How Do You Handle Skincare While Traveling?

By: Jen Shoop

Above: my favorite Julia Amory toiletry pouches while we stayed at Indian Springs Resort in Calistoga, CA.

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I was chatting with a girlfriend about packing beauty and skincare products while traveling, and I mentioned that I was shopping for mini/trial sizes of face wash to test on an upcoming trip. She immediately replied:

“Oh, I never test something new while traveling. Too high risk! Decant what works.”

It made total sense — why would I risk using something I don’t like, or that my skin doesn’t like, while marooned on a vacation, with no back-ups? Obviously not the time to rotate a new product into the regimen, especially as I might already be encountering different climates, drier skin because of air travel, etc! Duh! The obviousness of her insight reminded me of the time, just after she was born, that I was taking mini out in her stroller (with the pram-like infant bassinet attachment) for a walk, and I plopped her right in, with no swaddle. She was rolling around in there like a loose hot dog. (Ha!) At the park, I noticed that other moms had cushioned their babies in swaddles and blankets so that they were safely nestled. Thank God for other women, who show us the way, whether by gentle modeling or earnest response.

Anyhow, what other perspectives and insights do you have into this matter? I’m specifically curious about how you pare down your beauty routine for a trip. Do you take only the basics (face wash, moisturizer) and skip serums and oils? Do you take tiny portions of everything in your lineup, carefully measured out for each day you’ll be gone? Do you take your full skincare routine but only a small portion of your beauty bag?

(This is one of those ultra-niche, nosy questions that typically elicits a lot of “omg, how did I not think of that earlier?” responses.)

On recent trips, I’ve been decanting face wash, moisturizer, shampoo, and conditioner into these little tubs and tubes; I pack this mini sized makeup melt or these individually wrapped Neutrogena wipes; and then taking the full size of my eye cream and vitamin c serum (I skip the extra serum I usually apply after Vitamin C while traveling). I’m so curious about how others handle serums. Do we skip or take the whole dang bottle? Seems impossible to compress into a smaller size.

I do take a fairly robust set of beauty products, on the other hand, decanting/minimizing very little.

Please share your perspectives and tips!


+What are your best tips for better travel?

+Recent beauty finds/buys inspired by a long afternoon watching beauty TikTok-ers.

+What beauty tips have stuck with you?

+What do you keep in your guest bedroom?

+My most recent batch of “honest beauty reviews.”

Shopping Break.

+The only thing I want to buy right now are fresh sweaters. It’s be cold and rainy/snowy and gross — if you don’t have a La Ligne Marin or Mini Marina, I can’t recommend enough. You can get 10% off at La Ligne with code MAGPIE10.

+La Ligne looks for less: J. Crew or Quince!

+Those striped cozies are perfect for pairing with some new jeans (<<ordered to test the fit!). Also ordered this pair to try! Different wash for me.

+The Dorsey Clemence necklace is back! This is my favorite gem-stone necklace/bracelet I own from Dorsey. Details on why here!

+Major celeb off-duty vibes.

+You really must try this $8 foundation brush. A Magpie wrote about it over the weekend: “I purchased and received the $8 brush from Amazon this week I am positively stunned that it is such a bargain. It really works beautifully.” Strongly agree — mine arrived and I think the stubby/flat end is very similar to my beloved Merit brush.

+This $40 half-zip sweatshirt arrived and is really good – impressed with the quality. Two other recent Amazon fitness finds: these high-waisted wide legs and this top.

+Have heard these cropped flare leggings are v flattering for us petites.

+I just re-discovered this sleeveless tank from Vuori in the back of my fitness drawer. I love it for my stationery bike sessions / indoor mat exercises!

+Several of you have raved about Ayr’s morning tee over the years. I feel like the weight / drape looks ideal for layering over a tank for a morning walk.

+This fleece sweatshirt/capelet looks dreamy.

+Love Jacadi’s “Petit Marin” collection for baby gifts, especially this princely jersey set and/or this padded pouch for the baby bag.

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24 thoughts on “How Do You Handle Skincare While Traveling?

  1. Ooh, I could nerd out on packing toiletries all day! I frequently fly budget carriers, so my goal is to get everything into as tiny of a package as I can. I’ve grown more trusting that hotels will have shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, but I still slip a sample pack into my quart bag just in case. As for the rest of my liquids, I pare down to just the essentials: cleanser, serum, lotion, sunscreen, foundation (I swap my eye cream for a lip balm-sized solid!). Anything I can’t find in a sample size, I squeeze in to one of these Muji containers ( or

    1. So interesting how many different approaches there are in the comments! Love this tack, too. Sometimes I do feel like I’m over precious about bringing my own shampoo/conditioner when the hotels will surely have something completely functional!!


