Travel & Makeup Packing Tips

Packing sucks.  Especially when there’s makeup involved.  Read more for some tips on how to make packing a little less suck-y!


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As I write this, I’m about a billion miles over the Atlantic Ocean. Jk – only about 33,000 miles, but its many more miles in altitude than I am on the reg.

Update: It’s 4 days later and I’m actually not on the plane anymore – I’m on a train to Innsbruck, Austria! I had terrible wifi on the plane and kept losing my work, and I’ve had terrible wifi in the hotels in Europe as well, and also keep losing my work, so this is about the 5th time I’m attempting to write this blog post.  I’m currently writing it in Microsoft Word and hoping I can find good enough wifi somewhere to post it.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m going to be studying in Piacenza, Italy, for the next two years at a university called Universitá Cattolica Del Sacro Cuore. I’m a fourth-year (I’m doing 5!) international business major at Northeastern University, so this extended stay abroad is part of the whole program. Currently, I’m on my way to Switzerland. After Switzerland, I’m hitting up Austria, and after Austria, I’ll be settling down in Italy.

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I love going places, but I hate traveling. I know that doesn’t make sense, but I just hate all the packing and moving things around that’s involved. Luckily, I’ve learned a few things traveling back and forth from Boston to NJ throughout the years (and from my many travels to Disney!), and I’m here to share my traveling tips with you!

1.Check Travel Restrictions

Before you get down and dirty, you’re going to want to know what you can and cannot pack when it comes to whatever method of transportation you’re taking.  For flying in the United States (not sure about anywhere else!) there are a bunch of TSA Restrictions when it comes to carry-on luggage:

Liquids Rule

You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. Placing these items in the small bag and separating from your carry-on baggage facilitates the screening process. Pack items that are in containers larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in checked baggage.

Any liquid, aerosol, gel, cream or paste that alarms during screening will require additional screening.

Carry-ons are also restricted to a certain size and there are other rules about stuff with duties (???) on them for checked baggage.  Again, do your research here – it would suck to have to leave something behind just because it doesn’t fit the restriction!

2. Mentally Prepare Yourself

If you’re traveling a pretty far distance (i.e. across the whole damn ocean), by plane, chances are, you’re going to have to leave a few things behind. I was only allowed one checked bag (another checked bag was like an extra $100 and I’m not that swanky), so I knew I was going to have to make some cuts when it came to what I wanted to pack.

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Luckily, my family is actually coming with me for the first part of my journey, and my mom and brother are sharing, so I get to use the luggage that would have been my brothers! That brings me to a total of 2 suitcases, which still isn’t a lot when you’re thinking about the fact that the items in those 2 suitcases are supposed to last you for 2 years.

I had some big dreams for myself when it came to what I wanted to bring, but sadly, I pulled an Icarus and flew too close to the sun there.

I actually had to leave quite a lot of lipsticks behind. Makeup-wise, lipsticks are my favorite things to collect, and I probably have close to 70 liquid lipsticks. I know that’s excessive. I’m working on it. The first step to recovery is admittance.

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Anyway… although I may have ugly-cried when I realized I had to leave most of my collection behind, I got over it and I prioritized. As long as you go in knowing that you probably won’t be able to fit everything you had imagined, it’ll be less painful later on when it comes to cutting things out.

Besides, you can probably get the same (or a more ~exotic~) thing that you ended up having to leave behind. I know I’ll definitely be able to grab some more lipsticks (first thing I did was check to see if Piacenza has a Sephora – it does) when I’m abroad. Sorry parents.

Plus, this’ll give me an opportunity to branch out and learn about some Italian makeup brands, and isn’t this whole experience supposed to be about learning?

3. Consolidate Your Boxes

THIS IS WHERE I KEPT LOSING MY WORK. MOMENT OF SILENCE.

Moving on: Ok… now that you’re super chill, the rest is easy.  Actually, I lied.  It isn’t.  I’m still bitter about my babies lipsticks.  I’ll get over it now.  I promise.

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Although you’re now very ~zen~ and accepting about the whole limited space thing, you’re still going to want to give yourself the best chance possible and free up any wasted space.  The biggest Space Offenders are boxes.  Have you ever noticed they take up hella space? It’s like, geometry, or something.

Listen up gals (and guys): if you have the great opportunity of taming the red dragon every month, you’ll know that tampon boxes take up SO MUCH SPACE.  Seriously… why do these little things come in such huge boxes? It just doesn’t make any sense.  As if our lives aren’t hard enough.

I took a ton of tampons with me to Italy because I’ve heard that they only have cardboard ones there *shudder* and my extra ass can’t live that kind of life.  Unfortunately, all the boxes I planned on bringing would probably fill a suitcase alone, so I had to be a little crafty here.

