5 Tips for Packing Your Travel Beauty Bag

by Meghan Carlson | 1 Comment

When I think about summer vacations, the first word that comes to mind is “freedom.” Not only do I love exploring new places and meeting new people, but also trying out fun and unique makeup looks while I’m there, whether it’s a gold cat-eye or a purple lip. The freedom to experiment is one of the best parts of traveling, if you ask me! (And if one of my outlandish looks doesn’t land, at least I know that I’ll never see most of those people again.)

But it’s not always easy to reconcile my free-spirited imagination with the limited space in my makeup bag. Thankfully, I’ve discovered a few important lessons along the way that allow me to use that space to its fullest potential, while keeping my inner pack-rat in check. Here are my five top tips for packing your beauty essentials for travel—and still leaving room for fun.


Maven @vickivictoria20 shows off her own brilliant travel beauty tip: the best way to keep yourself busy while you’re waiting for your flight at the airport? Paint your nails! (She’s wearing Caitlin.)

1. Invest in a makeup bag that works for you

Finding the perfect travel makeup bag can be trickier than it sounds, but the resulting organization (and peace of mind) is well worth the effort. Buy a bag that is slightly smaller than you think you need: this will ensure that all your cosmetics stay snug inside and won’t break from bouncing around, and force you to pare down to just your must-haves.

Look for a bag with a transparent exterior and/or lots of inner compartments to help you find exactly what you need when you’re on the go. Separating your products by type or color and keeping them in smaller plastic bags inside the pouch can also help. And finally, find a bag that can be wiped clean with a little soap and water, because spills and smudges happen—but stains don’t have to.

2. Know what counts as a liquid/gel

If you’re checking a bag at the airport, make sure to put any large liquids, gels, or aerosol containers in your checked luggage to avoid getting them confiscated by the TSA. If you’re not checking a bag, it’s important to know what is considered a liquid/gel by security. You never know when you’ll run into that agent, and the rules might actually surprise you!

Liquid foundation, nail polish, gel/liquid eyeliner, and liquid/cream eyeshadows are subject to screening, and need to be placed in your clear 1-quart plastic bag prior to screening, in containers that are 3.4 ounces or less. But according to the TSA blog, normal-size cosmetic products that come in a tube, like mascara, lip gloss, and lip balm, do NOT need to go in the plastic bag, so it’s fine to keep those in your makeup bag during screening, along with your lipstick, powdered products, solid crayons/pencils, and chapstick.

Before you leave for the airport, separate your makeup into “wet” and “dry” categories, and put everything “wet” in the quart-size bag along with your toothpaste, lotions, etc. to make sure it all fits.

3. Streamline your supply

To save on space, pack as many multi-purpose beauty products you can, and don’t be afraid to get creative! A pale, shimmery eye shadow can work beautifully as a skin highlighter, a cream blush can also work as a lip or eye color, and lipstick can be blended out as a cheek stain. Take a look at the outfits you packed, consider the type of trip (and the activities included), think about the makeup looks you’d like to do, and pare down accordingly. Pack a single, versatile eyeshadow compact with a variety of neutral shades that you can use to create both daytime and nighttime looks. Since lipsticks don’t need to be taken out during screening, consider packing a few extra tubes in bold shades, keeping your eye makeup simple, and making your lips the focal point of your vacation looks. Lipstick is faster to apply and will instantly make you look put-together—plus, bright lips are always a “do” during the summer.

4. Cushion your compacts

To make sure your powder compacts arrive in one piece, place a cotton pad (or the puff that came with it) inside the compact to create a makeshift shock absorber. For extra cushion, pack your compacts inside socks, and sandwich them between clothing layers in the middle of your bag.

5. Go brush-less where you can

Cramming in all of your makeup brushes can take up valuable space—not to mention wreak havoc on their bristles—so try to take only your absolute essentials, and use your fingers, Q-tips, or sponges to apply whatever you can, whether it’s your foundation, blush, or lip and eye color. Some makeup artists actually prefer to use their fingers to apply product because the body heat helps to naturally warm up the product, making for easier blending—so who knows? You might just discover a new favorite makeup application method in the process.

Do you have your own favorite tips for traveling with beauty products? Share ’em down below!