Travelling without checking a bag is a great way to travel. It saves you time, money and stress. If you are a hand luggage traveller, you have probably mastered rolling your clothes to save space, you can probably nail the art of the capsule wardrobe and you have whittled your travel gear to smallest, lightest version you can cope with, but when it comes time to pack your liquids bag it can be a real pain! You have to contend with airline liquid restrictions, the scary security in the UK or the terrifying face of TSA. Don’t panic, come with us into the liquids bag of a travel blogger and learn our top ten tips to pack your liquids bag like a pro.
Tip One – Learn The Rules About Packing Your Liquids Bag
First things first, you need to know what you are contending with.
- Each liquid must not be in a container bigger than 100ml (3.4 fl oz). That means that the pot itself cannot exceed this. There is no point bringing a big container with a little of something left in it. They will confiscate it.
- All of your liquids must fit into a clear plastic bag of no more than 20cm x 20cm (7.8 x 7.8 inches). The bag must be closed and resealable.
- You are only allowed one bag per passenger.
- All your liquids must not exceed 1 litre in total.
- Exceptions include baby formula, food or breast milk (you may be asked to try it). You can also take medicine which is either prescribed (with you name on) or accompanied by a doctors note.
Tip Two – Know What Counts As a Liquid at the Airport
- All drinkable liquid – This includes water, smoothies, fizzy pop and alcohol.
- Some foods – Anything that is semi-liquid would count. Don’t bring your ketchup, Tabasco, chocolate mousse, yoghurt, soup, fancy souvenir jams or honey through.
- Toiletries – There is one way that I remember this, can you smear it on a wall? Then it counts as a liquid! Any gels, pastes, creams, oils, foams, lotions or potions are considered liquids. The top offenders (the ones people always forget about) are mascara, eyeliner (gel or liquid), lip gloss, Vaseline, deodorant (roll-on or spray), toothpaste (there are many that come in 125ml tubes), hair gel or hair wax.
- Contact Lens Solution/Eye Drops – Whether you are carrying a small bottle of this, or lenses in small blister packs, this counts towards your liquid allowance. Eye drops are small, sometimes just 15ml, but they count and security will go hunting for those tiny droppers.
- Lighters/E-Cigarettes – You are allowed one lighter or e-cigarette on your person during a flight but this counts towards your liquid allowance and must fit in the bag.
Tip Three – Pack Your Liquids Bag BEFORE you Leave the House
I cannot stress this enough; Pack your liquids bag BEFORE you reach the airport. There are areas in some airports to allow you to sort your liquids out, but not in all. The dream of sailing through security is hindered somewhat by stopping to pack your liquids bag. It is time-consuming and highly frustrating if your liquids don’t fit properly. If you are travelling with other people that are all good to go, you will be holding up the group. Plus, if there is no table to sort your bottles out, you will be juggling small liquids in the queue.
Taking the time to pack your liquids bag at home also allows you to really think about what you are packing and make sure that absolutely all the liquids are in your clear bag. Some airports let the little things go, but there are some that really don’t and you will watch it despair as they unpack your entire hand luggage to find that little hand cream that you forgot about.
Tip Four – The Bag Itself
I work at the airport and so my liquids have to be in a clear bag all the time, just in case I need to dash through security. Yes, we have to do in exactly the same way as the passengers. I don’t rely on the airport bags as they are thin, flimsy and the zip lock can pop open easily. Plus, they are usually much smaller than the actual allowance, being about 12 x 12 cm on average.
Instead, I use a thick, zipped plastic bag that is 19 x 19 cm. I like to have it just a tiny bit smaller than the allowance as it will always pass the measuring test if needs be. It is durable and can be stuffed a little without popping open.
Tip Five – Decant, Decant, Decant
There are 100ml sized bottles of most famous toiletry names for sale in big pharmacies. If you can’t find your favourite brands, just get a small plastic bottle and downsize. You can buy “travel-size” bottles from your local discount shop, eBay, pharmacies or online. Bear in mind how much of a product you will actually need. There is no need to carry 100ml of shampoo if you are only away for three days. Find a smaller bottle and don’t waste space. That way, you can pack your liquids bag with more useful products. I have been refilling these mini shampoo bottles for a while now…another top tip!
