Many travelers avoid checking a bag like the plague. Why? First of all, it costs extra money. Second, it’s a hassle. Third, we think we can fit everything we need to in our “carry-on and personal item,” meaning hassle and extra cost are two things we shouldn’t even have to think about. But there are many chronic overpackers and inexperienced travelers who struggle to get everything they want into their carry-ons. The key to overcoming this is packing smart, which means packing small. It means figuring out what’s essential to you, and finding the smallest version of it or the smallest way to pack it. These products will help you master the art of packing small.
1. Little hand sanitizers will help you stay clean and fresh.
Hygiene doesn’t take a break because you’re traveling. Airports and airplanes and tourist attractions are notoriously germy places, so keeping some hand sanitizer on you is the smart thing to do. Who makes better scented hand sanitizer than Bath & Body Works? Uh, no one. This Classic Faves pack comes with all the best scents: peach bellini, cucumber melon, black cherry merlot, sweet pea, and beautiful day. With a mix of natural and germ-killing ingredients, these are a must for the hygienic traveler. Stash a couple in your carry-on to kill bacteria on-the-go.
2. Put the medicine you’ll need in a small case before you go.
Travel is definitely not the time to bail on your medication regimen. Whether it’s prescription meds, an over-the-counter option, or vitamins and supplements, chances are you need to bring some type of medication with you when you travel. Rather than stash a whole bottle of ibuprofen, divvy up what you’ll need and put your capsules and pills a little case. This cute medicine box will hold your meds and take up practically zero space in your purse or carry-on. The saying on the front, “Good Vibes Only,” is also a nice reminder during potentially stressful travel.
3. A portable charger will be a lifesaver when your phone’s about to die.
Between looking up directions, trying to find places to eat, and playing games on the plane, odds are you’ll be using your phone a lot when you travel. That means your phone’s battery will be feeling the burn, and the last thing you want is to be away from home with a dead phone. That’s why you should always bring an external charger when you travel. This small and light option provides three and a half iPhone 8 charges and two and a half Galaxy S8 charges. Plus, once you get to the next airport or your hotel, you can recharge it and hit the trail again knowing you’ll never be without power. This Anker PowerCore 10000 External Charger comes with a travel pouch and cord and will also slide into your carry-on without taking up much room.
4. Don’t forget your essential cords, cables, or power banks.
Most people at least bring their laptop and phone with them with they travel, but it’s 2018, so a lot of people also have Apple watches, tablets, Airpods, and other tech gadgets that require additional charging gear. Rather than just throw all these cords and cables in your bag, pack them up neatly in their own little case. This one has four elastic bands to hold cables and cords, plus a mesh zipper pouch for bigger items. It’s has a flat, compact design perfect for travel, but also features foam padding to protect your gear. The best thing about it: You won’t have to deal with a tangled mess of cords when you get to your destination.
5. Get a case for your contacts, so you can, you know, see and everything.
Normal contact lens cases are small enough for travel, but contact lens solution? Not so much. Those bottles are usually too big for TSA. And even though the contact lens case is small enough, it’s easy for it to get lost in the depths of carry-on duffel or purse. This travel case comes with a TSA-approved solution bottle, contact lens case, and mirror. It also has a little lens holder and inserter if you need those. Plus, it keeps everything all together in a single case so you don’t have to dig through everything you packed when you want to take your contact out or put them in.
6. Equip yourself with wireless earbuds for planes, trains, and automobiles.
Nobody has time to deal with corded headphones while traveling. It’s just another thing to get tangled in your under-seat bag. Wireless options are less messy and earbuds are less bulky. It’s the perfect choice for minimalist traveling. These Bose earbuds have a neck strap, so you can pop them in and take them off without having to put them away every time. They’ll simply rest around your neck when they’re not in use. If you do want to take them off, they come with a convenient travel case.
7. You’ll need these small toiletries because showering is important.
TSA rules pretty much guarantee your normal size shampoo and conditioner won’t make it through security, that is, unless you normally use teeny-tiny hair care products. If you’re going to a hotel, they’ll have some, but it might not be the best quality. To make sure you’re hair care is under control, it’s best to just buy travel size bottles of a tried and true brand, like TRESemme. This TSA-friendly moisture-rich shampoo and conditioner duo will keep your hair from suffering during travel.
