10 Essentials for Your Travel Toiletry Kit

A simple guide to creating your ultimate travel toiletry kit.

toiletries kit hanging against grey wall
(Photo: Envato/AtlasComposer)
  • I’m a a longtime travel journalist who takes packing seriously. Here’s my list of items that help me tote all the essentials without overpacking.
  • These essentials will help you build a toiletries kit that has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Creating my ultimate toiletries kit meant letting go of the idea that I was going to bring every single thing I use at home. Once I realized that my on-the-road care routine needed to be a more nimble version of my at home regimen, I was able to sort out the essentials from the extras and pack both effectively and light.

Now that I have my dopp kit perfected, I keep it fully stocked so it’s ready to go when I am. At the end of each trip, I simply restock items that are low and then store the kit.And as I prep for my next trip, I’m always grateful to my past self.

Essential Items for Travel Toiletry Kits

The key to a great travel toiletries kit is to have smaller travel size versions of your go-to products that are easier to fit in your case and that meet TSA requirements if you won’t be checking your bag. Here are 10 essentials for a well-stocked travel toiletry kit.

1. Travel-Sized Containers

travel-sized toiletries bottles in a row
Travel-sized containers reduce bulk in a toiletries bag and can be reused again and again (Photo: Envato/TaniaJoy)

If your favorite health and beauty products don’t come in small sizes, squeeze or pour some into travel-friendly containers. This allows you to keep using your favorite shampoo or moisturizer no matter where you go without toting around oversized bottles or tubes.

Look for containers that are easy to fill and refill and are leakproof. You want them to stay closed when you’re not using them but be easy to open when you want to wash your face or hair. Labels can be helpful so you don’t mix up your sunscreen with your conditioner.

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Pro Tip: If you have a product that does tend to leak, open the top of the bottle and slip in a square of plastic wrap, then screw the lid back into place. It should keep it from leaking.

TourScoop recommends: I like the containers from CadenceKitschMatador, and Humangear.  

2. Shampoo and Conditioner

Sure, you can roll the dice and see what kind of shampoo and conditioner your hotel stocks in each room. Or you can play it safe by bringing your own along.

After all, the free conditioner (if there is any) is often not quite tuned to your particular hair needs. And if you want products specially tailored for, say, color-treated or curly hair, you’re not going to find that in your hotel room.

TourScoop recommends: Trusted hair-care brands TresemméOGXR+CoEthique, and Redken make a variety of travel-sized toiletries like shampoos and conditioners for various hair types.

3. Face Wash/Makeup Remover

man washing face on vacation
Bringing your own face wash is an easy way to recreate your skin care routine on the road (Photo: Envato/halfpoint)

The bar soap or body wash in your average hotel room isn’t ideal for washing your face at the end of the day. Bringing your own cleansing options that help address your specific skincare needs makes for a much better situation.

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There are a variety of formulations available in travel sizes, from gel cleansers and scrubs to foaming face washes. And makeup-removing or facial-cleaning wipes are easy to stash in a toiletry kit without taking up a lot of space (bonus: wipes don’t count as liquids, which if you’re traveling carry-on is extra great).

TourScoop recommends: You won’t go wrong with on-the-go face cleaning products from CeraVeBurt’s BeesNeutrogenaCetaphil, and Murad.

4. Deodorant

Here’s the truth: Traveling can be sweaty, whether you’re dashing to catch a plane or bus or hiking through scenic terrain. And since you’re likely to reuse certain items of clothing, it’s extra important to manage odors, making deodorant or antiperspirant a vital part of your travel toiletry kit.

You can go for a traditional antiperspirant, a natural deodorant, or even deodorant wipes for quickly freshening up between activities when there’s no time for a shower. Whatever you choose, you won’t regret having it. Stick to travel-sized deodorants and antiperspirants; they’re easier to carry and still last a long time.

TourScoop recommends: I like the options from NativeDegreePacifica, and Dove.

5. Moisturizer/Serum

person putting moisturizer on hands
Bringing your own face moisturizer helps your skin adapt to different climates (Photo: Envato/vilucm)

Whether you deal with dry patches or an oily T-zone, keeping up with your skincare routine while traveling helps your skin stay healthy and comfortable. Plenty of brands offer travel-sized moisturizers, or you can use a travel container (see above) to bring along your favorite from home.

