Beauty on the road

Whether it’s weddings or a weekend getaway, summertime is prime time for travel. But just because you’re going on a trip doesn’t mean your beauty routine should be put on hold. Granted, transporting your entire beauty cabinet is much easier said than done. Realistically, we have to deal with ziplock bags, liquid restrictions, and the fact that you can’t have an entire suitcase dedicated to your beauty products.

After two years of living like George Clooney in Up In The Air, I’d like to think I’ve gotten this down to an art form. Fun fact: I once spent two months living out of a small carry-on suitcase. I’ve had my fair share of mishaps and midnight runs to CVS, but I’ve learned that there are things you can do to help you travel all the more seamlessly.

Whenever it makes sense, travel by train instead of by plane. Never mind the more obvious fact that trains get you door-to-door in the same time as airplanes sans the overbearing routine of airport security, you can also sit with your luggage within reach and pack up your liquids in whatever quantity you wish. Go ahead. Bring that full sized shampoo bottle. TSA isn’t watching you.

Write down your skin, makeup, and hair routine and figure out what you need and what you can compromise. Write down every product you use as part of your daily routine, cross out products you can skip for the duration of your trip (yes, they do exist), and use that as a packing checklist. I own a wealth of hair oils and serums that I like to slather generously onto my head. Do I need all of them for this trip? No.

Invest in a set of travel toiletries. In general, you should avoid checking in luggage. Unless you’re on the road for a month-long sabbatical, you can fit what you need into a carry-on. You just need to practice what I’ll call lean packing principles. At the core of this is making sure your liquids are neatly packed into 3-oz containers. There are two ways you can go about this: 1) Purchase the travel sized versions of your products if they’re available or 2) Buy generic plastic bottles and tubs to fill on your own. I prefer the first whenever possible, and Sephora and are both great places to find these, and it’s a great way to test drive a new product if you’re non-committal. But, I’ll also gladly spend the time to transfer dollops of hair oil and facial cleanser into little bottles with handwritten stickers.

Travel kit from

If you’re leaving on an early morning flight, pack up your makeup the night before. Chances are that your makeup is not always neatly packed in a travel-ready goody bag. It’s probably sprawled across your dresser or bathroom counter. Because you’ll likely want to put on makeup in the morning, waiting until day of to pack up everything in a rush is a recipe for disaster. Instead, figure out what you need and pack it up into a travel makeup bag the night before. The morning before you leave, get your makeup out of your bag like you would if you were on the road. Consider it a trial run in case you forgot something. You’re less likely to forget something if you’re spending the time to pack up your things carefully.

Pack a touch-up bag for the ride. There are few things worse than being stuck on a long flight with your beauty stash out of reach. Whether it’s mid-flight or post-travel, chances are that you’ll crave the following simple luxuries: blotting paper, pressed powder compact, lip balm, hand lotion, and a small hair brush. Longer flight than usual? Toss in some face towelettes, dry shampoo, and mineral water spray for a full refresh.

Restrain yourself from bringing things you don’t need. You can make do with whatever body wash and hand soap there is. Don’t bring nail polish or remover as the chances of you needing it are too low. Don’t bring a hair dryer unless you’re staying with a host who doesn’t have one. Don’t bring makeup you won’t use.

Remember to consider climate differences at your destination. For a good amount of time, I was traveling between Boston and Miami in the spring. Boston felt like Alaska and Miami felt like the tropics. This meant I couldn’t use my Boston moisturizer in Miami, or else my face would melt off in the heat. If you’re traveling to a significantly colder climate, bring extra lip balm, heavier moisturizer, and leave-in hair conditioner. If you’re traveling to a warmer climate, bring a lighter moisturizer, a higher SPF sunscreen, and blotting papers.

Between long flights and running through airports, traveling can take a lot of you. So wouldn’t it be nice if your beauty routine was one less thing to worry about?

What are some of your tricks of the trade when it comes to traveling?


  1. Judy

    Great tips, Lydia!

    For frequent traveling, I like to bring my own shampoo/conditioner and soap – makes weekly hotel trips seem more “homey” when I smell like myself. 🙂

  2. Mimi

    I do that too Judy – what do you do to make sure stuff doesn’t spill everywhere. I always have problems with my toner that I mixed and the other day my eye shadow palette opened up somehow and got eye shadow everywhere. So annoying!

    • Judy

      I’ve had a lot of luck with the containers from Muji for liquids and tiny Nalgene containers from REI and The Container Store for decanting skincare. For an extra level of protection I get those small snack-size ziplock bags and put the containers in there individually.

      Totally sucks about your eyeshadow – I find that situations like that happen less when I put put my powder products flat and pack them in so they don’t slip around.

    • Lydia

      I hate spills! I remember buying these adorable travel-sized versions of Philosophy products only to find out they created such a mess. There are two ways to deal: 1) like Judy mentioned, use separate zip lock bags and quarantine the suspects, or 2) transfer it into a sturdier packaging. If you travel a lot, #2 makes more sense so you save you the time otherwise spent on cleaning up the mess after each trip

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