Pack your bags and grab your passport, we’re heading for the airport!

How do you pack when you fly? The biggest suitcase you can find or a carry-on bag that fits under your seat? The upper classes of earlier times often travelled with multiple trunks and valises. Golda Meir, a mid-20th century Israeli politician, once famously travelled to Cyprus with only a handbag. Somewhere in the middle is where most of us land.

But anyone who has travelled on any airline in the last few years knows the perils of checking luggage. Not only are you wasting time waiting for checked luggage to (hopefully) arrive, you are lugging heavy bags around everywhere you go, which is especially difficult if you are on the move when you arrive at your destination. Worst of all, you usually have to pay extra to check that baggage, too.

But, at risk of showing my age, gone are the days when I’d pack my carry-on with figure skates or 1-litre glass bottles of specialty grape juice. Now travelling with just a carry-on has its detractions, especially when it comes to your toiletry bag. Shortly after the turn of the century (2006), liquids began to be strictly limited in carry-on baggage. Canadians are currently only allowed a single 1-litre bag of liquids, gels, and aerosols. The bag needs to be clear, resealable, and it needs to be able to close (dang!). All containers in the bag must be under 100 ml, and as you know, that little bag fills up very quickly. Maybe it’s time to ditch the liquids!

Shampoo, body wash, sunscreen, face cream . . . how do you keep your liquids to only a 1-litre bag? Keep reading for some ideas you can tailor to your travel style.

Low-Maintenance Living

How much can you give up when you travel? I know, it depends on the type of trip you’re taking, but if you can manage a low-maintenance personal and beauty routine, you’ll save room in your carry-on. For that matter, if you can manage a low-maintenance fashion routine, you can also lighten your load.

Multiuse Products

Just as you pack “capsule wardrobe” clothing that is versatile when you travel carry-on, pack versatile toiletries, too. Whenever possible, bring products that can have multiple uses. Use your shampoo as a body wash or use petroleum jelly as a lip gloss and a body moisturizer. Even better, can you share products with your travel partner?

Eco natural Soap and Solid Shampoo Bars. Zero waste concept. Plastic free. Flat lay, top view

Travel Solid

There’s bar soap and non-gel deodorant, but there are many other options for solid toiletries. We’ve seen everything from solid shampoo and conditioner to solid lotion and sunscreen. You can even find solid insect repellent. It can be tricky, especially with longer hair, to find a solid shampoo and conditioner that does the job you want, but keep in mind that all solid products are not created equal. You’ll find useful information at Travel Fashion Girl and lots of reviews on Amazon for products like Ethique Shampoo Bar to help you decide what’s best for you. Some solid products are also packaged in a way that’s better for the environment than plastic bottles, plus, there is no risk of leakage in your luggage.

Cleansing Wipes and Sheets

If you’re not committed to solid products, you can branch out to cleansing cloths and sheets. Olay makes facial cleansing cloths that are water-activated. My sister swears by travel soap sheets, for lightweight, yet powerful, on-the-go hygiene. Laundry detergent sheets make it simple to wash out a few things in a sink, making it easier to pack efficiently. Even just straight-up baby wipes can be incredibly useful while travelling, although obviously not ideal for the environment.


I was once reprimanded for not having my mascara in my liquids bag. Lip gloss, foundation, liquid eyeliner, and any gel-based products count towards your liquids. And yes, even mascara counts, my number one makeup choice. Where possible, use powder foundation or solid stick foundation and powder blush and pencil eyeliner. You can even buy mini mascara if you’re desperate for extra space.


Taking all of this in mind, now it’s time to pack, with this number one tip: pack light. Liquids have to be under 100 ml, but when you think about it, that size fills up a 1-litre bag very quickly. And do you need the whole bottle? Instead of buying travel-size products, buy small or squishable containers and fill them with your favourite products. Sample containers are a great option for many products, especially if you’re only travelling for a week or less. If you are travelling for longer, you could pack enough for your first few days and then buy at your destination.

Medicines and Medication

There are exemptions to the liquid, gel, and aerosol rules. Prescription medications and essential non-prescription medicine such as cough syrup are exempted from the 100 ml limit and do not have to be placed in a plastic bag, although you need to declare them to the screening officers. This includes saline solution and other eye care products. Traveller beware, however. What is true in Canada may not be true everywhere, and I’ve been told at international airports that my contact lens solution counted as a liquid that needed to fit in my bag. I now travel with everything in my liquids bag or I make sure to leave enough room that I can shove another bottle in there.

Ditch the Liquids Carry-On (Family Fun Canada)

Are you packed yet? While I know people that wouldn’t travel for the weekend without checking a bag, travelling with only carry-on luggage is incredibly freeing, even if sorting out your liquids initially is a pain. But once you figure out your system, it’s streamlined and easy. Meet you at the airport!