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Sacrificing my favorite hair products to do carryon only

Hubby and I leave in ten days for a six week trip. We have decided to do carryon only for the first time in our ten years of traveling. We have always traveled with each of us having a carryon size suitcase, but have always checked them because my hair products don’t come in travel size containers, ie. the brand of mousse I use on my very fine hair.

However, this time I have decided to “bite the bullet” and make some compromises. We’re going with carryon only. As I am sitting here typing this I realize how silly this sounds! People certainly have more serious things to deal with.

Have any of you checked a bag just because you have certain products you want to take or do you not worry about your hair and just go with the flow?

Posted by
2548 posts

I throw caution to the wind for shampoo and conditioner for my travels. I’ve tried bar shampoo and bar conditioner and really don’t have a ton of luck. Sometimes I sneak in a 3 ounce bottle of Garnier Fructis conditioner for the hotels that don’t offer conditioner. Often I end up buying a little bottle as I travel.

The one thing I always bring is a 3 ounce bottle filled with Garnier Fructis curl cream. I just use a tiny bit and can get through at least 3 weeks with that. If I have room, I bring a second 3 ounce bottle, but my trips are usually 4 weeks and I end up not needing it all.

I’m always surprised at how long that little bottle of curl cream lasts.

Beyond that, I don’t need a ton of liquids and if we need stuff we just buy it.

Posted by
868 posts

THIS is so ME !

Yes, I have VERY CURLY hair and do the 'curly girl technique' and most of the products I use, can't be bought/found easily in Europe and I usually can't get enough of what I need in a CarryOn quart sized bag - so that is why I usually check a bag.

I can usually get my products in the 4oz silicone containers, but never enough for 2 weeks and never in a quart sized bag.

Posted by
13237 posts

For the last 8-9 years I've checked a bag because I felt I couldn't lift my bag up into the bins and that I didn't want to deal with it on longer layovers. I have short hair but I do pack my own shampoo and conditioner as I am allergic to a lot of hair products but I can manage with the 3oz bottles.

I'm not a stylist but is there a hair product in a bottle or jar that will work for you? You can decant it into smaller containers. I decant my hair goop into smaller jars, but again, short, straight, just need some lift and texture.

A while ago someone posted a website that had a ton of travel sizes...way more than I can find at my local pharmacies and grocery stores. Maybe someone will post that again!

Posted by
6402 posts

Sometimes there's something very expensive or irreplaceable (or simply too large for any carry-on) that must go in a checked bag (I've checked a bag for trekking poles and other specialized gear, although "hair products" are a great concern to me). And sometimes you may be headed to places where there's no real availability for "shopping" as we expect at home, so gotta check that bag with a critical item.

They sell all kinds of things in Europe. Hair products are going to be widely available, just like at home (worst case: you may have to experiment and find a new brand that you like). This is not something I would have on my list of things to worry about.

Posted by
2 posts

Relate to this completely as another one with curly hair and serious product preferences. I usually check a bag for several reasons, but "needing" certain things in certain quantities is at the top of my list.

I have just returned from a 3-week-plus trip to France and England, and if I had a euro (or a pound) for every woman I saw with extremely close-cropped hair (even crew cuts), I could have stayed another week.

I could pack carry-on only for shorter trips if I travel with my low-maintenance husband and use half of his 3-1-1 bag.

Posted by
181 posts

Hi Sue,
Your question/dilemma isn’t silly. There is nothing wrong with feeling confident & wanting your hair to look nice while on vacation. Have you looked at trying different products that offer a travel size? Bumble & Bumble & Living Proof are good lines that offers a mousse for fine hair. If you would like something less expensive, big sexy hair (target) is a good brand for the money.


Posted by
2679 posts

You might be amazed. If you listed the brand people could probably help you but I have found a lot of very high end brands for 3 ounce or less sizes. And I have fine hair so I know what you mean.

We generally take a winter getaway to Mexico or the Caribbean and because suntan lotion where we stay is about $25 a bottle I do check a bag going down because it has all of our sunblock in it. If we don’t use it we give it away and we carry-on coming back.

Posted by
428 posts

I have dermatitis and need specific products including some prescription ointments so I always have to check a bag because the total amount of containers won’t fit into the 1 litre bag allowed.

Posted by
1284 posts

I decant my hair products into 3 oz bottles.
I'm amazed at how little is actually used since I always have some left in the bottles when I return home.

Posted by
1259 posts

As I am sitting here typing this I realize how silly this sounds! People certainly have more serious things to deal with.

Not silly in the least. However, you can most certainly comparable quality products, probably even the same brand, in a department store soon after arrival in country. There are convenience and travel sized products available on the air side at most airports.

