8 Stress-Saving Tips For Packing Your Beauty Products For A Vacation

Keep your beauty game on point AND stay organised with this essential guide.
Publish date:
December 13, 2013
perfumes, hair, skin, makeup, travel, bags, organizing, packing

By the time you guys read this, I’ll be in New York on my first vacation in over two years. Looking into my crystal ball, I foresee that I will be having a fantastic time--Faz and I are FINALLY going to meet face to face and take our beautiful heart-and-soul sisterhood into the real world. I’ve probably already been bugging Marci IRL, and who knows how many Imaginary Boyfriends I’ve met while out and about in Manhattan.

But as I write this, it’s the Wednesday before I leave. I’m a little nervous and a lot excited. Mostly, I’m excited to see my friends and meet my fellow xoVainers for the very first time, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m also a little psyched about packing.

I LOVE packing suitcases.

It pleases the same part of my brain that likes objects arranged in straight lines--there’s something about a perfectly-packed suitcase containing everything you need for a week that DELIGHTS me.

And because this is the season for travelling, I’ve decided to share my packing tips with you guys. I’m going to focus mainly on organising beauty-type stuff, but there will likely be some rogue clothes stuff in there as well.

1. Look at your space.

First: Unless you’re only going somewhere for a couple of days, plan to check a suitcase. This way, you can take all your beauty essentials along without worrying about having them confiscated by the TSA. I have a medium-sized suitcase that works fine for me--it’s big enough to fit everything, yet small enough for me to maneuver it by myself.

Check out your case. Are there little pockets along the side for you to hide things in? Are there straps to keep large things (like hairdryers) from rolling around? Can you fit one large cosmetics case in there, or is it better to split your stuff up into a couple smaller bags?

Map this out ahead of time. It’s so much easier than freaking out three hours before your flight because your makeup bag is too wide for your suitcase!

2. Make a list.

Lists are my favourite thing ever. They give me a sense of control in a world full of chaos, and, y’know, make sure I don’t forget anything. I can be really scatterbrained when I’m excited.

To make a list of the beauty products you’ll need on your trip, go through your daily facewash/shower/hair/makeup routine in your head and write down everything that you use. I mean EVERYTHING--brushes, pins, sprays, lotions, the works. Once that’s down, go through and see what you can jettison without feeling a major loss.

For example, I split my hairstyling pretty evenly between curly and straight, but since curling requires more effort (forget that, I’m on vacation), I opted only to take the stuff needed to wear it straight.

I also economised on my brushes. I have a pretty standard signature makeup look--bright cheeks, lots of shimmer, neutral eyeshadow, black cat-eye liner, bright lips--which is really helpful. I can create that look with only a few products and smaller brushes.

Figure out what your makeup style boils down to. Those are the things you should pack.That style should also complement the clothing that you’re taking. Since my wardrobe theme for this trip is “monochromatic teenage flapper,” my cat-eye liner and bright lips work perfectly.

3. Bags in your bags.

But you guys know I’m not just going to throw my lipsticks into the suitcase and let them float around willy-nilly. These are the smaller bags I will be putting in my bag to hold all my stuff, along with some large ziplock bags to accommodate all my sprays and liquids.

The blue case is for brushes, hairpins, contact lenses, perfume, etc. The spotty case has two sides; one side is for makeup, and the other side is for brushes.

Everything else that I need to take goes into a ziplock bag to prevent spilling accidents. Believe me, you do not want leave-in conditioner all over your underwear when you land.

4. Skip buying travel-sized stuff.

I love travel-sized stuff. LOOOOOOVE it. It’s tiny, and tiny is adorable! But I have a couple issues with it that must be addressed: One, a lot of the products I like don’t come in mini-sizes, and two, teeny-tiny products often cost as much as their full-sized counterparts.

I’m cool with spending my dollars on stuff that I love and will use a lot. I am less cool with paying $4 for a weenie stick of deodorant. And I am NOT switching to a B-grade face wash just to save space in my suitcase, because that is a recipe for breakouts.