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This is a case where products that do double- or triple-duty can really come in handy in order to save space in your toiletry bag. So consider moisturizers that also include serum or sunscreen to take care of multiple needs with one product.

TourScoop recommends: Travel-sized moisturizers from Olaye.l.f.Paula’s Choice, and Jack Black are reliable and affordable options to stash in your travel toiletry kit.

6. Toothbrush and Toothpaste 

Leave home without a toothbrush and toothpaste and you’ve got a problem. But if you’re like me, you probably already have the duo stashed in your travel toiletry bag.

For easiest transport, get a travel holder to store a regular-size toothbrush or choose a travel brush that flips down into its own case to protect your brush from dirt and debris. To really save space, you can opt for disposable, pre-pasted mini brushes that you can toss out after using.

TourScoop recommends: GUMColgateCrest, and Lingito all offer good travel-friendly oral-care products. I also love the extra-soft but very effective toothbrushes from Nimbus, which come in both compact and kid sizes, both of which are great for travel.

7. Shaving Supplies

man in wheelchair getting ready to shave at the bathroom sink
Hotels don’t tend to stock shaving supplies in rooms, so you’re better off bringing your own (Photo: Envato/Iakobchuk)

The TSA allows disposable razors in both carry-on and checked luggage. You can find lots of options, from the usual plastic ones you might use at home to mini-versions that come with their own traveling cases. Shaving creams and gels come in small tubes and cans for easy portability and in a variety of formulations and scents. In a pinch, I’ve also used the hotel conditioner or body gel as a shaving cream substitute.

TourScoop recommends: For disposable razors, GilletteGillette Venus, and Bic all offer good options. For travel-sized shaving creams and gels, I like eosHarry’sCremoJack Black, and Gillette.

8. Basic Medicines

You never know what might happen when you travel. So having some basic all-purpose medicines in your travel toiletry kit can be a good idea.

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Pain relievers, allergy medicines, antacids, and motion-sickness relief meds are all good things to have on hand. Leave the big bottles and packages at home and use a travel pill holder to help corral and separate the different pills and tablets. 

TourScoop recommends: Stay organized and ready for anything with travel pill holders from Vera BradleyCadencePort and Polish, and Meacolia.

9. Sunscreen

woman in an orange tank top putting on sunscreen and smiling
Sunscreen is important for all skin tones, especially in places where you’re getting more sun than usual(Photo: Envato/ashishk75)

Whether you’re traveling through Europe or headed to the beach, you need to pack sunscreen. It’s something you’ll want to put on every morning and ideally reapply throughout the day. 

Travel-sized sunscreen comes in liquid, stick, spray, and even brush-and wipe-on formulations, so there are lots of options to find the best choice for you and your travels. You may even want to choose more than one and put one in your travel toiletry bag and one in your purse or backpack.

TourScoop recommends: SupergoopSun BumAveeno, and Coola offer well-rated sunscreens sized for travelers.

10. Hairbrush/Comb

You might need to streamline your hair-styling routine when you’re on the road. But you don’t need to totally give up. Smaller-sized hairbrushes and combs still get the job done without taking up lots of space in your travel toiletry bag. And some options work well on wet and dry hair, eliminating the need for multiple styling tools.

TourScoop recommends: I’m a fan of the travel-sized options from Wet BrushConair, and Goody.

A Note on Toiletry Kits

I’ve outlined what to put in your toiletry kit, but what about the kit itself? There are so many options, ranging from leather to lightweight and pouch to hanging case. And there’s benefits to each: hanging toiletries kits keep surfaces clear but mean you have to find a spot to hang it, which isn’t always next to the sink. Kits made from heavier materials look elegant and provide protection for what’s inside, but add weight to a bag. Before you settle on one, take some time to look and options and think about what’s going to work best for you. There’s no one right option.

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Beth Luberecki writes about travel, business, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in publications including The Washington Post, USA TODAY, FamilyVacationist.com, and The Indianapolis Star. The Florida-based writer shares her travels on her website bethluberecki.com and on Instagram at @bethluberecki and @findingfloridafun.