We have tried several kinds, but after a few leaks, we upgraded to Gotoob. These are soft and squishy (so they become easier to pack as the trip goes on) and haven’t leaked once! They have a nice wide opening so they are really easy to fill and to wash. All in all, it’s a thumbs up from the Fluskeys.
If you only need a little of something, why not use a contact lens case?
Another tip is to take a couple of empty travel bottles with you. This allows you to bring home things that you have purchased whilst away.
Want to see what’s in MY liquids bag for the plane? Check out this blog post about how to enjoy long haul flights!
Tip Six – How to Pack Toiletries on a Plane
Here are three alternative ideas for packing shampoo, conditioner and soap like a pro.
- A sustainable solution – If you are all about sustainability then your ideal solution is to get hold of solid shampoo, conditioner and soap. You can, of course, get soap bars in any pharmacy, supermarket or corner shop, but you’ll have to search a little harder for the hair care bars. We have found some on Amazon, and high-street store Lush have lots of variety. (Lush also have solid perfume, deodorant, toothpaste, makeup and even sun care).
- Samples and sachets are your friends here – Keep every sample you have ever received in a magazine or goody bag. I have sheets of L’Oreal shampoo and conditioner from the pound shop (£1 for 25). These slip down the side of your liquids bag and are almost bulk-free.
- Deodorant – Ditch the aerosol! Aerosols are a bulky and poor use of space. Instead, get hold of a small roll-on or stick.
- Wipes – Wipes, although being impregnated with liquid, don’t count towards your allowance. Take deodorant wipes, insect repellent wipes or face wipes to free up bottle space for other liquids.
- Perfume – This is another time samples will come in useful. Next time you purchase your favourite scent, ask the sales assistant if they have any samples of it to take on your travels. Voila! An easy way to get a teeny-tiny perfume container. Alternatively, get your hands on an atomiser. These usually hold 15ml and are about the size of a lipstick. There are two kinds, one needs to be filled with a pipette or miniature funnel, the other is much easier. The second type can be filled by pumping perfume straight from the big bottle into this. We like this kind and both have atomisers to take on nights out, to work and on our travels.
- Don’t pack them – Contact the property and ask if they provide shampoo, conditioner and shower gel/soap in their bathroom amenities. If they do, job done! You no longer need to pack these items. We have been to several hotels that provide, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, hand wash and even shaving cream.
Check out our reviews of different airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Emirates
Tip Seven – How to Pack Your Make Up In Carry On
This can be a tricky business if you are a real makeup fan but there are a few things you can do to make your life a little easier.
- Powders – Consider powder alternatives to your normal products. You can take a kohl pencil instead of liquid eyeliner, and take powder eye shadow, highlighter, blusher and bronzer. Something like Maxfactor Face Finity could replace your normal liquid foundation as it is concealer, foundation and powder in one. Plus, the powder keeps your face a little more matte in the heat.
- Decant (again) – If you can’t part with your normal foundation, for example, then look at decanting it. Most foundation bottles are bulkier than needs be, and you won’t need that much for a two week holiday, especially if you are going somewhere hot. I bought a tiny squeezy bottle from Muji and it has served me very well for two years.
- Look for multitaskers! – CC cream will serve as a moisturiser, foundation and even has SPF in. If you are going on a sunny city break, it should be enough to protect your face. I am a huge fan of benefit’s tints that can brighten up my lips and serve as a blusher as well.
- Miniatures – This isn’t the cheapest way to solve the space issue but it is one I use. Benefit cosmetics do great little versions of their products. Personally I have mini highlighters, lips and cheek tints, lipsticks, and mascaras.
- Go au naturel – If you are a beach baby and can just rock your face with a tan, freckles and nothing else then go for it girl! (I mean, I could never handle it, but more power to you).
Tip Eight – How to Pack Male Grooming Products in Hand Luggage
Mr Fluskey is keen to share his top tip about how to pack your liquids bag, it’s not just the ladies that have to consider this stuff you know!