Instead, I make my own travel-sized things. Anything that comes in a huge bottle gets poured into small clear plastic bottles for instant, personalised travel minis. That’s not groundbreaking advice, I know, but I am constantly AMAZED at how many of my friends lug full-sized bottles of shampoo on vacation.

Just say no. That is space that could be filled up with Lord of the Rings!

In my miniaturised travel kit, I have:

•Shampoo and conditioner.

•Keri Lotion (for my body).


•Contact lens solution.

I CLEARLY label all my bottles with a permanent marker, then put some tape over it so that it doesn’t rub off. I don’t want to wash my face with shampoo. These little bottles were four for a dollar at Target, and they have little pink lids. Bargain.

The exception to this rule is toothpaste. You should definitely buy a little tube of that.

5. Pack with care.

When it comes to packing clothes, I’m a roller rather than a folder. Especially now that it’s cold and I’m packing sweaters; rolling makes them nice and small, and also doesn’t have them all wrinkled and gross when you arrive at your destination.

Use this to your advantage. Assume that nobody handling your bags is going to be gentle. I put my perfume (Allure doesn’t come in little sizes, from what I can tell) in a ziplock bag, then rolled it up inside two of my big sweaters. The clothes act as padding, so there’s less chance stuff will break.

I do this with all my makeup whenever I travel, and I have never had a single thing broken or cracked. Not even when I travel with a hairdryer. The system works!

6. Bags in bags makes security easy.

When you go through security, you have to have all liquids and stuff in a clear plastic bag. This includes the makeup in your purse. Luckily, I’m already pretty organised so all I do is take my makeup bag and slip it inside a clear plastic bag. Bags in bags strikes again!

This is so easy. You don’t have to dig though your stuff to find anything, and because you’ve checked your suitcase, you don’t have to worry about squirting a week’s worth of foundation into a tiny separate container, only to have it confiscated anyway.

7. Keep your stuff together.

I am the luckiest girl in the world because I am staying with my friend Helena while I’m in town. We are going to go to the ballet and watch all of The Thick Of It and I’m going to teach her to do a certain style of makeup involving a film reference that I don’t understand. I’m so excited! Glamourmonsters forever!

When you’re staying in a place that isn’t yours, it’s really easy to misplace stuff. I have lost many lipsticks this way! To combat this, I am taking along a little melamine plate that I’m going to set somewhere and designate “Alle’s Corner.” Anything that I need to set somewhere that isn’t my bag goes on the plate: contact case, earrings, lipstick, my compact, etc.

In this way, I’m respecting my own stuff by not scatterbrainedly flinging it about. And I’m also respecting my friend, who is very nicely letting me take up space in her life. She shouldn’t also have to deal with my clutter, or find eight lipsticks under her couch after I leave!

8. Label common stuff.

If I learned anything from sharing a dorm room with three other girls in college (holler, McCabe hall!), it’s that four separate contact lens cases in one bathroom get mixed up ALL THE TIME. You do not want to end up with pinkeye because one of your roommates stuck your lenses in her eyes by accident! Trust me!

Because I don’t think fancy contact cases were A Thing back when I was at school, I carved a big old A on my lens case with my scissors LIKE A BOSS. I still use the case, and I never got pinkeye again.

Because I am staying with a friend instead of in a hotel, this is especially important. I don’t want the two of us mixing up our stuff! So I grabbed a permanent marker and wrote little pink A's on the bottom of stuff that Helena and I might have in common. She is a CeraVe disciple, so the moisturisers get the label treatment. My contact cases are, as we’ve seen, already OK.

Here is my finished travelling beauty kit. This portrait is titled “Everything I need for a week in New York, by Alle.”

And it all fits in my suitcase with room to spare for souvenirs. I know this because I might have already packed and unpacked, just to test it out. OK, twice. OK FOUR TIMES.

And now I turn the floor over to you guys. What are your traveling essentials? Do you have any awesome packing tips to share?