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I’m a Grooming and Travel Writer — Here’s My Secret to Packing the Perfect Dopp Kit

Lifestyle writers are masters of their respective domains — whether it’s fitness, wellness, style, food, beverages or in my case, both grooming and travel. I’m the guy who tests the latest beard oils, hair conditioner, cleansers, body groomers and so forth, all so readers like you can make more informed decisions when shopping and caring for yourself.

I’m also the guy who visits cities, hotels and restaurants so that when you hit the road, you can find tips for a smoother, more memorable trip.

Wearing both hats, you could say I’ve become pretty efficient when it comes to packing luggage, especially when it comes to bringing my grooming regimen along for the ride.

When making your grooming regimen portable, you have to consider the type of trip you’re plotting. If you’re not checking a bag, then you’re limited to the space in that tiny, zippered plastic bag. Even if you are checking a bag, you don’t want to bring along the heaviest products, since that’s a lot of dead weight in your precious cargo. It’s better to leave room for the souvenirs you pick up along the way.

  

Tips for Packing Grooming Products

Today, I’ll outline how I pack and which grooming products are essential for me. I’ll give you a few specific tips first, before breaking apart my products into two categories: carry-on and checked luggage. 

All chargeable devices go in your carry-on: Have you ever accidentally checked a portable battery, only to find out it got confiscated by TSA? These types of things have to go in your carry-on luggage, so don’t risk it with grooming devices, either.

For short trips, do your manicuring at home: If it’s just a three or four-day getaway, then pass on the trimmer or shaver (unless you need to look fresh-faced each day). No use in toting a device when you can tidy up the morning before you fly. Ditto for razors, shaving cream, etc.\

Any carried-on scissors need to be shorter than your index finger: If you plan to trim up your hair or tidy up your eyebrows on the road (hey, you never know!) then make sure you bring tiny scissors. The blades need to be smaller than your index finger, otherwise, they need to be checked (since they would register as a potential weapon). Better yet, choose ones with dull tips for your carry-on, so as to not draw attention from TSA.

For long trips, check larger products and discard them at the end: One way to clear up space for souvenirs is by tossing your grooming products at the end of a long trip. Bring fuller sizes, use ’em up, and leave ’em. For this reason, you needn’t pack La Mer. Maybe a low-cost, yet effective brand, and one you can share with fellow travelers so as to not waste the product. 

Prioritize solids: A bar of soap is better for travel than body wash. Better yet, if it also doubles as a facial cleansing bar (like Dove), you can spare yourself two liquid products. This is great from a TSA standpoint and a consolidated packing POV. And while it feels funny to call a face wipe a “solid”, sometimes it merits packing a cleansing wipe in place of a facial cleanser, or even an exfoliating wipe in place of an exfoliating scrub or serum.Bonus Tip: when you take your plastic bag out for TSA (and place it in the bin separate from your carry-on bag, just leave the solids in your bag. Let everything pass through security. If they pull out your solids and say “hey, these need to be in a plastic bag,” just play along. Apologize, let them give you the spare bag and pretend like you didn’t also just pass your liquids through the scanner too (since technically each traveler is limited to one bag for the most arbitrary reason ever). Then, smile, stuff it all back into your bag and go about your way.

Prioritize multitaskers: Just like the bar of soap doubling as a facial cleanser, it’s also worth packing products that play two roles to save room in your bags. A beard trimmer with an e-shaver attachment that also works as a body groomer — perfect. If it’s a longer trip, then you may not want to use your facial moisturizer as a hand cream, which is fair. But for quick trips, it’s easy to skate by on a compromise for a few days.

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Check which products the hotel carries: If you’re staying in a fancy hotel, then you can probably forego packing shampoo and body cleansers. I’m always sus about hotel conditioner, one product I’ll always pack myself. And if it’s a low-cost hotel, then the gamble is yours. Their bar soap is probably fine, but the shampoo might parch your hair, so proceed with caution.

You need reusable TSA-friendly bottles: Whether you’re toting your favorite shampoo or just need to consolidate a larger product into a travel-friendly 3.4-ounce (100mL) vessel, there is no excuse not to have a few bottles at the ready for each journey. Plus, they’re like $2 at Walgreens — right next to the TSA-friendly toothpaste tubes, which you’ll also often need.

