Twelve Quarts of Travel Essentials

My adventures in travel started when I was very young. Back then, I had the luxury of having my parents pack my luggage for me. If I didn’t have my toothbrush and toothpaste when I arrived at my destination, I let the adults responsible for my missing toiletries work it out.

Ah! Those were carefree days.

Now that I’m an adult and have been traveling consistently for over a decade, I have found that it isn’t packing I dislike, it’s locating and packing small, travel-friendly items.

There was a pattern that emerged when it was time to pack my carry-on.

I found myself looking through cupboards, cabinets, and drawers for the items that were the staples of my travels.

The items I couldn’t find or didn’t have meant that I had to purchase them from the drugstore or that I had to spend time browsing the toiletry section of the nearest grocery store.

I seek efficiency when I travel, and this time-consuming process was inefficient.

During one search session, I had an “ah-ha” moment.

I remembered that I owned a 12-quart container that would fit neatly under my bathroom cabinet, and it could store the items I needed in one place until I was ready to travel.

All I had to do was keep the container stocked.

I have a thrifty side that was very helpful in this quest, and when I found an item on sale, I would stock up and add it to the container.

Paying special attention to expiration dates keeps everything usable and ready for the friendly skies, a road trip, or a weekend getaway.

Travel storage made easy
Use a 12-quart box as an inexpensive storage solution.

Read on for the new additions to the list of travel essentials.

Inside the Box

1. Tissues
Pocket-sized tissues are great for travel, but this tissue packaging is my favorite because of the secure attachment it provides. I never worried about losing the package when I carried these with me on my excursions in Alaska. I snapped the package onto the strap of the my backpack, and if someone needed a tissue, I didn’t have to dig around inside the backpack to find it.

2. Flushable Wipes
The package is flexible can be slipped into a pocket or purse for those times when toilet paper is not available.

3. Glitzy Makeup
The only time I need this type of makeup is when my travel wardrobe consists of formal wear. It’s kept in its own bag, so I always know where to find it. The bag can remain in the storage box when I don’t need to travel with it.

4. Hand Warmers
When I vacationed in Lake Louise, Alberta, I came home with extra hand warmers. I used them again in Alaska, and keep them for future cold climate travel.

5. Small Suitcase Bag
This soft-sided bag doesn’t take up much room in my suitcase, and I use it to store items that are above the 3.4 ounce carry-on limit. Even though I add tape to the cover of any liquid items, this bag is lined and gives me peace of mind that I won’t find sunscreen slathered all over my clothing.

6. Laundry Detergent
I travel with my husband and kids quite often and our vacations usually last a week. We vacation at resorts that have a washer and dryer in the room. Disney Cruise Line also has washers and dryers on board its ships.
“Who wants to do laundry when they’re on vacation?”, you may ask. I do. I wash a couple of loads on one day near the end of our vacation, and it has two benefits:
a. I pack less and have room for the things I may purchase while on vacation and,
b. I don’t have any laundry to do when I get home.

Win, win.

7. Lint Roller
A lint roller accompanies me on trips where I need to bring formal clothing.

8. Travel Sized Toiletries
Items such as toothpaste, mouthwash, and shampoo fit neatly into a quart sized bag. They are packed in the quart sized bag to protect my clothing in case they accidentally spill.

9 & 10. Change of Clothing/Personal Items
Durable, soft sided bags are perfect for carrying a change of clothing and personal items.

When I cruise, it takes time to have my bags delivered to my stateroom, and these bags keep items I may need at hand.

I’ve also experienced international travel with a 7-hour delay because of mechanical issues with the airplane.

Anything can happen when I travel, and these bags fit neatly into my carry on.

11. Perfume
A lightly scented perfume is perfect for those times when I travel and have a dinner date with my husband or a special event to attend during a trip.

12. Scented Toilet Spray
This product is 2 ounces of happiness in a bottle and makes sharing a bathroom so much easier.

13. Medicine Bottles
These were given to me by a pharmacist at my local drugstore. I haven’t used them, but keep them in the storage box because they will come in handy one day.

14. Q-tips
I found this tiny tin of Q-tips at a dollar store. I bought several of them and they always come in handy.

15. Extra Quart Sized Bags
The box of quart-sized bags in my pantry is always empty when I’m ready to travel. The best way for me to have a few bags available for use is to keep them stored in my storage box.

New Additions!

Like me, you probably had your travel plans canceled during the pandemic.

I had a summer filled with travel plans, and had to readjust to life at home.

When I reviewed my list of travel essentials, I realized that it did not include a few items.

Here are the new additions to my 12-quart container:

Hand sanitizing products

It wasn’t that I didn’t travel with hand sanitizer, it just wasn’t something I kept in my storage box.

Now, I consider it a travel essential that I will need to keep handy.

Because hand sanitizing products can lose effectiveness over time, there are expiration dates listed on the packaging of hand sanitizing gels, sprays, and wipes.

If you don’t plan on traveling soon, buy only what you need for use at home. If you know your travel plans, check the packaging and look for expiration dates that last well into the next year.

Hand sanitizers come in wipes, gels, and sprays, and no matter which form I choose, I have always been able to find travel-friendly sizes.

Travel-friendly sizes of hand sanitizer come in different forms.

Travel-size hand sanitizer fits neatly inside my 12-quart container but there is one item that comes in its own case and has joined my list of travel essentials, even if it doesn’t fit in the container.

