Packing checklist: Essential toiletries

Want to know what to take on holiday, whether that’s two weeks on a sunny beach in Europe or six months backpacking around Southeast Asia? Here are my packing essentials, no matter where I’m headed.

It doesn’t matter how many times you pack a suitcase, stuff a backpack or squeeze everything into hand luggage to avoid extortionate airline baggage fees, it’s always a struggle to know just what and how much to take away. I’ve broken down the essentials into a few handy categories to ensure focused packing and less last-minute panicking!

What toiletries to pack

This is the tricky one: shampoo and soap of course, but what about the Moroccan argan oil, and how much sun cream do you really need? Mini toiletries are always tempting, but they’re a rip-off. Tip: Buy in bulk and siphon off into smaller bottles, no larger than 100ml if you’re planning on travelling with hand luggage only. Here’s my packing list of travel toiletry essentials:

  • 2 sun cream factor 20-30
  • 1 bottle of after sun
  • Shower gel
  • 1 shampoo 
  • 1 conditioner
  • 1 disposable razor
  • face wash/scrub – not essential but when you’ve been slathering on the sun lotion for two weeks don’t be surprised if you see a blackhead or ten
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Baby wipes – good for ‘dry showers’ when time is tight or on stopovers
  • 1 can of deodorant – bring a roll on  if you’re not checking in a bag
  • Hair brush/bands
  • Mosquito spray – 50% deet or more

Now for make-up (sorry boys) I like to keep it simple – nothing is more attractive than healthy sun-kissed glow. You can get this the fake way, or make sure you apply decent sun cream if you’re going to let the sun do its thing. My essentials are:

  • Body Shop’s All-in-One BB cream with SPF 
  • Waterproof mascara
  • Waterproof eyeliner
  • Eyebrow pencil
  • Tinted Vaseline – doubles up as lip and cheek tint
  • Bronzer

What to take in a first aid kit

I’m not talking defibrillators or fancy exotic medicines, sometimes a box of plasters and a few paracetamol will do. But it’s always worth packing some form of first aid kit just in case you’re caught out when your new holiday heels start rubbing on a night out, or you need relief from a nasty bout of Delhi belly. Here’s a list of the marvelous medicines I recommend you shove in your suitcase:

Survival kit, but where's the Calpol?

  • Calamine lotion – magic for sun burn!
  • Plasters – waterproof and fabric
  • Antiseptic cream/wipes – spray on antiseptic is better for tropical climates as it helps dry out wounds whereas creams tend to keep them moist and therefore, open to infection
  • Anti-bacterial hand gel
  • Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Antihistamine tablets
  • Anti-diarrhea pills 
  • Re-hydration salts
  • Scissors/tweezers – obviously not in the hand luggage
  • Sewing kit – ditto

If you’re travelling into a high risk area for malaria then of course, make sure you get yourself sorted with a course of anti-malaria tablets – you can chat to your travel nurse about these when you go in for your vaccinations. It’s worth considering taking water purification tablets too if you’re travelling into an area where drinking water may be scarce or you’re just not sure how safe it might be. If you’re planning lots of outdoor adventures upgrade plasters for proper wound dressings and gauze strips.

That’s the basic holiday packing list, but what about the wardrobe? Find out what to pack for all trips in all seasons here.


5 responses to “Packing checklist: Essential toiletries

  1. Wow, an insight into a ladies packing list is always an eye opener! First thoughts, that is a LOT?!?!?!

    As a qualified Nurse and seasoned traveller, I would definitely strike a few things off the list. And you definately don’t need supplements!

    Remember you can easily pick up and replace pretty much everything on your list as you go along too.

    On a plus side though, it is amazingly easy to eat well when backpacking, easier than being at home in my honest opinion! Fresh fruit is in absolute abundance everywhere and you have to specifically find a 7/11 or similar to find chocolate or junk food (which you generally won’t feel like in the heat anyway). You will not find fresher fish, especially on the coast or islands and chicken dishes are everywhere. Fresh veg can be loaded onto your plate as much as you like. The hardest part is trying not to eat TOO much!


    • Thanks, I’m sure I’ll be ditching some of this stuff as I go! Seeing as this was stepping into the unknown somewhat for me, I thought I’d be prepared (if slightly over!) and if I can carry a tube of vits then why not.

      The food here is amazing (as future posts will hopefully show) and such a great variety, you’re totally right. The avocados are the size of melons! Pho Bo for every meal is fine by me too. Looking forward to seeing what other culinary delights the rest of Vietnam has to offer!


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