This site lists several top brands. Their websites might include stockists in the "where to buy" sections.

You might carefully measure the amounts of these products you use for each application, multiply by the number of times you think you'll use each to arrive at an estimate of the volume required. As others have pointed out, 3 fl ozs is a LOT of shampoo &c.

Also, review the TSA requirements for "3-1-1" (3 ozs or less, in 1 quart bag, and 1 bag per person). You can carry several small containers, none larger that 100ml, as long as they all fit in a 1L bag. There are dozens of containers designed just for this purpose.

Posted by
2256 posts

I don’t think you’re being silly at all. I don’t mind using the hotel shampoo, etc. but I do need to pack a decent travel size hairdryer and flatiron for my hair which gets really unruly in humidity. I have thick hair and 99% of the hotel hairdryers are worthless to me. Yes, I could buy a hairdryer and flatiron over there but that seems a waste of money and time and something I would have to do on every trip. These two appliances add a bit of weight to my bag but I don’t care. I am taking a carry on size bag but checking it because we have a few flight legs and I don’t want to have to life that bag into the overhead over and over again and drag it through the airports.

Posted by
183 posts

I also have very fine hair, and prefer a specific mousse. But when traveling I’m willing to be flexible on hair products for the sake of packing light. Although I admit that six weeks is a long time to be without your favorite products! I usually just travel with a three ounce travel size of mousse, whatever is commonly available at Wal Mart or Target, and I use the hotel shampoo. But as another poster mentioned above, lot of expensive salon brands are now available in travel size. I could recommend the “Sexy Hair” brand also mentioned above. But I also wonder if a little bit of googling would lead you to learn what the European equivalent of your favorites may be, if your favorites aren’t common in Europe. You could purchase them on arrival, in the quantity that makes sense for too.
But if not having your favorite products causes a major imposition, go ahead and check your bag. It’s not against the law!

Posted by
545 posts

Thanks for all of the great responses. Nice to know I’m not alone. I do like the Big Sexy hair products. I will search for the travel size.
Great suggestion to search for equivalents to what I use. I normally use Rusk products and decant the texture spray into a smaller container.

Posted by
511 posts

The shaving cream for sensitive skin gets to have time off at home. Other essential items are placed in 3oz containers.

Posted by
84 posts

If you’re considering bar shampoo, I’ll add my 2 cents: I’ve used the heart-shaped one (at Target, can never remember the name… Love Beauty Planet?) — I liked it — but also Trader Joe’s has one that I liked more — it foamed better. I just take a chunk in a ziplock bag as back-up in case I don’t like the hotel shampoo. No reason to lug around the whole bar.

Posted by
9133 posts

Yes, I could buy a hairdryer and flatiron over there but that seems a waste of money and time and something I would have to do on every trip.

Why would you need to buy a new one every trip ? These items would go into your travel stash, and you would pack them every trip, just as you do your US voltage items now.

Posted by
2102 posts

I am still working on this as trip photos will attest. It’s harder with carry-on as our transfer point is LHR and they’re very strict about the 3-1-1 bag. I’ve decided that my conditioner is the most important hair product. If there’s room, I’ll pack my preferred shampoo next and I’m still searching for a mousse I like in a small size. I’ve purchased Euro/UK friendly hair tools, but I never seem to have enough room in my carry-on.

Posted by
545 posts

Kristin, I ordered bar shampoo last night. Should arrive next week, so I’ll have a chance to try it out before we leave. Thanks for the suggestion

Posted by
545 posts

Amanda, I will check out your suggestions

Posted by
84 posts

AMann, the Trader Joe's one is very "clean" in terms of ingredients I believe, so I would think you would find it gentle. My everyday shampoos are the clean ingredient type, and I try to travel that way as well.

Posted by
2444 posts

Along the same lines, skin care, not hair care. Since I had melanoma a few years ago and now have 6 month dermatology appointments, I've gotten serious about protecting my skin. All the years of being out in the sun with minimal sunscreen if it existed at all took it’s toll. All my body lotions now have SPF is varying amounts. That's 3 more bottles than last trip. Although they're decanted into 3 oz bottles, they make my 311 bag very full. I was still able to fit in my favorite shampoo and hair conditioner. I just hope I don't have a picky TSA agent because daily tubs of hand cream didn't fit in the 311 bag and eye drops, prescription and small daily vials, are tucked into my drug bag and elsewhere.

Getting old is the pits. I need more lotions, potions and supplies than when I was younger. The old lady staring at me in the mirror is haunting me today.

