount of liquid it contains, that is important.

What this means is that you cannot take a 7 ounce bottle that only contains 3.4 ounces of liquid as this would be confiscated by security agents.

You can carry as many liquid toiletries and other liquid items that are below this size as you can pack in your quart size bag. Only one quart bag containing liquids is permitted per passenger.

Toiletries that must go in a liquids bag

The following is a list of the most common toiletry items that are considered to be a liquid so must go in a liquids bag. It is not an exhaustive list so if you have any other toiletries which can either be poured or spread then they will probably also fall within the liquids rule so will also need to go in the quart size bag.

  • Deodorant/antiperspirant – this includes aerosols, roll-on and spray but not solid stick types
  • Shampoo
  • Dry shampoo
  • Face wash
  • Body spray
  • Body wash
  • Shaving cream
  • Body lotion
  • Perfume
  • Cologne
  • Suncream
  • Mascara

Read my post 9 things considered a liquid when flying that really aren’t!

Toiletries that can stay in your carry on bag

You can take solid versions of most toiletries in your carry on bag without removing them or placing them in a liquids bag including:

  • Lip balm
  • Wet wipes
  • Solid deodorant/antiperspirant
  • Solid bar soap
  • Solid conditioner bars
  • Solid shampoo bar
  • Any other solid toiletries

How can you take full sized bottles of toiletries in carry on bags?

air travel toiletries - buy at airport store
Buy at an airport lounge store

As you now know you cannot pack full size toiletries in your carry on bag and take them through airport security. So if that is the case, how can you actually take larger bottles of liquid toiletries on a plane?

The answer is, if you are traveling from a reasonably large airport that has stores in the lounge area after passing through the security checkpoint, you can purchase toiletries from there. Those stores are not limited to simply selling travel size products but can also sell regular size too.

Any size of toiletry you can buy in one of these stores can be taken on board the aircraft with you in your carry on bag.

How to pack toiletries in checked luggage

The checked baggage liquid toiletry rules

Firstly, the regulations on what toiletries you can pack in your checked bag are must less restrictive than those that apply to toiletries and liquids in carry on bags.

The 3.4 ounce rule does not apply to liquids in checked bags so any liquids, including toiletries, can be larger full-size versions and not travel sizes. The one restriction that applies to aerosol toiletries is that the container cannot be larger than 18 ounces and the total no more than 70 ounces.

This is the rule on the TSA website:

“The FAA limits the total amount of restricted medicinal and toiletry articles, including aerosols, in checked baggage. The total aggregate quantity per person cannot exceed 2 kg (70 ounces) or 2 L (68 fluid ounces). The capacity of each container must not exceed 0.5 kg (18 ounces) or 500 ml (17 fluid ounces). See the FAA regulations for more information.”

Also, liquid toiletries do not have to go in a zip-lock quart bag so you can just pack them in your normal toiletries bag if you wish.

Don’t worry about your aerosols as they will not explode in checked bags.

See my post How much liquid can you take on a plane in checked baggage? for full details.

How to pack your toiletries

The most important thing to prevent when you pack liquid toiletries is that the containers do not get squashed and the toiletries leak out.

You can try and stop this by stuffing them into shoes and other items that will protect them.

You can also pack toiletries in a rigid toiletry bag with your other toiletries kit. This will offer them some protection and also protect items outside of the toiletry bag as the bag will be quite leakproof.

Resealable sandwich bags make a great deal of sense to use too. Pack each toiletry item that could leak in individual bags, so should one leak it will not damage anything else in your bag.

how to pack toiletries for checked luggage

Toiletries packing tips

Buy travel-size toiletries

Some toiletry manufacturers are aware of the TSA liquid rules so manufacture small bottle versions of their products in what are referred to as travel sized bottles. These are 3.4 ounces or less in size so are permitted in carry on luggage (in your liquids bag). Hunt them out in your local store or online.

Buy refillable bottles

Decant each of your favorite liquid toiletry products into an individual refillable bottle that are designed for air travel and as they (normally) hold 3 ounces each. This way you should be able to take enough for a week long trip if traveling with carry on only.

You can purchase them together with a TSA approved toiletry bag on Amazon here – TSA Approved Travel Bottles with TSA Approved Toiletry Bag

TSA Approved Travel Bottles for Toiletries Travel Containers with TSA Approved Toiletry Bag for Travel Size Toiletries Airplane Travel Essentials Vacation Cruise Accessories Must Haves (model GG3)

Buy solid equivalent toiletries

Since there are no restrictions on the size of solid toiletries you can take on a plane it makes sense to consider substituting your normal liquid toiletries if going on a trip, particularly if you are only taking hand luggage.

They are also easier to pack too and can save space, particularly if you dispose of any unnecessary packaging.

As well as soap there are a whole range of solid toiletries you can buy, some of which I had never heard of before researching this article, such as:

Join TSA Pre-check

Obtain membership to TSA Pre-check or Global Entry which will give you the ability to pass through airport security without the need to take your liquids bag out of your carry-on luggage.

Read my post TSA Precheck- what is it an how to get it

Share space with a partner

If you are traveling with someone, it may be that they will not be using all of the available space in their liquid bag (particularly if they are male) so you could put some of your additional toiletries that qualify as liquids in that too.

Buy toiletries at the airport

Particularly if you are flying from a larger airport, there are likely to be some stores after you pass through security where you can buy full-size toiletries. There are no restrictions on actually taking these on the flight with you if purchased after the security checkpoint.

You will probably need to use them up and perhaps throw away some that are partially used though as you will be unable to take them through security for your return flight.

Buy at your destination

Believe it or not, if you are flying to most other countries, particularly in Europe and other developed countries, they actually have these items for sale there too!

So just save weight and space in your carry on bags and buy them when you arrive.

FAQs

What is the 311 rule?

The 311 rule is what the TSA refers to as the liquids rule – no larger than 3 ounces (actually 3.4), in a 1 quart liquid bag and only 1 liquid bag per passenger.

Do toiletry bags have to be clear?

A toiletry bag that is being used to take liquids through airport security must be a clear plastic bag that is resealable with a capacity of no larger than 1 quart.

Is deodorant allowed in flight?

You can take deodorant on a flight if it is no larger than 3.4 ounces (or you buy it after the security checkpoint) and you can use it during the flight. Read my post – Can you bring deodorant on a plane?

Does stick deodorant count as a liquid?

Stick deodorant is not considered a liquid for the purposes of TSA security liquid rules so its size is not restricted and it does not have to go in a quart-size liquids bag either.

Can I take full size toothpaste on a plane?

You can take full-size toothpaste on a plane in checked bags but not in carry on as it will be larger than the maximum size of 3.4 ounces.

Is Vaseline a liquid TSA?

Vaseline does fall within the TSA’s liquids rules so to be carried through security in carry on it can only be in a container that is no larger than 3.4 ounces and must be in a toiletries bag (quart size resealable liquids bag).

Is mascara considered a liquid when flying?

As surprising as it may seem, mascara is considered a liquid under the TSA’s liquids rules so to be carried through security in carry on it can only be in a container that is no larger than 3.4 ounces and must be in a toiletries bag (quart size resealable liquids bag).

Do wipes go in liquid bag?

Wet wipes do not need to go in a liquid bag as the TSA does not consider them as being liquids even though they are wet.

Can I bring full-size shampoo in checked luggage?

You can bring a full size shampoo container in your checked luggage as the carry on liquids rules do not apply to liquids in hold baggage. For full details read my post – How much shampoo can you take on a plane?