- Ditch the shaving foam/gel – They come in bulky containers (despite being 100ml) and won’t last two weeks. Instead, get a bottle of shaving oil. 15ml of this will last around 75 shaves and leave your face feeling really soft. He especially likes the sensitive version which gives an easy, smooth shave.
- Become a beardy – Jump on the beardy bandwagon and let your facial hair grow. Who doesn’t love a holiday beard (maybe not if it’s super hot).
Tip Nine – How to Pack Sun Care on a Plane
Firstly, a quick note about suntan cream. It will ruin your little travel bottles. If you decant 100ml of it into a bottle, you will only be able to use it for suntan cream forevermore. But hey, if that’s all you need it for, then you’re good!
Keeping sunburn at bay is a constant struggle for the Flying Fluskeys and we quickly discovered that we can slather ourselves with about 100ml a day. We have made peace with the fact that we have to buy a full-size bottle post-security.
If we are travelling to somewhere like the USA, then we know we can get good quality, well-priced sunblock when we arrive. If, however, we are off to Asia where suncream is expensive and sometimes contains whitener (!) we buy it in duty-free. Here in the U.K., we have a pharmacy in every airport called Boots. They do high-quality suncream so there is no need to stress about it. Just remember, if you are planning to do this, and travelling on connecting flights, you may not be able to take the big bottle unless it is in a special sealed bag.
Tip Ten – How to Pack Food and Drink for the Plane
You won’t be able to take a pot of soup through security, or pasta slathered in sauce, it is all a matter of viscosity. All manner of jars/pots/tubes/cans containing honey/jam/peanut butter/marmite/tomato puree/hummus will be confiscated if it is over 100ml. Even a pot of olives, a tin of tuna or something similar in oil or brine, would count as a liquid.
So what can you do?
- Miniatures – Get hold of a mini tub of favourite liquidy foods. Marmite does, for example, does a popular line in these. Keep hold of mini jams/spreads that you get at hotel buffets or onboard, and stash them for your next trip.
- Separates – Prepare your food and keep the sauce separately. You can bring through a salad or pasta and put a tiny pot of dressing/sauce in your liquids bag. Apply it afterwards and you have a nice lunch.
- Solid food for snacks – Well this is probably too obvious but just take crisps, biscuits, fruit and veg instead. These are all allowed. You could even take through pot noodles and get some hot water at a cafe to cook them!
- Spreads/dips – You can take through plenty of something like jam as long as it is in a sandwich! If you just can’t make it through the day with your avocado fix, then just make sure it is spread across a nice crusty slice and you can get it through.
- Drinks – The easiest way to solve the hydration issue, without paying airport prices, is to bring through a large empty water bottle. You can have it refilled on the other side at a water fountain, by a cafe or even just on-board your flight.
- Miniatures again – Does your pre-flight ritual involve a boozy tipple? Bring through an alcohol miniature (50ml) and just buy a cheap soft drink as a mixer through security.
A Bonus Tip – Know What Liquids are NOT Allowed on Planes
There are certain liquids that we use every day that are not allowed through security even if they within the airline liquid restriction. Anything that is deemed too flammable or toxic can be confiscated.
- Blonding spray or other bleach/hair dye that contains hydrogen peroxide is not permitted.
- Mercury is dangerous so leave the old thermometer at home!
- Many household cleaning products are banned. Strong cleaners, pesticides, varnish or paint are all forbidden. They can contain string acids or alkalis and can be corrosive, poisonous and/or flammable.
- Petrol….for obvious reasons.
Final Thoughts on Packing Your Liquids Bag for a Flight
Following these tips, and remembering that if you can smear it on a wall it counts as a liquid will see you through security in a matter of moments! With a little practice, and a little thinking “outside the bag” you can pack your liquids bag like a superstar traveller!
Now you’re packed, read How to Enjoy Long Haul Flights, Not Just “Survive” Them
Have we forgotten anything? Do you have any other tips about how you pack your liquids bag? Do you love/hate airport liquid restrictions? We would love to hear about it. Leave us a comment below.