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Instead of packing everything in their boxes, I dumped them out and put them in these big gallon freezer bags.  Is it the most elegant solution? No, but it saves a ton of space, and as long as I have my special plastic ones, I’m happy.

4. Bubble Wrap Is Your Friend

You deserve to have a lot of friends when you’re packing, and bubble wrap is ultimately one of them.  If you’re like me and moving across seas – or if you’re just travelling and don’t want your precious makeup to break – you’re going to want to invest in some bubble wrap envelopes.  And by invest I mean shell out like $5 for a pack of 6.

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I got these “envelopes” (they’re more like pockets, but whatever) at Staples in the packing/shipping section.  You can probably find them at any similar store (i.e. Office Max/Depot, maybe a CVS?) and I think they’re worth the pretty inexpensive price for the kind of makeup security you get from them.  I basically brought my whole eyeshadow collection with me, and I have a few palettes that always make me nervous to travel with.  Powder products also make me nervous when travelling – what if my new highlighters ended up smashed? Not only would that be super upsetting, but there’d be highlighter all over my clothes! I guess that’s not terrible.  It could be a new look.

But I’m not looking to change my look right now, so bubble wrap is a good choice.  Since I’m also moving, I decided to bring this little plastic storage container with drawers.  Is it a waste of space? Probably, but I need some kind of semblance of home here, and home is where the makeup storage is.

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To try and make up for the fact that I’m basically putting a plastic cube in my luggage, I decided to pack it with some makeup in their envelopes.  As you can see, in the first drawer, I have some eyeshadow palettes in bubble wrap and I tried to throw some loose odds and ends in there that would fit.  This also kind of gives me some extra reassurance that these palettes are snug and happy and won’t break (FINGERS CROSSED WE’RE NOT TECHNICALLY OUT OF THE WOODS YET SINCE I HAVE MORE TRAVELING TO DO)!

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I also decided to throw the few lipsticks I’m bringing in some bubble wrap just in case.  I’m very protective of my lipsticks, if you haven’t noticed.

5. Be Creative

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As Walt Disney always said, “It was all started with a mouse.” I promise that quote is related to all this in some abstract way, as in he was a pretty creative fella and look at what his creativity got him!!

My main point here is that packing requires a good amount of creativity in terms of getting things to fit and making sure things arrive in the same shape they departed in.  I’m not sure if this is that “creative,” but I’m gonna throw this one out there and say that I like to use these plastic pencil cases to store my makeup brushes in.

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I like to put my eye brushes in one case and my face brushes in another – not only does this keep them organized, but it prevents their bristles from getting crushed and their handles from getting damaged.

These are also great for storing other makeup (i.e. lipstick), or maybe something else entirely.  I’ve used them before to make a mini “first aid kit” when travelling and have thrown some bandaids, advil, and hair ties in there to prevent things from sloshing around in a big backpack and making them easy to find.

6. Spill-Proof Things

One of the things I’m the most paranoid about when it comes to traveling is my liquids and powders spilling.  Not only is that a waste of product, but it’s a mess to clean up – especially those beauty oils that seem to never come out of clothes!

Things with twist caps (i.e. Bio Oil) that don’t have any kind of pop-up clasp or latch or anything tend to do the best in suitcases because all you have to do is make sure they’re twisted on super tight and nothing leaks.

Things with pop-up lids (i.e. Simple Moisturizer, RCMA Loose Powder) are things that tend to leak on me anyway no matter how secure the clasps feel.

To prevent leakage, I “turn” these bottles into twist cap bottles by twisting off the caps, putting a layer of plastic film down, and then tightly twisting the caps back on.  This not only prevents things from spilling should the cap pop open, but it ensures that the cap is more snugly twisted on there.  The layer acts as a safety seal and has saved my clothes from makeup dozens of times!

You can see here for my bottle of RCMA powder that I used these perfect portion bags here.  I used an entire bag here for demonstration, but when I actually pack, I like to cut them up into thirds just to fit over the bottle so I don’t waste too many bags.  Anything plastic will work here – zip lock bags, cling wrap, old grocery store bags, etc.  You could probably also use tin foil, but bags like these are easier for me.

I generally save the bags if I’m traveling to place to place (on this trip I’ve traveled from New Jersey to Zurich, Switzerland, then to Salzburg, Austria, then to Innsbruck, Austria, then I’m going to Italy next), but I also like to pop a few extra bags in my suitcase just in case I lose one or one tears.

7. REJOICE

Once you’re all packed, REJOICE! Give yourself a pat on the back because packing is never easy and there should be some kind of award tbh.

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I guess something even worse than packing is unpacking, but that’s a struggle for another day.


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