You’ve booked your flights, sorted your itinerary and compiled your list of travel ‘must sees’; now it’s time for the not-so-fun part: the dreaded packing process. Both difficult and tedious, packing is undoubtedly the least exciting part of any trip – yet also the most essential. And no baggage is quite as unexciting yet essential as toiletries!

Our straightforward list of must-have travel toiletries will have you preparing, packing and zipping up that little bag of essentials packed and zipped up for you in no time.

License: kkk
License: Smart Photo Stock


First things first: no matter where you are going, you are guaranteed to get a better reception if you look and smell good. Soap, body wash, deodorants and perfumes are essential, no matter how small your toiletry bag is or how light you are travelling.

Although some travellers claim that it’s best to buy these staple items at your destination rather than take them along with you, I’m a firm believer in bringing them along, for a number of reasons (unless you are travelling to a major American city, perhaps): firstly, these staples may not be as ubiquitous as you might think if you are travelling in remote destinations and, secondly, if you’re travelling in expensive European cities, they may be overpriced compared to what you’re used to at home. We say bring what you have.

Opt for solid soaps rather than liquids wherever possible, as this takes up less room and lowers your chance of spillage. If you’re flying, don’t forget to separate them into carry-on or checked baggage so that you don’t have to surrender your favourite deodorant doesn’t to airport security!

Travel essentials

Now for those goodies that you might not carry around in your bag every day but will probably need on a vacation, depending on your destination: think sun screen, insect repellent, hand sanitiser, and ear plugs. These items will help you prevent and deal with the not-so-pleasant aspects of being on the road, from sunburn to insects to noisy places to the unexplained yet inevitable lack of soap in foreign public bathrooms.


Get a miniature version of your regular tooth paste and floss if possible, and look out for a foldable toothbrush to squeeze into your luggage. You will need to leave the bulky electric toothbrush behind.

If you’re embarking on a long-haul flight, don’t forget to pack your floss, brush and paste in your carry-on so you can refresh while on the plane or a stopover. You – and your fellow travellers – will be thanking us for it!


Unless you are certain that your itinerary includes only five-star hotels stocked with the latest and greatest in beauty products, we would definitely recommend bringing a miniature version of your regular hair shampoo and conditioner.

Also, don’t forget to bring a dry shampoo and leave-in conditioner for those early morning starts where you just don’t have time to wash your hair.


Essential beauty products include a SPF-friendly lip balm – yes, even for non-cosmetic-embracing men.

If maintaining your usual beauty regimen is important to you then by all means bring your regular face wash, toner and moisturiser but if you can avoid it I’d definitely recommend cutting down to just a face wash and facial moisturiser (which can be used on your hands and body as well). Do invest in face wipes, which will save you much space and time on the road.

Leave behind all non-essential beauty products. And no, cosmetics like eyeliner and eye shadow are probably not essential. Besides, not bringing your usual hefty makeup bag will give you an excuse to search the markets for new products at your destination! Make sure you put all liquids and creams in a clear zip-lock bag, even if they are too big for your carry-on luggage – this will prevent all your toiletries or even luggage from being ruined should there be a spill or tear.


Yes, it may be boring, but don’t forget things like tweezers, nail clippers, razors and nail varnish for a weekly maintenance session. Products like razors might be (sometimes) easy to buy at your destination, from my own experience they often come in jumbo packs of 12 or 20, which is an annoying and unnecessary expense.

Just-in-case must-haves

Just-in-case must-haves? Things like cotton buds, Q-tips, band-aids, bobby pins, wet wipes, disinfectant and a whole lot of tissues are bound to come in handy on the road, and I for one would not leave home without them.

Other just-in-case must-haves that are not exactly toiletries but are pretty important include any medications, supplements or contraceptives you take or have been advised to take by your doctor specifically for this trip. Unless it is particularly heavy or cumbersome, it’s a good idea to take the packaging with you to prevent awkward glances from airport security staff.

Richard O’Toole is a freelance writer and frequent flyer who stays fresh with the help of the ever-appealing Lynx body spray.


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