Real life one bag travel: how to put together a 3-1-1 bag

Hi Frugalistas!  Now, let’s be honest, who’s a high maintenance girl (or guy)?  Is your bathroom cabinet awash with lotions, potions, creams and gels?  Me too.  I also only ever travel with one carry on bag.  This makes taking a 3-1-1 plastic bag a necessity if I don’t want to check luggage.  So how does a high maintenance traveller pack all those essential goodies in just one tiny plastic bag?

basket of toiletries and two glasses in a hotel bathroom

Using the products at your hotel can help cut down on what you need to pack

Packing a 3-1-1 bag that ticks all the boxes, and doesn’t deprive yourself is easy.  It does take planning and strategy though.  Here are my top strategies for making 3-1-1 bag packing a breeze (and give myself room to spare!)

Pack multitasking products whenever possible

Products that do more than one job are fantastic for 3-1-1 packing.  Take one bottle and have two (or even three!) products covered.  My favourite multitasking products are tinted moisturiser with SPF (foundation, tick!  Moisturiser, tick! Sun protection, tick!) and body lotion with SPF – bit harder to track down, but well worth the effort!

Samples are your best friends

Whenever I buy my favorite cosmetics I make sure I choose my samples wisely.  I save them for when I’m travelling.  No need to decant into tiny bottles or compromise on my product.  Trip longer than my sample will last for?  No problem – I take two (or even three if need be).  If my store card or a kindly sales assistant offers me a fragrance sample, I make sure I partake.  Decanting perfume is one of the trickier tasks, so samples are a godsend.

perfume samples

I love my samples!

Use a variety of bottle sizes

Just as you need a range of luggage to suit different travel scenarios, you need a range of bottles, tubes and jars.  Goo tubes are the mainstay of my 3-1-1 bag, but are sometimes just too big.  I therefore stock up on smaller bottles for things like shampoo and conditioner (or for shorter trips), and have a range of jars for my different creams.  Not sure how long those little bottles last?  Check out my (very non-scientific) research here.  I make sure I pack my goodies into the smallest possible bottle/jar/tube for my trip.  It’s a great space saver.  No point having your precious 3-1-1 packing space full of air, eh?

Goo tube, two small plastic bottles, plastic jar

I keep a range of different bottles and jars for different products

Can you use a dry product instead?

If you are on a longer trip, packing for a 3-1-1 bag can be tricky.  Brands like Lush will come to the rescue with a large range of solid beauty products.  Seek out solid shampoos and deodorants, and even foundations (but remember gels still count as liquids and need to go in the 3-1-1 bag).  Make sure you are using powder or stick eye shadows and blushers.  Men can seek out solid soap shaving creams.

Remembering that only liquids and gels need to go in your 3-1-1 bag can help you cut down the size of that little plastic bag significantly.

Buy travel size products

Both the big supermarket brands and many higher end boutique brands now offer their products in smaller travel friendly sizes.  Some brands also make 3-1-1 packs – a prepackaged 3-1-1 quality plastic pouch filled with their goodies.  Toothpastes, deodorants, body lotions, shampoos and conditioners are readily available on your supermarket aisle if those brands suit you.  The other good thing about these type of products?  Often the little bottles can be rinsed out and reused!

can of hairspray and tube of face moisturiser

Travel size products

Buy big bottles at your destination

If you’re on a longer trip, or just want to pack even less buy some of your bulk purchases until your destination.  Body lotion is a good one for this strategy.  Similarly, if you are heavy handed with the toothpaste or shampoo, you might prefer to buy a normal size package at the end.  Sunscreen for the family on those resort holidays rarely fit in a 3-1-1 compliant bottle.  I pack a small bottle to get us started, but then buy a proper sized one on arrival.

Use the bathroom products in your hotel

This strategy doesn’t suit everyone.  It depends on your personal preference (My fine curly hair hates hotel shampoos for example, and sometimes don’t find the body lotions rich enough).  It also depends on your hotel – cheaper hotels and hostels clearly don’t offer the same range of options.  But it is worth considering – particularly if you are staying at a chain where you know the products will suit you, or if you aren’t that fussy.

Packing a 3-1-1 bag is essential if you want to take carry on.  Even if you don’t take carry on only these tips will help you pack your toiletries more efficiently – more room for shopping in that bag!

What are your favorite 3-1-1 packing tips?


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3 Comments on “Real life one bag travel: how to put together a 3-1-1 bag”

  1. Muriel 03/06/2014 at 12:21 pm #

    Great tips in here! Especially getting solid forms of your toiletries. If I’m going on a short trip, I pack all tiny toiletries but if it’s a longer trip, I take the essentials and buy the rest at my destination. I always travel with a carry-on only so it’s the only way.

  2. Katie Hale (@halekatie) 09/06/2014 at 7:15 pm #

    Good tips! Especially for longer trips. It’s important to remember that however exotic the place you’re travelling to, you can probably still buy essentials like shampoo and toothpaste…

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