Beginner Tips for Carry-on Only Packing (from a Girl with Dry Skin and Curly Hair)

Arnel Hasanovic

Packing light is a tough process in general, but even more so when you’re limited to a carry-on bag. Read on for tips on carry-on only packing!

Now, I do not have the best track record overall when it comes to packing light. There have been many trips where I probably didn’t need that checked bag, or I could’ve gone without a certain pair of shoes (or two, or three). But, as I strive to travel more, with less, I’ve been finding ways to lighten the load significantly.

Before we dive in further: I’ve put together a FREE and current guide to some of my carry-on packing essentials. Sign up below to get instant access to this guide (and much more) in the resource library!


One reason that I always defaulted to bringing a checked bag actually had to do with three factors that worked against me, travel-wise:


1. Wearing contacts and having eyes prone to infection

2. Having curly hair prone to dryness

3. Having dry skin that needs daily moisturizing


Now, what do these three things have in common? Well, liquid products are the most helpful in every case! Multiple contact solutions (one to disinfect, one that could actually go in my eyes), products to hydrate and tame my hair, and lotion for my face and body so that I wouldn’t be a crusty beast on vacation.

Luckily for me, I was able to get LASIK last summer – but, that only took care of the eye-care problem. I still wanted to take less luggage on my trips, but I didn’t know how to make the compromise without harming my hair or skin.

WELL, my fellow curly-haired/dry-skinned beauties: there is hope! Without further ado, here are some tips and tricks that I’ve learned within the past year during my quest to pack lighter:

Table of Contents


When it comes to packing light while staying moisturized, it’s all about bars: lotion bars, conditioner bars, facial soap bars, etc. At first, it may sound strange to use a solid bar to use on your skin or hair…but these are relatively lightweight, save room in your quart-size bag, and get the job done! Although there is an increasing amount of bars in each of these categories, here are the ones that I’ve been using and will take with me to Thailand:

Lotion bars

1. Happy Hands Mandarin & Mint Lotion Bar

2. SeedGeeks Cocoa Butter Chocolate Lotion Bar

Conditioner Bar:PermaEarth Organic Hair Conditioner Bar

Facial Soap Bar: Mule Hell Trading Co. Olive Oil Soap with Tea Tree & Activated Charcoal

I also would like to note that I’ve seen shampoo bars on the market as well. I don’t use those at the moment as my hair dries out from too much shampooing, so a tiny travel-size liquid serves me well in that category. But, they are definitely out there if you need them!

Some of my holy grail, favorite products to make packing light easier for carry-on travel: Lotion bar, charcoal soap bar, and conditioner bar!


Okay, so full disclosure: I’m not bringing as much makeup to Thailand as I normally would, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to sweat it all off in the heat. That said, I definitely am trying to streamline the amount of liquid products I bring.

First tip: instead of liquid lipsticks or glosses, try taking tinted lip balms or makeup crayons. Ultimately, you’ll get to bring a wider variety of colors without taking up valuable space in your quart-size bag. This lip crayon by Bite Beauty is super flattering and one of my favorites to travel with, because it doesn’t dry out my lips because it’s a slightly creamy formula made with natural products. Plus, it comes with a sharpener at the opposite end of the pencil!

When it comes to eye-makeup, I definitely prefer to bring pencils instead of liquid eyeliner. I also try to stock up on mini-samples of mascaras that I love (ex: Chanel mascara is wonderful) so that I don’t need to bring a full tube with me. In the case of Thailand, however, I will also be bringing a full-size waterproof mascara with me. I’m trying out Maybelline’s The Falsies – we’ll see how it works!

Finally, face-makeup: as someone who relies on mostly liquid products, I found this to be one of the most challenging packing habits to modify. However, I decided to just bring tubes of concealer on this trip – no foundation! My hope for this trip is that I can get a deep tan to substitute as “makeup”…but, we’ll see how that works out. If you don’t feel that you have the luxury of forgoing foundation (girl, you’re beautiful the way you are!), then it’s definitely worthwhile to invest in mini-pots.

Depending on what size you want, you can go to Sephora and fill one of their sample-pots with your favorite foundation; or you can try one of these larger pots to store your foundation if you’ll need a greater amount. Either way, you definitely don’t need to bring the whole container!


Okay, so now we’ve covered some substitutions that you can make for common skin, hair, and makeup items that you might bring on a trip. But, what about fitting everything that you need into your carryon?! Let’s talk about packing cubes, shoe bags, and (more) liquid containers.

Packing cubes are truly lifesavers. I got some for my birthday earlier this year, and I’ve been a believer ever since! I tend to “live” out of my suitcase on most trips, much to my the chagrin on my parents on family trips. They (logically) love to make use of the dressers and closets, so they’ve never understood why I prefer to keep all of my items confined to my luggage. But, as I see it, unpacking too much for a short-term trip gives me more of a chance to misplace something! Neither opinion is right or wrong, but for those of you who share my habit: packing cubes will change your life!

I love using these cubes because I can separate my clothing however necessary. For Thailand, I’m packing three different cubes: day clothes vs. underwear vs. swimsuits. I don’t know exactly where my set is from since it was a gift, but there are plenty on Amazon with varying prices that are similar. Also, be sure to roll your clothes instead of folding them. You’ll save room, and this can also help prevent wrinkling if you roll carefully!

Some of my holy grail, favorite products to make packing light easier for carry-on travel: Packing cubes and travel shoe bags!

Shoe bags, like packing cubes, serve to help make your bag contents a bit more clear and streamlined. I also love using these bags to stop my dirty shoes from touching my clean clothes, toiletry bag, etc. I got this large set from Amazon, but you could definitely just use a packing cube if you wanted to! With this size, I’m able to fit about 3-4 pairs of flat shoes or 2 pairs of high heels into one shoe bag.

Lastly, I want to touch upon mini-containers again. I have found these to be incredibly useful in carry-on packing, because I can still pack a good amount of liquid that will last me for at least a week and a half. As I mentioned in the makeup section of this post, I use these 1.25 fl oz containers from Target to pack facial lotions, leave-in conditioners for my hair, and more. They’re only 75 cents each, so I think they’re a worthwhile investment. Be sure to close them tightly though!

I also invested in some soap containers for my various bars mentioned above. This pack of 4 containers has been great because each one has a little hole that allows excess moisture to drain out after you use the soap.

Some of my holy grail, favorite products to make packing light easier for carry-on travel: tiny travel container for eye cream and TSA-approved container for face lotion.


I hope that all of these tips prove to be helpful as you pack for your next adventure! Packing lighter/just taking carry-on luggage not only leaves you with one less bag to worry about losing, but you may also find yourself impressed with how much you can actually do without on trips.

Just a quick note: due to my trip, I won’t be blogging for a few weeks. But, I can’t wait to share pictures and recommendations with you from Thailand in the new year. Happy holidays everyone!


P.S. This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you purchase from them. All opinions are still 100% my own.

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