How to manage toiletries while traveling?
June 12, 2011 12:51 PM   Subscribe

How do you handle liquid/gel toiletries when flying with carry-on only luggage?

When flying, I used to pack all my toiletries in a toiletries bag, something like a Dopp kit. With today's airport security rules, though, I find myself carrying everything in two Ziploc bags: one for liquids, one for dry items. That makes getting through security easy, but it's not great for anything else. It's hard to get items in and out, Ziploc bags don't work well on bathroom counters, and the bags have to be replaced every couple trips.

Has anyone found a way to travel with organized toiletries and keep the liquids easily accessible for security?
posted by maxim0512 to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It might be more than you want, but what I do is carry my normal toiletries bag with the dry items, then put the wet items in the required Ziploc. As soon as I get through security, I dump everything from that ziploc into the toiletries bag, and fold up the Ziploc for later use. Sure, I have to make sure I sort through my toiletries bag before I fly back, but it's not that big of a deal.

Also, a note - you can buy quart sized Ziplocs that are designed for air travel. The bottom of the bag expands so things fit quite a bit better, plus you can fit more in the bag - or so it seems anyway.
posted by runnergirl at 1:00 PM on June 12, 2011

I leave my dopp kit accessible in my carry on. I unzip my dopp kit and leave it open for TSA inspection. I haven't used a Ziploc in a long time.

If the security guard wants me to use a Ziploc, they usually have them available. It's only happened one time (Sea-Tac) in the last dozen times I've flown.
posted by Cuspidx at 1:01 PM on June 12, 2011

You have to put them in a plastic bag, no matter how much you don't like that or how often they need replacing when they get grody. Put them in the plastic bag and then transfer them to your regular toiletries bag when you get to wherever you're going. What else can we do?

Personally I just jam all my bathroom stuff into one bag - wet and dry - and let the TSA or whoever deal with that. I admit this is partly because I enjoy not making things easy for the TSA. It has never caused me to be delayed or hassled. They seem to just look at the huge bag of deodorant, toothpaste, razor, toothbrush, whatever and let it go.
posted by Decani at 1:02 PM on June 12, 2011

Yep, I put the liquids/gels in a ziploc and the other stuff in my regular toiletry bag, and when I get to my destination I put them all together in the toiletry bag for the duration of my stay, then separate them out again the next time I fly.
posted by scody at 1:08 PM on June 12, 2011

Response by poster: runnergirl, where did you find travel-friendly ziplocs? I've been unable to find them.
posted by maxim0512 at 1:12 PM on June 12, 2011

Ignore the rules and only carry easily replaceable items. I had a job that required me to fly every Monday and Friday for a year, with some more besides, and never once did my gel deodorant, gel toothpaste, or liquid shampoo get noticed. That's easily over 200 flights since 2006. Never lost a thing.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 1:16 PM on June 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Any grocery store or convenience store should carry one-quart Ziploc (or store brand) bags. If you can't find them, ask a store employee.
posted by John Cohen at 1:17 PM on June 12, 2011

Response by poster: John, I have no trouble finding quart Ziplocs, but runnergirl mentioned special bags designed for travel.
posted by maxim0512 at 1:20 PM on June 12, 2011

I've cut down on a lot of the liquids, which makes it easier. I haven't tried all of these, but I have used most of them at one time or another. Solid Shampoo, Solid Conditioner, Dissolving Soaps, Toothpaste tablets...

Or you can get a bag specifically for carryon travel. Googling 'Quart Transparent Bag' brings up lots of options.
posted by Caravantea at 1:24 PM on June 12, 2011

Here are some more bags: one and two. Your search terms are "3-1-1 plane bag".
posted by anaelith at 1:27 PM on June 12, 2011

Forgot three.
posted by anaelith at 1:28 PM on June 12, 2011

Best answer: Tom Bihn makes a nice 311 toiletries case. I use this one for liquid items.
posted by theredpen at 1:42 PM on June 12, 2011

Mighty Girl has a post on packing a light Dopp Kit. She uses a clear bag that attaches to the outside of her suitcase. Then she pulls it off to go through security and then shoves it in her toiletry kit when she gets to her destination. I haven't tried this, but I'm thinking it will happen for me soon.
posted by mrfuga0 at 2:07 PM on June 12, 2011

I use two Eagle Creek packing cubes. One is lined and can be used for stuff that might spill. I keep all of my 3 oz. max stuff in that one, and I take it out and run it through like a Ziploc bag. It has raised eyebrows a couple of times but no one has demanded that I transfer the contents to a Ziploc bag (or made me throw the contents away).
posted by yclipse at 2:13 PM on June 12, 2011

I don't know where/how often you're traveling, but I find that TSA really don't care about the ziploc bag thing. Maybe it's because I'm a toiletry minimalist? I carry my travel-sized toiletries in an opaque zippered cosmetic bag (smaller than those big dopp kits, but same concept I suppose). I mix solids and liquids together with no problem, too. I've never had trouble with this at airport security.