8. Again, travel size body wash, because showering is important!
Cleaning your hair is important, but we can’t forget about the body. Hotel soap bars are notoriously the worst and leave that filmy feeling on your skin. Pass. Again, taking a travel-size version of your favorite brand is your best bet. Caress’ Daily Silk smells good and will leave your skin moisturized and clean. No awkward bars, no nasty film, and a nice smell. Perfect!
9. If you travel a lot, investing in travel-size bottles might be best.
Rather than buying travel size products, you could just take the products you have already and dump them into travel bottles. If you’re a frequent flyer, this is definitely the better choice from an economic perspective (and also works well if you have to have a shampoo, conditioner, or body wash that doesn’t come in a travel-size container). This four pack is leak proof (triple sealed just to be sure) and TSA-approved, so you’ll be good to go. Refilling is normally the hardest part with these bottles, but these have a wide opening to make it as easy as possible.
10. Treat yourself to the cutest razor you’ll ever see.
Razors are easy to forget. Since a lot of women don’t use them every day, it’s not on always on our minds. Plus, no one wants to throw a wet razor straight from the shower into their bag, and who has a razor case? This itty bitty razor from Gillette is the perfect solution. It’s so compact, which is perfect for touching up fuzz while your traveling, and it’s a full size razor, so you can do some full-on shaving when you get to your destination. It also comes in a little case that you can throw it in your bag without worry.
11. These tiny tissue packs are made for on-the-go sniffles.
You don’t want to be that person who’s on the plane, clearly struggling with a runny nose and not handling it. You also don’t want to be the person who sneezes in the confined space of an airplane seat without any protection. It’s best to be prepared for these scenarios. You should carry tissues, like Kleenex Pocket Packs, all the time, but especially when you’re traveling. Whether you have allergies, feel a cold coming on, or just have one massive sneeze, you want to keep whatever’s coming out of your nose off of everybody else. Be ready with tissues you can grab at a moment’s notice, and also offer up to someone who might be suffering through the same unpleasant travel sniffles.
12. Soothe (some of) your travel anxieties with a pocket-size stain remover.
You’re at the airport at 6 a.m. to catch your flight, so naturally, you run through the Starbucks line. Then when you’re groggily taking your first sip, you spill some on your shirt. Great start to a day of travel. That’s why you carry a Tide To Go pen on your person. They work on most stains, so rather than walking around with coffee on your meticulously planned travel getup, you can handle it right away and board the plane confidently.
13. This is the perfect mat for the traveling yogi.
Traveling shouldn’t mean that you have to give up your flow! In fact, vacation destinations can be great for exploring different yoga classes (or doing yoga outside or on the beach!). Luckily, finding a mat that fits in your carry-on isn’t as hard as you might think. This 2 mm foldable mat from Gaiam is perfect. Since it folds rather than rolls, it fits into your suitcase just like a piece of clothing. It’s scored for easy folding and still has a sticky texture to give you the grip you need.
14. Moisturize to prep your face for the flight.
Air travel can seriously dehydrate our skin, so it’s important to care for it as much as possible before, during, and after the flight. Before bucking up, it’s a good idea to apply a quality moisturizer. Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost water gel is infused with hyaluronic acid to boost moisture levels in the skin and the water-based formula feels light. At 1.7 oz, it’s TSA-friendly and perfect for preparing your skin for jet-setting adventures.
15. A nice (but tiny) in-flight mist is a must.
Again, the air pressure on a plane can make you pretty dehydrated. Moisturizing before is a good idea, but during the flight, you might not want to smother a cream all over your face. The more refreshing option is this non-aerosol mist. Hyaluronic acid, pomegranate, and bilberry-leaf extracts counter inflammation and the peptides and antioxidants help protect the skin. When you’re feeling a little dry, give your face a little mist.
16. A collapsible water bottle means you can hydrate anywhere.
You can apply all the creams and serums you want, but the best way to stay hydrated is drinking loads of water. TSA won’t let you bring a full water bottle through security, so having one that can collapse until you get through is ideal. You won’t have to waste space on an empty water bottle or buy anything at the newsstands on the other side. Once you’re on the other side, you can unfold this Vapur bottle and fill it up for the flight. Then, when it’s empty, you can roll it back up and tuck it inside your purse or carry-on.
17. Befriend this odd but compact travel pillow.
We could all use a little in-flight beauty rest. You might get away with clasping your travel pillow to your carry-on, but if you don’t want to deal with all that bouncing around or resort to wearing it around your neck the whole time, you should consider this out-of-the-box option. The Trtl travel pillow is made with super soft fleece and looks like a scarf, but it has hidden support and extra cushioning for your neck. Because it’s not the standard travel pillow shape, it’s not as bulky and can lay flat in your carry-on or purse when you’re not using it.