Posted by
3134 posts

I think you will find that your liquids will fit easily if you just reduce the size of the container. That being said I've never had an issue with toothpaste, liquid face lotion, conditioner and shampoo, etc. Gosh, I can't even recall what I used to take in liquid form, but it fit. Change the sizing. I've reduced my liquids over the years to just my toothpaste, mouthwash, eyedrops and an eye drop medicine. The rest are non-liquids. Experiment and you might find bar and shampoo conditioners you like. I didn't like Lush, but my daughter gave me some from another vendor...Suds (? I can look it up if interested). Before having a child, I had curly/wavy hair. I am not much of a female I guess as I have no idea what you refer to to maintain it that takes up so much room. LOL. Mine was wash, fingers through it once, and let dry. Or that was the day. So maybe just adapt for vacation? Get your hair styled for a natural style? Love your hair as it is. Just something to think about. It's only 6 weeks, but they say 6 weeks makes a habit. It could change your life!

I also don't understand what @horsewoofie is referring to about extra old lady things...but I'd like to know as it is making me very curious. I digressed a little. I have a red head's skin coloring even though my auburn hair disappeared in my 20's, so I've used suntan lotion and avoided direct sun for my entire life as 15 minutes in the sun and I was burned in the salty air. I use solid form sun tan the solid deodorants. I've always used Oil of 'Delay' on my face, which has some, not a lot, SPF built in, and that's disregarded on trips where I use a lush facial item under my solid roll on moisturizer or suntan lotion. So here I know you can avoid filling up a bag with suntan lotion ( and deodorant, shampoo and conditioner)...just get bar or solid form.

I wasn't a make-up type of girl, but with mature years I do use Boom sticks for lipstick and a little glow to highlight my wise wrinkles sometimes. Again, no liquid. You can do this. Just relax.

I check my carryon bag so I don't have to deal with it in the airport, but I suspect those days are over for a while. LOL.

Posted by
295 posts

I am taking a shampoo bar (cut in half) on a three week trip and I am already dreading the texture of my hair, lol....

I thought about seeing if I could ship the products I needed to the first place we stayed, but we ended up needing to fly between countries instead of taking the train as I'd hoped.

I don't think you need to apologize for questions that are "silly". There are plenty of tough questions and fellow travelers are wonderful for helping out with little tips to smooth over all the little things... they can add up to big problems or make a whole trip more pleasant.

Posted by
2560 posts

Not silly at all, wanting to look good is quite valid to me. While I could just bundle my hair up in a ponytail or some other kind of up-do, and on a really hot day that's been a great solution, I really prefer my usual hairstyle...the problem is, I have a lot of thick, curly hair and it only likes to be treated one way, and will thus only look good if treated that one way. My hair is like a movie star, requiring an entourage and very precise handling. It needs a generous slathering of Mixed Chicks Leave In conditioner, and I have worked out that one 3 oz tube holds enough for 2 hair washings--for a short trip I can fit 2 tubes in my 3-1-1. I can go 3 or even 4 days between washing, but the ends get scraggly so I bring those old-fashioned foam curlers as it doesn't need the heat damage from a curling iron. It can't be slept on, heaven forbid, that will crumple the curl! Then there's the touch-up smoothing goop as it gets even more crazy in humid weather. You probably are using an aerosol if it's mousse, no way to fill a bigger bottle. I have tried searching drug and beauty supply shops while in Europe and never quite find a substitute that works for me--plus I don't want to spend all my time & money doing that and still not have something that works, so for a 6 week trip I'd be checking a bag for sure.

Posted by
9133 posts

My hair is like a movie star, requiring an entourage and very precise handling.

This is absolutely fabulous, Christa !

Posted by
773 posts

Hey, i get it! One of the things i planned for, at LEAST for my return from both my London and Paris trips, was checking a suitcase. My hairspray, Elnett, is French - I do buy and use it here but the Eurpoean formulation is even better - so I plan to check on the return because I buy cans in Europe and bring back lol

Posted by
1620 posts

My Beauty/Hair products are a must for me, I too like to feel confidant and natural. No go with the flow for me, with that being said I do have clips and claws to pull my long hair up if needed.
There is 100% no need to sacrifice any products, I pack my own shampoo and conditioner using Gotoobs (the largest) and they last for 4 weeks. Have you asked at Sephora or wherever you get your hair product for a similar in travel size?
I specifically purchased the BaByliss Travel curling iron and straightener for my hair and love them. All my sunscreen makeup and face sunscreen lotions fit in my 3-1-1 bag. I actually do not put my liquid makeup in the 3-1-1 or mascara, primer etc, they just stay in my makeup bag and I have never had a problem, but know what I will throw out in the 3-1-1 bag if ever having to put the makeup in there.