Everyone's always worrying about what's in their first aid kit or whether they should travel with jeans or not, but nobody is talking about toiletries -- the things you'll end up using every single day on the road.
Toiletries are tough. They can be heavy, take up tons of space, and only last for weeks at a time, which are pretty much the three things every traveler hates. Fortunately, there are plenty of cheap, light, and small alternatives designed for people on long-term trips.
First Things First: Are You Traveling Carry-On Only or Checking Your Bag?
This makes a huge difference to what you're allowed to carry in your luggage, and will drastically affect the weight and size of your toiletry bag.
Carry-on travelers: this is probably the one thing that will cause you the biggest headache. Don't worry, though, I offer tons of options and alternatives to those big bulky liquids that you're probably worrying about. In general, consider looking for solid alternatives for many products, opting for travel-sized if you can't find a solid version, and investing in some Ziploc bags, so that you'll be able to easily remove your toiletries for inspection at the airport.
Shampoo and Conditioner
Yep, shampoo is one of those toiletry essentials you just can't do without. If you have shorter hair, you'll be able to get away with shower gel or a bar of soap, but know that your hair definitely won't look or feel as good as it could. And conditioner? Well, it's not as much of an essential, but it does help you feel like less of a grubby backpacker!
Consider the solid shampoo and conditioner bars from Lush. These bars last a minimum of three months on the road, and take up so little space in your bag! They work like a bar of soap -- just rub them over your hair in the shower -- and weigh very little. Try the metal tin that fits them if you decide to go down this route -- the last thing you want is for your wet shampoo bars to rub all over the rest of your toiletries!
You'll want something to keep yourself clean while traveling, of course, so the second travel essential is body soap. A bar of soap lasts longer, it's lighter, it's cheaper, and it's smaller. There really is no competition! Consider a standard bar of soap from Dove to get the job done.
Did you know that you're supposed to wear sunscreen every single day? And did you know that it's possible to buy solid sunscreen? If you're sensing a theme here, it's because carrying liquids when you travel can be a painful experience. You'll want sunscreen in your toiletries bag no matter where you're heading, so you might as well get a solid stick version that will last much longer.
Dental Health Stuff
Another toiletry bag essential is everything you need to keep your mouth fresh and protected from bacteria. Consider taking a toothbrush (along with a plastic cap to keep the bristles clean), a small tube of travel-sizes toothpaste if you're traveling carry-on only (you can pick these up at most airports or in pharmacies) or a regular size if you don't need to cut down on size and weight, and a small roll of floss.
Fun fact: if you travel with unscented and unwaxed floss, it can actually double up as a knife when you're on the move. Think about stopping for lunch in Paris and buying a baguette and lump of cheese for your meal -- you can use the floss to cut the cheese! Thinking further than lunch, you can also use it as an emergency piece of thread if you need to.
You'll definitely want to go for the solid kind rather than the spray in order to -- you've got it by now! -- keep the size and weight of your bag down. You'll be able to find these all over the world, so don't worry about running out.
Razors are yet another travel essential, for helping you keep well-groomed on the road. If it's a short trip you'll be taking, you might be able to get away with waxing for your trip, or hey, let it all grow out if you don't care.
Male readers, travel gives you the perfect opportunity to grow out a beard, so if that's something you've always wanted to do, do it while you don't have a job to turn up to.
Grab some high-quality razors that'll last several weeks while you travel. While you can find razors pretty much anywhere in the world, picking up disposable razors every week or so can quickly become annoying, and they also take up so much space.
If you have long hair, you'll definitely want to pack a hairbrush. consider grabbing a Tangle Teezer before you go -- they're small, they're lightweight, and they're seriously great at gently removing all of your knots.
For grooming and other medical uses. Tweezers are useful for removing splinters and ticks, getting things out of small places, and removing ingrown hairs, too.
You'll find a surprising amount of uses for sanitary wipes while you're traveling: using a squat toilet that doesn't have tissue paper, cleaning your hands and cutlery before tucking in to a street food meal, disinfecting your hands, freshening up after a long-haul flight or a night out with the backpackers in your hostel -- the possibilities are endless! Plus, sanitizing wipes don't count as your liquid allowance if you're not checking your bag at the airport!
Another multi-purpose item! And don't worry -- you don't need to check them, so if you're going carry-on only you'll be fine with these in your bag (and that goes for tweezers and razors, too!)