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TPG reader question: How do I pack enough toiletries without checking my luggage?

Aug. 22, 2022
4 min read
TPG reader question: How do I pack enough toiletries without checking my luggage?
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Airline travel this summer has been a roller coaster.

Canceled flights, worker strikes, mileslong security lines and lost baggage are the norm, rather than the exception, right now. The passenger experience should improve from October onward, once the busy summer travel period has finished and recruitment of new staff is finalized. For now, though, it’s best to be prepared to ensure your travel runs as smoothly as possible.

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You can alleviate travel stress this summer in lots of ways, including arriving early enough for a flight (but not so early that your flight hasn’t yet opened for check-in) and investing in Apple AirTags so you can track exactly where your baggage is anywhere in the world.

Another tip is to avoid checking luggage if possible. Not only can you skip the check-in and baggage-drop lines, but also there’s no chance of your baggage getting lost.

Related: Ryanair, easyJet or Wizz Air: Which has the cheapest cabin baggage charges?

How do you fit a full vacation’s worth of possessions into carry-on luggage if you are used to traveling with a full-size suitcase? That brings us to this week’s TPG reader question.

I am flying to Malaga for a week’s beach holiday soon and I am terrified of my bag going missing. I want to travel just with hand luggage but don’t know how to pack enough toiletries into a single clear bag for a whole week. How do I survive with only 100 mls of sunscreen without getting burnt?
How do the experts travel like this?Kathrine, TPG Reader

I rarely check bags and have traveled for several months at a time with hand luggage only. In terms of clothing, try to pack items that have multiple uses. For example, pack a pair of shoes you could wear on a morning walk and also to a nice dinner.

Related: 7 items you should always pack in your carry-on bag

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If you’re heading somewhere warm, check the weather forecast as you’re packing. If the temperature won’t drop below 68 degrees Fahrenheit even at midnight, you probably won’t need to pack any warm clothes.

Remember that most airlines allow you to take a second small personal item like a handbag or laptop bag with you on a hand baggage-only fare. You can buy a bag that fits these exact specifications to give you extra baggage space without exceeding those strict limits.

Related: 5 reasons why families should travel to Spain: Madrid, Barcelona and beyond

For your toiletries, I’d recommend packing them into a clear plastic bag before you arrive at the airport, rather than waiting until you reach security. This way, you’ll know exactly how much space you have. I can’t tell you how often I see people waiting until the last second to pack toiletries before realizing they have too much and will inevitably need to throw them away at security. It’s much easier to do this in advance. Remember, you are only allowed one liquids bag per passenger — even if you are traveling with two cabin bags.

One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t need to pack your toiletries into a clear bag if they are not a gel, aerosol or liquid. Your toothbrush doesn’t need to be squeezed in there.

Related: 3 tips to avoid gate-checking a bag on your next flight

As for sunscreen, I have an easy tip: Buy a bottle in the duty-free area after security and take it with you. This Australian has been burned paying high prices for sunscreen across the world, but the prices in U.S. airports are extremely reasonable and you can take a large bottle with you to use on your trip. Two people traveling together would usually go through a 200-milliliter (6.7-ounce) bottle in a week at the beach. If you use it up during your week in the sunshine, you won’t have to worry about packing it to bring home.

Hotels and Airbnbs may also provide items like shampoo and conditioner, so if you're not fussy about the brand you use, you could rely on that rather than packing miniature bottles.

Enjoy your time in Spain!

Featured image by Featured image by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.