  2. I actually have more products I love than I normally use in daily life, but I pack different things on each trip. For example, on a ski trip I leave behind all my water-based layers, take only rich or oil based products, a bold lip to take me from day to night, and layer a thick slathering of Weleda skin food over everything. When I would go to Monaco before we lived here I’d pack a full glam look, including leg makeup (the tinted shimmery oil from Nuxe). For work trips I always kept it minimal with sheer foundation, a brow product, and sheer chapstick. My daily skincare routine is 4 full-size products I share with my husband, so if we’re both going somewhere we’ll pack the spray and the serum, but swap for a different moisturizer and face oil in a smaller bottle. With the exception of those hero products that we empty, I buy smallest sizes anyway, so if I decide to take something it’s not a burden. I’m also ruthless about tossing expired makeup, and it feels less bad with the small sizes.

    1. Love the idea of sharing products with husband! We do often use the same cleanser / maybe we should share moisturizer too? Brilliant!


  3. When it comes to skin care, I finally bit the bullet and splurged on the smallest sizes of my favorite skin care when available. Many brands (U Beauty, Goop, Bader…) make a small size. It is more $$ up front, but if you love the product, you will use it. Plus it can stay packed ready to go and make it easy to keep track of what you have. I also find that if you purchase directly from the brand, you often get to choose sample sizes too, which is great. I love the Amazon bag mentioned in the comments for road trips. For the plane, I was influenced by Meghan at Wit and Whimsy and love the Truffle Jetset cases instead of plastic bags.

    1. I like this idea. There is such a benefit to just getting the exact product you want in the exact right applicator/bottle/etc without all the transferring. Going to keep this idea in mind for items I absolutely cannot live without.


  4. Love this niche question and all of the insightful comments. I do tend to try new products while traveling. I assume that while I’m already out of my routine and away from all of my at-home comforts, I’m going to look and feel differently anyway, so I may as well test out some new products. I have so many travel size samples that I receive while ordering my (many) go-to skincare products….when else am I going to use them? I will always first reach for the travel sizes of my favorites if I have them hand, and then after that, I will bring travel sizes of new products. Personally, I never decant my skincare products as I don’t want to waste even a single drop in the transference or leftover in an ill-fitting bottle. I enjoy trying new products and love being able to bring eye creams, serums, night cream, day cream, etc. etc…. I would feel confined to paring down my routine if I brought full size bottles. Finally, I find it satisfying to throw away samples on vacation and come home with less than I packed.

    1. Appreciate this rogue perspective! I also love testing new things and think it can make for a fun trip experience / something to look forward to….but I think I might stick with my usual core skincare routine as-is and layer in other things (shampoo, body wash, perfume) that are less high stakes.


  5. Like your friend, I also never try anything new while traveling. However, if I wasn’t prone to the occasional allergic rash, I would absolutely use a new product with a scent I like while on vacation to create a scent memory.

    I take all of the skincare products that I normally use at home with me while on vacation, because when I deviate from my everyday routine while traveling, I just don’t feel my best. This means that, for me, traveling usually involves sticking to my usual morning/nighttime skincare routine, working out (even if it’s just twice in a week), making healthy choices for 2 out of 3 meals as many days as possible, and sticking to my usual bedtime most nights. All of my facial care (eye creams, serums, face creams, sunscreen, lip balm) are within the size limits for travel. Body care is a different story… the shower products I use most are drugstore brand, and I purchased mini sizes of those that I just refill with my regular sizes, and I take one squeezable silicone bottle with my everyday body moisturizer for each week that I travel. I also throw in a travel pack of kleenex, refill a travel-sized q-tip container, and take my regular toothpaste and floss since both are within the size limits. Overall, I find it helpful to stick to carrying products in their branded containers whenever possible (no labeling or guessing which products are in which containers)… my one and only exception is my body moisturizer since it doesn’t come in a refillable travel size.

    I rarely wear makeup, but if I realistically think I’ll use it, it’s not space prohibitive to pack what I have…shiseido eyelash curler, ilia mascara, the merit foundation stick that I apply with my fingertips as undereye concealer, and a sheer nars lipstick (thank you for the recent mascara and foundation recommendations!). I may eventually add an eye shadow, foundation and eyeshadow brushes, and micellar water/shiseido cotton pads to the makeup items but haven’t yet… don’t love the idea of having to wash a brush regularly and would love to know how you care for your brushes.

    The toiletry bags I use are amanda lindroth and are similar to your julia amory ones- one for the bathroom and one for the nightstand.

    Regarding packing medication/first aid, whether it’s at home or while I’m away, having to find and travel to a pharmacy while not feeling well doesn’t seem ideal, so I always keep those items in my suitcase (and refresh once I’m home before putting my suitcase away for the next trip). I would say these things are nice to have for a domestic trip (what if you wake up in the middle of the night not feeling well and need to check your temp?) but an absolute must for an international trip.

    1. Such smart insights / perspectives! Thanks for sharing. I love your idea of sticking to as much of your usual routine as you can. I definitely do that for my children while we’re away from home – makes sense to apply to myself, too!

      Thanks for the detailed response!