18. Don’t forget a lightweight blanket to bring along.
Unless you’re on an overnight flight, don’t count on the flight attendants to bring you a blanket. Bring your own! Of course, most of your plushy at-home blankets would take up way too much space, but there are blankets made for travel. This lightweight option is small and light (only 11 ounces)—perfect for throwing in your bag or carry-on without adding weight. It also comes with a carrying case that makes it easier to tuck away when you’re not using it. Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you can’t be cozy.
19. This is the better alternative to a Ziploc bag.
You could stick all of your TSA-sized liquids into a Ziploc bag, but that’s not very cute or secure. You might as well pick up a reusable option for all your future travels. The 3-1-1 liquid rule says you can bring one clear quart-sized bag of 3.4 oz liquids through TSA security. This zipper bag follows those regulations, making traveling with liquids much easier. You can trust it for this trip and all your future adventures.
20. A mini kit will help you keep your nails neat and trim.
We shouldn’t forget about nail care while we’re traveling. You don’t want to be stuck without a nail file when your nail chips or have an overgrown toenail you can’t clip before hitting the beach or pool deck. This manicure kit from Tweezerman provides just the essentials, like a file and clippers, so you can quickly fix up your nails if they’re looking a little rough.
21. Be prepared for any little messes you might encounter.
You don’t want to be stuck on a plane with oily or sticky hands after eating—not to mention any other random messes that could happen when you’re confined in a cabin with lots of other people. Bring a travel pack of wet wipes so you can clean yourself up if you need to. These ones are antibacterial and have a citrus scent, so you’ll feel clean and refreshed when you use them.
22. You’ll need a tiny cream for hand hydration.
Going back to the dehydration thing, having a nice hand cream on board a plane is a must for keeping your hands soft and smooth. This travel size hand cream from Crabtree and Evelyn has shea butter and macadamia nut oil for hydration and French verbena and lavender for a nice scent. Plus, myrrh extract in the formula conditions your nails and cuticles. Keep this on hand for when your hands aren’t feeling their best.
23. Keep it together with an all-in-one passport case and wallet.
Rather than tote around a wallet and passport holder, just put everything in one location. Since you really shouldn’t bring all of your cards when you travel anyway, stash the essentials (credit, debit, cash, passport) in a multi-use passport case. This one from Fossil has a side for this (your passport) and that (everything else). It’s much easier to keep everything in one place so that it’s all easily accessible when you’re at the airport. Fossil also makes the case in several colors and patterns, so you can pick your fave and travel in style.
24. Keep your jewelry safe in this miniature box.
For some trips, you might need to pack some jewelry. Who said you can’t wear a little bling on vacation? Obviously, you can’t take a full-size jewelry box, but there are only so many ways to store and transport jewelry. This tiny box is the perfect size for travel. It’s got a row for rings and studs, three little compartments, and an elastic pocket, which is just enough for a week’s worth of jewelry.
25. Pack these, then pack your carry-on.
Despite seeming small, carry-ons can accommodate quite a bit of stuff. But in order to maximize the space, you have to be mindful of how you pack. Randomly filling your suitcase probably won’t be the best way to fit everything you can. These storage cubes can help guide your packing. They’re designed to fit snugly into carry-on luggage. The pack of six has two large cubes, two medium cubes, and two small cubes for different types of clothing. Fill them with the essentials, then fit them into your carry-on like puzzle pieces and you’re ready to fly.
26. Here’s a clean way to store your toothbrush.
A standard toothbrush holder is good, but and considering your toothbrush goes inside your mouth every day, twice a day, maybe you should consider something with a little more to it. The Steripod keeps your toothbrush “clean and fresh” with active vapors. Clip the pod on your toothbrush head for physical protection and the active vapors inside will work to sterilize it as well.
27. Go to bed with a clean, fresh face.
Whether your skin’s just feeling a little oily or you want to take your makeup off for the night, skin cleanser is essential. Your whole bottle of face wash won’t make it through security, nor is it convenient for traveling. Face wipes, on the other hand, are TSA-friendly and easy to use on the go. These Yes To Cucumbers wipes are hypoallergenic and contain soothing aloe. They’re the perfect pick-me-up for your face during or after a long day of travel.