  

Grooming Products in My Carry-On for Short Trips

While some of the products I pack are obvious, like toothpaste and floss, I’ll include below the things that have a bit of added reasoning behind the choice. I’ll also include my favorite brand of late in each category.

So, let’s say it’s a short trip, and my entire grooming regimen needs to fit into my carryons. Easy! Here’s how I approach it:

  

1. Olaplex No.5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner

I squeeze my best conditioner into a TSA bottle since I have no way of predicting how the hotel’s water will impact my hair (not to mention, any pool water, sea water, humidity, dryness etc). This is much more important for people who have more than an inch or so of hair. If you have short or no hair, then just use the conditioner at the hotel. As for shampoo, if it’s just a few days away, I can usually forgo bringing my own shampoo. So long as my conditioner is good, my hair should be fine for a couple of days off; I’ll take that gamble on the hotel’s brand.

I trust Olaplex above all others in terms of conditioner. It’s like doing a hair mask each time, and it works on all hair types. 

  

2. Men’s SPF 30 Face Moisturizer by CARDON

I wear SPF30+ every day, year-round. And since many brands combine it into their daily moisturizer, there’s no excuse. Two essential steps are covered in one product. Cardon is a must for me, and it’s one of the most under-appreciated men’s grooming brands. Their daily SPF 30 hydrator is already TSA-friendly and it lasts an entire month. It blends in easily, wears light, and bounces pollution and UV rays. Bing, bang, boom.

Read More: The Best Face Moisturizers With SPF

  

3. Dove Men+Care Extra Fresh Body and Face Bar Soap

Make sure whatever soap you choose clearly says that it is approved for facial use. If so, then you’ve got your cleanser and body wash in one solid bar of soap and you don’t have to parch your skin with the hotel’s offering. It’s always Dove for me, forever. It hydrates, it soothes, and it’s face friendly.

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4. ZitSticka Killa Kit

Because you never know when a pimple might pop up — and it’s extremely likely while traveling, due to the dry plane air, the changing environment and diet or simply the stress of so many logistics. The best ones send little micro-darts of salicylic acid into the skin to hollow out any trapped sebum or skin cells.

Many brands do this well, but I trust ZitSticka for the most deeply embedded pimples, too, to neutralize them before they surface.

  

5. Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Omega-Rich Cloud Cream

For my night cream, I usually have to find a tiny plastic vessel with an unscrewable lid, since night creams are much denser and usually need to be scooped out of their vessel instead of squeezed out. I don’t see the point in wearing SPF to bed, and what’s more, I want a highly concentrated, denser cream for bedtime use, since the stress of the trip (and likely, the cool air from the hotel A/C) will do a number on my skin.

Kiehl’s cushioning cream is my go-to of late. It goes on soft and pillowy, and my skin looks fantastic the next morning.

  

6. Dr. Bronner’s Organic Magic Balm

You can use a lip balm for this, or a tube of balm butter, but repair balm works really well on lips, hangnails and cracked knuckles, all of which I tend to get far more when traveling. I apply some before flying and before bed as well to prevent cracked corners at my mouth or dry lips, courtesy of that altitude dryness or hotel air conditioner.

Dr. Bronner’s arnica-menthol balm is what I’m toting here. I just leave it in my backpack and it rarely gets flagged as a grooming product; but it should fit in your ziplock just fine, too.

  

7. A Hair Styler of Your Choice

The type of styling product is up to you. These days, most are sold in TSA-friendly sizes. But if it transfers easily to a smaller vessel, I suggest doing so, if only to spare room in your ziplock.

SPY has rounded up the best hair gel for men and the best pomade for you to check out for guys in the market for the best-selling hair styling products.

  

8. Tweezerman Essential Grooming Kit

Yes, I will have tidied up my nails and brows before a trip, but you never know when you’ll need one of these tools, and you always seem to need them most when you otherwise left them at home — so pack them.

Tweezerman is the brand, in both categories. I say just buy their grooming kit for your own routine needs, and pack the tools you need for the trip (but especially the clippers and tweezer).