  6. I take my entire morning and evening skin care routine on travel. I do add some pampering things like nice bath salts, face masks in case within travel schedule I have time to pamper myself. Always on the plane I wear eye masks to keep myself hydrated and put on a thick moisturizer to keep from drying out while on the plane.

  7. Most of my travel in the last 5 years has been either one night or one week, and all car travel. When I go for a week, I just pack my full size bottles/tubes. I do usually leave behind my exfoliating serum though (too much time in the sun on vacation!) and just bring vitamin C. Sometimes I also leave my night moisturizer and just use my day moisturizer, and only bring my gel cleanser (at home, I use gel cleanser at night and cream cleanser in the morning – it doesn’t do well removing makeup but I like that it’s more moisturizing). When I travel for one night, I might bring sample sizes of my usual products – I use Mad Hippie and each bottle comes with one of those little square foil samples tucked into the box. They are handy for travel but annoying as they contain 2-3 applications but aren’t recloseable (unless I think ahead and pack a paper clip or something). I almost never try new products even when I’m at home. Maybe I’ll be more adventurous in 2024!

    1. Makes complete sense – love the idea of stockpiling samples for travel! I usually just use them immediately so they aren’t cluttering my drawers but now I think I’ll save! Thanks!


  8. I bring very little on the skincare/makeup front when I travel!

    Admittedly, I also am not a big makeup wearer in my day to day life, but with makeup in particular I find that I’m usually just using it on a trip to feel freshened up and most products tend to go unused or forgotten by me, so I tend to just bring under eye concealer, brow brush, blush and mascara.

    On the skincare front I bring something to wash my face (sometimes this is honestly just a pack of face wipes!), one serum and a good moisturizer (I have pretty dry skin so this is the one non negotiable for me). I’m also sensitive to scents and find a lot of hotel bath product fragrances very overwhelming so I’ll bring a neutral travel sized set of Pantene shampoo/conditioner that my husband and I can share.

    I like to bring my tried and true products and try to have a mini version on hand (I love Tatcha’s minis they are so cute), and then often just refill those from my larger at home supply if the container is refillable.

    Worse comes to worst I remind myself that I can purchase something perfectly usable at a pharmacy! Most of the trips I’m taking are not to remote locations so it’s rare that there isn’t access to purchase things while traveling if needed.

    I love putting all of this in my Cuyana travel set. They still look like new even after over 7 years of use!

    1. So true re: “Worse comes to worst I remind myself that I can purchase something perfectly usable at a pharmacy.” I sometimes have this ill-founded anxiety that if I don’t pack it, I’ll be up a creek without a paddle! Had to remind myself of this when we went skiing recently — I don’t need to pack my entire medicine cabinet for every possible contingency! There are local pharmacies!


  9. I’m with your friend when traveling- no new products! My skin would not tolerate newness well in addition with the stresses of travelling- I would break out for sure. (This plan was consolidated when I traveled a few years back with a new cleansing balm that I reacted terribly to- and had to deal with a severe breakout the rest of the trip. UGH!!!) But I do decant most of my skincare products into smaller containers (usually re-used jars and bottles from Sephora 100 point perks). Same with shampoo/ conditioner. With serums I usually take the whole bottle but they’re typically only 1 oz or so anyway. And I always pack a barrier balm from Aveeno- good for redness, rashes, anything really. Overall I maintain my home routine with maybe one or two omissions. The only newness I’ll try is body lotion and maybe perfume.

    For beauty, I take my basics and make sure I have a good eyeliner and lip product. Nothing new that I haven’t tried before.

    So curious to hear what others do while traveling. I’m always envious when I see people travel with 3-5 products while I have a full toiletry case, haha.

    1. Love these points, especially reinforcing the “no new products while traveling” rule. Thanks for sharing! I’m also envious of those who pack light on the cosmetics front. I’m especially bad about beauty. I’ve been known to ask, “but what if I really want a dramatic eye situation one night?” HA!


  10. Loved reading your travel questions. Here’s my routine. FIRST and foremost, I travel with this to hold all my toiletries.
    I LOVE hanging it in a towel bar and having all my toiletries showing. Hotels never have enough counter space for both my husband and I so this enables us both to be happy in a limited space. A real game changer! Must have!

    I don’t try anything new when I travel either. In fact I leave several products and put a bottle ( 3oz size) of CeraVe moisturizer to use extensively. My dermatologist said its a good brand so I replace several items for a week of CeraVe. I actually like the change. For a small amount of a much loved product, I go to the store and get a sample or two. They’re small and usually last for my trip. Also take an “Erase Your Face” cloth to wash off makeup before washing my face.

    And love to throw in a few Summers Eve cleansing packets to use upon arrival after a long day of travel and before dinner out when there’s no time to shower, unpack, change, etc. They make you feel refreshed.


    1. Thanks for all of these tips! I know CeraVe is always heavily recommended by dermatologists – I should try some of their products! Also, love the idea of the hanging toiletries bag!!


  11. I decant serums and creams into contact lens cases. They take up very little space and the seal is good, so no spillage!

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