28. Give your face a good scrub with this mini cleansing brush.
Washing with the hotel washcloth is fine, but if you normally use electronic cleansing brushes and want to stick with that, there are carry-on friendly options out there. FOREOs are the latest cleansing brushes people are obsessing over. Their LUNA play plus is the smallest model, but it still has some serious cleansing power. FOREO says using the LUNA play plus twice a day for just one minute will “remove dirt, oil, and impurities, diminish the appearance of pores and improve the absorption of your favorite skincare products.” If it’s really that quick and effective, this mini face scrubber should definitely be on your packing list.
29. Make (a little) space for a complete travel skincare kit.
One way to pack efficiently is to rely on multipurpose, travel-size beauty products. Instead of sacrificing quality in your beauty routine, just simplify so that you only need a few products to get that glowy skin you’re after. This travel kit from Kopari includes their Coconut Melt, Coconut Sheer Oil, Coconut Balm, and Coconut Body Glow. The Coconut Melt alone can be used as a moisturizer, under eye cream, makeup remover, shave oil, hair mask, and more. If you want to make sure you have your beauty bases covered, a kit like this won’t take up much space but will get a lot of use.
30. Protect your skin, even if you’re not going to the beach.
People tend to think sunscreen is only necessary when they’re going somewhere hot and sunny, but those rays are hitting you any time you’re outside. So regardless of where you’re going, bringing sunscreen is probably a good idea. Your skin will thank you later. This travel spray from Coola will be perfect for lightly misting your face and body throughout the day. It has SPF 30 and anti-aging ingredients, so your skin will definitely be grateful you brought this along.
31. Clean your hair without taking a shower.
When you can’t bring all of your hair care products, you really need to consider what the essentials are. For a lot of women, dry shampoo is something they absolutely need on their hair’s oilier days. This small bottle from Living Proof will give your hair a cleaner look, even if you’ve been traveling all day. It eliminates oil, sweat, and odor, so you can have fresh-feeling hair whenever and wherever.
32. This is the only heat-styling tool you’ll need.
Sometimes you want to straighten your hair, sometimes you want to curl it, but you don’t have the space to pack a flat iron and curling iron—or do you? Not only is this a two-in-one straightener and curling iron, but it’s also mini. So you can style your hair however you want to and wherever you want to. It will fit into your carry-on without a problem. In fact, it’s so small, you can even carry it in your purse if you want.
33. For when you’re feeling a bit peckish…
Nowadays, they only give you one crummy bag of peanuts on the plane. No thank you. You want to bring your favorite snacks, and there’s no shame in packing a little something for the flight. These snack containers are perfect for packing a little in-flight treat, just for you. You could spend your money on overpriced airport food, but you could also pack your fave snack from home. While everyone else munches on a tiny bag of pretzels, you’ll have a full serving of something you actually want to eat on the ready.
34. Invest in a little notebook for (potentially) big thoughts.
Sometimes you just need something to do while traveling, and it could be the perfect time to let the inner writer and/or artist out. At the very least, you can kill some time doodling. These tiny Moleskine notebooks take up very little space, but they could occupy your brain on a long flight, at least for a little bit. Plus, little journals like this are the kind of thing you’ll enjoy revisiting one day—especially if they’re filled with your travel tales.
35. In Case of Emergency, or Paper Cut
You want to be prepared for anything when you travel, but that’s hard when you only have a carry-on bag. It’s not like you can pack your whole medicine cabinet, but you can still try to have the essentials medical supplies on hand. This mini first aid kit is smaller than the palm of your hand and has all the basics: bandages, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic—basically what you’d need for anything you could handle without a doctor. It won’t take up much space and it’s just generally smart to pack one of these.
36. This raincoat fits in its own pocket.
A rain jacket is one of those items you might decide to leave out to save space. You looked at the weather and it’s not going to rain, but we all know that weather people aren’t always perfectly accurate. Luckily, you can pack this Eddie Bauer rain jacket without worrying about wasting precious space. It folds up into its own right pocket. If it doesn’t rain, it didn’t take up that much space; if it does, it will save you from getting totally soaked.
37. Detangle your hair on the move.
You can’t comb out knots with your fingers. Unless your hair is perfectly silky, it just won’t get the job done. That’s why it’s essential to pack a brush. Since brushes can take up a lot of space, this miniature Wet Brush will be your go-to for travel. It works on dry and wet hair, so you’re good to go right out of the shower, or out and about doing touch ups. It might take a few more strokes than it’s larger counterpart, but you can’t beat its travel-friendly size.