So maybe the solution is less stuff?
posted by Sara C. at 3:40 PM on June 12, 2011

I double ziploc bag my liquids [paranoid about spillage] and then use more ziplocs for dry stuff and and hairpins, cotton balls, etc...
I just keep the liquid ziplocs close to the "top" of the suitcase and let them scan the bag.
I haven't been asked to take out the liquids ziplocs in years...I've flown out of Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas and Atlanta.
Oh, and the "airport friendly" ziplocs are just quart ziplocs with a little logo on them.
posted by calgirl at 4:24 PM on June 12, 2011

My main solution has been to just use the complimentary toiletries from the hotels, buying a travel-size toothpaste when I get to my destination.

There are also these TSA-compliant travel toiletries sold by ThinkGeek. They're not great, and they're horribly expensive, but they function fine as a backup if I find myself at a hotel that doesn't provide a little bottle of shampoo or if it's a scent that makes my allergies go nuts.
posted by DaveP at 5:12 PM on June 12, 2011

Yeah, flying through large airports I've never done the ziploc bag thing and never had a problem. Only in small airports that want to pretend terrorists care about their single-gate turboprop plane terminal actually seem to make me do the whole procedure, and that's seldom enough that it's worth not replacing ziploc bags all the time.

In other news... just get a regular dopp-kit-like bag that is approximately 1 qt in size? (Or two of them, one for wet one for dry?) The clear Ziploc thing just means "easy to inspect and limits the total volume of liquid." It doesn't require you to stick with a brand.
posted by olinerd at 7:01 PM on June 12, 2011

I have a regulation size bag that I bought from Muji. Much more durable than running through endless ziploc bags. To fit it all in, I buy travel size everything, and the larger stuff goes in these awesome squeezable containers.

I've only once been asked to move all my stuff from my reusable bag to a ziploc. Not sure if that was because they wanted to see if it really was all under 1 litre, or they were just being annoying that day. Sometimes my bag is scanned on the swab machine.
posted by wingless_angel at 7:08 PM on June 12, 2011

I do a lot of traveling by air. The quart bags are obnoxious, but until the TSA gives up on this particular bit of stupidity, it's unavoidable. I just use bags (generally taking them from the tables that they have at some airports) until they start to get nasty and then toss/recycle them. I can't imagine that any reusable bag would be much of an improvement in terms of cleanliness from the disposable ones.

One thing that I have learned to do is to put my liquids and gels into standardized bottles ... I use 2 oz. Nalgene bottles. The TSA allows 3oz bottles, but you can fit more things into the quart bag if you only use 2oz ones, and it's more than enough to last me a week of the various stuff I use. I use the Nalgenes because the size is clearly marked on the bottom of the bottle.

When I get to my hotel I just dump the bag of liquids into my regular travel bag, and then as I'm packing up I just grab the little bottles and stick them back into a Ziploc and put it in an outside pocket of my suitcase. At most airports they don't seem interested in making you actually pull it out anymore (liquids are out; pornoscanners are in, I guess).
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:26 PM on June 12, 2011

I've never paid any attention to the ziploc-bags-and-tiny-bottles rule, not since it was instituted. I've been hassled about it exactly once; they confiscated a tub of hair goop.
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:34 PM on June 12, 2011

I use the Tom Bihn bag linked above for wet stuff, never had anyone raise an eyebrow.

My Dopp kit lives in an accessible area of my larger carry-on, I put the bag with wet toiletries back into it while I'm putting my shoes back on.

I'm pretty picky about what I consider a "liquid," but because I'm all "Look My Regulation Size Thing Is Right Here Ready For Inspection" I've never been questioned about edge cases like Chapstick or solid perfume or deodorant in my Dopp kit.
posted by desuetude at 11:32 PM on June 12, 2011

You can buy regulation sized small clear bags for your liquids in all drugstores. The walls are thick enough to allow them to stand up comfortably on bathroom counters etc. Use one of those and keep your liquids in there at all times. Some people are minimalist and can fit all their stuff in there. If that's not you and you need more space use another similar sized bag for your non liquid stuff.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:30 AM on June 13, 2011

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