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How To Pack Your Toiletry Bag For Carryon | TSA Approved

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Packing Toiletries And Makeup: Everything You Need to Know

The one question I'm always asked is how I travel with only a carry-on. I've flown from D.C. to California to Florida for ten days, D.C to Egypt for 14 days, and of course, shorter trips, and I've done them all with just a carry-on. Vacationing with just a carry-on isn't something that happens overnight; it's an evolution. I've not perfected my packing yet, but I'm working on it, and I learn something new when I return from each trip. Like what I can leave home and what I need to pack more of on the next trip.

Before jumping on a plane with a carry-on only, something to consider is to be clear on the type of vacation, i.e., city, resort, or road trip. You'd want to pack your toiletry based on the kind of vacation because not all trips are treated the same. Although some people may get away with just a toothbrush and Dr. Bronner's soap, many wouldn't dare to leave home without their entire 12 steps facial routine. Toiletries are the most personal part of the packing; nevertheless, all toiletry bags must follow the same protocol if you're taking a carry-on.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

After we're clear on the type of vacation, the next required step is, are my toiletries TSA Approved? After the September 11 attacks, regulations got tougher, such as limiting the number and types of items passengers could carry. Going through airport security can be a bit perplexing, but only if you don't know the rules. Knowing the rules and regulations of the TSA ensures getting through airport security is much more straightforward.

Sidenote: I've heard the stories of getting this and that through airport security many times. I believe in just following the rules because it makes life easier, especially when going through security in other countries.

The TSA Liquids Rule is sometimes confusing, so "Imma" simplify the 3.1.1 rule by starting with the definition:

  1. 3: means each container must be no larger than 3.4 ounces,

  2. 1: all containers must fit into a 1-quart bag, and 1: each passenger may have one bag of liquids, gels, or aerosols in their carry-on.

  3. 1: Each traveler is limited to one bag.

Mostly International items
Mostly International items

The only exception to the rule is liquid medications, and you must have proof from your doctor and it should be in the original packaging. The other exception is liquid to feed a baby, i.e., breast milk and juice; however, you must inform the TSA agent before going through screening. An exception relative to the state of the world today is sanitizing gel. TSA allows one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags until further notice.


In your transparent quart-sized toiletry bag, you may bring multiple 3.4-ounce containers, as long as they fit inside your quart-size bag. I'd recommend placing each liquid, gel, or aerosol product inside its own plastic bag or use something like Glad Plastic Food Wrap before twisting on the cap. This will prevent the product from leaking inside the bag. I've had it happen to me a few times, and it's a real mess even if the spillage is contained inside the bag.


Let's Get Started

To put it simply, a spreadable substance, "smearable," "sprayable," or "squirtable," is subject to the 3-1-1 rule. Think of items like a roll-on deodorant, toothpaste, sunscreen, and liquid vitamins. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hair gel, face wash, lotion, toothpaste, contact lens solution, shaving cream or lotion, aftershave, and perfume/cologne all fall under the 3-1-1 rule.

Here is the hard part you can quickly fill that quart-size bag with makeup! So for this part of packing, you'll need to be strategic about your makeup choices. Items like mascara, lip gloss, liquid eyeliner, moisturizer, and liquid foundation are all restricted. If you're still uncertain, any makeup that is squirtable or spreadable is forbidden.

Alternative Products

Baby and makeup wipes don't count as liquids, so they can go into your carry-on bags in any quantity. Oh, and in our current climate, Lysol wipes are necessary and do not count against the 3.1.1 rule. An alternative to aerosol deodorant, you can pack stick deodorants such as Native. Native is aluminum-free, vegan, gluten, and cruelty-free lipstick. For powders like blush and foundation, they're also acceptable but not more than 12 ounces each. Pack a pencil eyeliner vs. liquid and if you must take your Dr. Bronner’s like myself pack the solid soap version. If you want to bring more than 3.4 ounces of perfume, pack solid fragrances like L'interdit solid perfume by Givenchy and breath a sigh of relief because disposable and electronic razors are acceptable in your carry-on.

Pack all non-liquid makeup and toiletries in a separate bag to free up room in your liquids bag.

Henri Bendel Toiletry Collection
Henri Bendel Toiletry Collection

Carry-On Tip

Keep in mind that travel-size toiletries are widely available in grocery stores, Target, and stores such as The Container Store is an excellent place to shop for containers. If you can't find a travel size of your favorite product, you can always decant.

In the end, prepping for vacation and packing for a holiday can be hectic. Especially when it comes to packing a toiletry bag for a carry-on. Some frequent travelers would say just purchase the items when you get to your destination. I’m not a fan of this method unless I forgot something because most likely it will cost twice as much and that is if you can find it.

Personally, my skincare and hygiene are precious to me, so having my favorite products with me on travel is more important than 20 outfits. And each moment I spend looking for toiletries is time away from vacation bliss. So, I'm always on the lookout for travel sizes. Nine out of 10 times when you need an item, most likely you won't be able to find it. Avoid this part of travel planning stress, and don't wait until the last minute by staying ready.

For more tips on how to make your travel more efficient and comfortable, check out my blog on 7-Resources You Need To Stay Safe Abroad and What's In My Travel Bag - Emergency Toiletry Bags for more insight on how I pack and prepare for travel. Don't forget to subscribe to the across N abroad Travel blog and follow on Instagram. You'll want to be the first to access curated travel updates and inspirations.

-Happy Travels-

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