  

9. Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel

I’m not one to seek out exfoliation during a three-day getaway, but I love these exfoliating face wipes for emergencies (that is, if you feel a pimple coming on). Yes, you’ve got the acne patch for the budding one, but these wipes will hopefully keep other intruders at bay. Just pack one or two; hopefully you won’t need them. Make sure they have salicylic acid at least, and optionally, glycolic acid and/or lactic acid.

I think Dr. Dennis Gross’ face wipes are well worth the investment. I don’t use them daily as advertised (they’re far too costly for most people to justify that), but I save them for periodic refreshes, and for travel — for the above reason.

  

10. Fenty Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Concealer

Again, for any budding or healing pimples, as well as tired eyes, dark spots, dull skin, etc. I never travel without it.

Choose a brand that offers dozens of shades, so that you can precisely match yours. I like Fenty, which famously sets the pace with its 50 different shades.

  

11. Old Spice Pure Sport Deodorant

Don’t bother with aerosol deodorants — TSA likely won’t let you fly with them. Pick up a deodorant stick or one that rolls on.

I’m an antiperspirant guy, and I am loyal to Old Spice here (call me traditional). I keep the solid stick in my carry-on luggage at TSA, rather than in my plastic ziplock bag.

  

Grooming Products in my Carry-On for Long Trips

Now, if it’s a longer trip, then I might not consolidate all of these products in favor of toting along the full-size version in my checked luggage. For example, I would probably move the conditioner and night cream into the full-size bag and then sub in the five following products into the carry-on. And of course, any time the bag gets a little full, I migrate more of these products into the checked luggage.

  

12. Vichy Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum

Serums are my favorite skincare product, since they seep further into the skin than moisturizer (which rests atop the skin like a barrier), and add moisture to the deeper layers. This works correctively, then, to give you fuller, plumper, more radiant skin for days on end.

I love Vichy’s hyaluronic acid serum. It’s not overpriced, but gives me plumper, more visually “lifted” skin.

  

13. Peace Out Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment Serum

This serves the same purpose as the wipes above, hence why I swap it in for longer trips. I like to use it as a spot cream on any budding blemishes, too. Prioritize one with salicylic acid like Peace Out’s fantastic serum.

  

14. Brickell Men’s Restoring Eye Cream

I use eye creams at home and love them for the fact that they are far more concentrated with skin-firming and brightening ingredients than regular moisturizers. I typically don’t pack them for short getaways, but always bring one along for the longer hauls. They’re terrific for jetlagged eyes as well, and they always are TSA-friendly.

My favorite of late is Brickell’s peptide-packed cream.

  

15. Philips Norelco Multigroomer All-in-One Trimmer

Bring a device that trims your facial hair, can clean up any body hair as needed and has a shaving attachment for easy touch-ups. Obviously, a razor and shave assortment are totally necessary for a clean, smooth shave, but I find that an e-shaving head is just as effective at keeping me baby-faced on the daily.

Philips Norelco’s multigroomer is loved by millions and even earned a spot in SPY’s best beard trimmers — add yourself to its fanbase. I especially love their detailing trimmer heads, which help to customize my facial hair the way I like it. You can leave any excess pieces at home, and bring along the ones you need.

  

16. A Cologne of Your Choice

Choose whichever one you like, but know that most scents are available in tiny tester tubes, either from the brand itself or from a site like LuckyScent.

If you’re still spraying Axe body spray, kindly, but firmly, allow SPY writers to put you on to a big boy scent. We’ve corralled the best cologne for men in all types of scents that can be found almost anywhere.

  

The Products in My Checked Bag

As far as grooming products go, there’s nothing particularly unusual in my checked bags. Maybe the one oddball is a ball cream — something that keeps my junk (and thighs) fresh while preventing chafing, swamp ass, and the likes. Choose something with a tapioca starch base, like Happy Nuts. It’s a lifesaver, really.

Otherwise, the checked bag is where I’ll put the full-size products, and also where I’ll tote those products that I might trust over the hotel options, like my body lotion and shampoo of choice. It’s also where I’ll pack my body sunscreen and facial cleanser for longer trips. I might even put my full-size fragrance in here if it’s that long of a trip and I want to bring the whole bottle even though most are inherently TSA-friendly; they are just so large and awkward, that I’d rather check them.

So, while I’ve got you, here are the brands I like best in each of those categories:

  

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