First Aid Kit

While I was checking expiration dates on the items inside my container, it dawned on me that the products inside my first-aid kit had not been updated in a long time. If there’s one thing that I want to be effective when I need it, it’s the gels, bandages, and other items that are life savers when injuries occur.

Everything inside the first aid kit I owned was there based on the knowledge I had about the things that should be included in a basic first aid kit. When I checked the items inside, almost everything had be thrown out, including the case because it was well-worn and had seen its share of travel. Besides that, I had gained new insight about what needed to be in a first aid kit that was prepared to handle most emergencies. There were items missing that I hadn’t thought of when I assembled my old kit, like a cold and hot compress.

I ordered a kit online that included all the things I needed. It’s made out of a flexible canvas material that makes it easy to pack in my carry-on luggage.

Toiletry Kit

One of the things that simplifies travel for me is Global Entry. If you already have TSA PreCheck and travel internationally, you’re just an in-person interview and a little over $20 US dollars away from getting Global Entry.

Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck, and I don’t have to remove my shoes or place the liquids in my carry-on luggage in the bin when I go through security. I pack liquids that meet the 3.4 ounce requirement inside a quart size bag just in case the x-ray inspection calls for me to remove them.

If I don’t have travel size liquids like shampoo or foundation, I purchase reusable containers to scoop them into. I use the term ’scoop’ very loosely because sometimes the scoop isn’t neat and tidy and I wonder why I wasted my time and some of my favorite products on a hopeless endeavor. Has anyone else been there?

While watching a travel essentials segment on Today 3rd hour one product caught my attention. This all-in-one product had a set of bottles and pouches I needed and it came with tools to help make transferring products from a full size container easier and cleaner.

The Kitsch Ultimate Travel Pack is TSA approved and is packaged inside a BPA free quart size reusable travel pouch. It also comes in attractive color choices. I purchased the black and ivory 11 pack. No more plastic baggies filled with random containers for this traveler!

A stylish and practical way to travel with liquids.

What’s included in your list of items to keep handy for travel?

Which travel-friendly product do you use that is your favorite?

16 thoughts on “Twelve Quarts of Travel Essentials

  1. This is such a useful post, Alecia. I can see readers taking notes and getting started with some of your good practices. Your point on verifying expiry dates on meds is so important. But the article is also a great conversation starter, where folks can share their own practices and travel items. One such item I absolutely want are locks for luggage. I have been known to misplace them or lose them between one trip and the next, and then I’ve got to run buy one or two at the last minute! And I hate it when I discover I don’t have a pen only when I’m on the plane being handed forms to fill out before landing! 😉

    1. Thank you, Manuel & Roberto. I’m glad that you were able to find things in the list that you could apply to your travels. A pen would be a perfect addition to my container.

      1. We forgot to mention: we like (a lot) the laundry detergent idea too. We never thought of it and it can be very useful as you mention! 🙂

      2. Even if you can’t do a full load of laundry, traveling with a small bottle of detergent is good for pre-treating clothing stains that you may not be able to address until you get back home.

  2. I enjoyed reading your post about the travel essentials you pack for every trip. You have a great sense of style and practicality, and I love how you mix and match your outfits and accessories. Your tips on how to pack light and smart are very helpful, especially for someone like me who tends to overpack.

  3. This sounds impressively organized! I tend to re-use a few hotel amenity bottles which I re-fill with shampoo etc and keep in a small pouch. I also take a make-up bag – and that’s pretty much it aside from my clothes. That’s a useful tip about Global Entry, which I haven’t heard of – will take a look 🙂

    1. Thank you, Carole. It was the frustration of having to locate these items every time I traveled that caused me to store them in one handy container. Upcycling is a great way to travel with the products you use at home, and I think it’s great that you reuse the bottles from hotels. Definitely look into Global Entry. It is a time saver!

  4. I love this part: “If I didn’t have my toothbrush and toothpaste when I arrived at my destination, I let the adults responsible for my missing toiletries work it out. Ah! Those were carefree days.” I think my daughters would still love to be in those carefree days!

    1. Those were the days! I have definitely given myself some freedom by allowing my (older) kids to be responsible for their packing list. Adulting has to happen at some time, right?

  5. The ready-to-go 12-quart container is a perfect way to keep carryon items conveniently ready for travel. I do something similar but love the TSA-approved Kitsch Ultimate Travel Pack. Need to get one! I also keep my travel magnifying make-up mirror, travel-sized sound machine, and extra power cords pre-packed. It’s helped immensely with my packing anxiety.

    1. Thanks for sharing your list of things that you keep handy for travel. Extra power cords are a great idea! The Kitsch Ultimate Travel Pack is a stylish way to travel, isn’t it? I’m excited that I’ll get to use it this year.

  6. Gosh, I wish I was so well organised! I pack afresh every time I go away. I usually forget something, but now my mantra is: meds, specs, phone and passport. Everything else I can always just go out and buy or borrow. That’s a pain when you realise that you have forgotten a waterproof or something, but hey ho, I can always use another waterproof! Okay, I am now going to get me a travel kit box and be super-organised!

    1. Your reply made me smile, Jane. When I realized that I traveled with the same essentials, it made sense to keep everything in one place. It helps that there’s no fuss in finding the items that need to travel with me. The great thing is that these essentials can be used on a short trip or a long vacation.

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