Help, my lipstick won’t fit in my suitcase!

By Hannah Silverman

This thing they call packing is not for the merciful. Too bad if you’re a self confessed hoarder like me and you’re trying to justify why three pairs of same, same but different face creams are essential. Turns out you have to be unemotional and that word nobody enjoys hearing before an pending holiday, sensible. Cue coughing here.

Before a new travelling adventure I lay out all the Things I Can’t Leave Behind and always come to inevitable realisation – I can, in fact, leave most of these things behind. But how to decide? Here are some tried and tested ideas to help you work through the mess.

A recent mess of mine where I momentarily considered packing every single product in my suitcase.
A recent mess of mine where I momentarily considered packing every single product in my suitcase.

In the lady tools department, travellers should start by packing the bare necessities, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, sunscreen. The remaining items of one million and one hair volumisers and fifty shades of eyeshadows can audition in a moment.

At this point it’s important to consider your destination. If you’re going somewhere to sizzle in the sun you will probably find hair dust redundant and you’ll need to keep make-up splash friendly. If you’re going to shiver in the Arctic you won’t need your sun tan oil. Actually if you’re going to the Arctic you probably just need a really warm head piece that covers most of your face, and that’s about it.

You might find many of your products actually perform very similar roles, even if you use them for different looks. Last time I travelled I left behind a can of much loved volumiser spray because realistically it’s pretty much a fancy hairspray, and I’d already packed one of those. I recommend packing bobby pins or clips/combs and just one of your smallest hair miracle workers so you can work one style in several different ways.

If space is dangerously tight you can probably do without a primer and rely on your moisturiser for a few weeks. Bringing moisturiser is crucial no matter if your holidaying in the heat or the snow. The amount of make-up to bring is usually enough if you stick with the amount you carry daily in your handbag – plus a bright lippy for nights out. Remember you will be out and about a lot and don’t want perspiration or other harsh elements ruining your look. However, this rule can be broken if you’re planning on going somewhere particularly glam and fancy with a realistic chance of a red carpet, you lucky thing.

Put your items in a small cosmetics bag (yes keep it small and you won’t over indulge – like the small plate equation for healthy eating) and use another for your shampoo, sunscreen and medical supplies. It’s easy to get carried away because these items are somewhat smaller than the rest of the contents of your suitcase, but a series of smart selections here do make a difference when it’s time to zip up.

For the remainder of your packing remember the old rule, lay everything out on the bed that you want to bring, then halve it. It actually works a treat. Realistically you are probably only needing three bottoms, five tops, a day-to-night dress, a cocktail dress and either bikinis or jumpers and about a weeks worth of underwear which you can wash in between. Plus pretty much every country on the planet has embraced a phenomenon called shopping, so save space and shop when you get there. This way you take home new items you probably would have been tempted to buy anyway. See what I did there, I gave you another excuse to justify shopping. You’re welcome.

Your most treasured valuables should go in your hand luggage. It’s critically important to pack a spare pair of underwear and an alternate outfit to prepare for the worst case scenario of losing your suitcase in transit. This happened to a friend of mine who immediately had to hit the shops for a second set of essentials she’d already bought specifically for her trip. Luckily we were in Asia at the time and the markets were cheap! Your hand luggage should also contain your valuable jewellery (if you are bringing them) and expensive technologies like your iPad and cameras so you can keep a careful eye on them. You will also benefit from having your camera and iPad in transit to pass the time anyway.

Another thing to keep in mind is what the country you’re travelling to will allow you to bring. For example Australian airport requirements insist you bring only 100mL or less of liquids and that you display these in see-through sandwich bags. Modify your packing plans accordingly.

If you’re travelling solo it’s a great idea to shop for minis. Conveniently travel sized items, including toothpaste and shampoos are a smart idea if you are on a short trip and are unlikely to use much more. I like to purchase tiny travel bottles, available from hair and beauty warehouses, to fill up with my own shampoo, conditioner and face creams. This way I’m still using my every day favourites but aren’t lugging around its chunky – albeit usually delightful – packaging.

Manicare travel bottles from Priceline, complete with cute and useful labels.

If you have friends travelling with you, work out what you both want to bring and divide carrying responsibilities. For example you carry a larger sized toothpaste for you to both use, while your friend is in charge of the make-up remover wipes. This trick works well for other items too, such as hair straighteners, hairdryers and medical kits. There is no need to double up.

Worst case scenario, if you don’t pack enough there will be places to stock up once you hit your travelling destination. You will be far more sorry if you have no space for new purchases because you over packed than if you have to make a last minute dash for more.

If you really end up over stuffing your kit you do have the option of sending small packages home, but this can be very pricey depending on where you are and where exactly home is. Vacuum bags can also work magic but can be a pain to use so practice before you commit.

One more thing, if you find it essential to do a mid-trip cut back don’t just throw your belongings away. Instead consider giving them to the locals, taking them to an orphanage or leaving them at a charity store. I’m sure someone would welcome your travelling trash as their new found treasure.

Quick test:

  • Do I want it?
  • Will I use it?
  • Do I need it?
  • Can I bring it in a smaller size?
  • Can I share it with a friend?
  • Have I already packed something that does a similar thing (note, does not apply to underwear!)

What are your packing tricks? Post a comment below to share.

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