Traveling with Makeup: Tips & Tricks

What kind of trip is it?

What you might need for a trip will depend on where you’re going, what you’re doing, and how long you’re going for.  For instance, if you’re primarily going to be outdoors or underwater, perhaps you won’t need much, if any, but if you were going to a more formal occasion, you might want a full arsenal of your favorites.  Cold weather might dictate favoring certain products, while hot and humid weather will have you looking for your longer-wearing favorites.

What are you going to wear?

I like to decide what clothes I’m bringing first, and then I’ll assess what kind of makeup I’m likely to want to do with those clothes (plus, considering what I’ll be doing or where I’m going).  This helps me guide my choices and not bring everything and minimize bringing things I won’t use.  You can really plan out down to the last product, or you can simply come up with a rough outline, like whether you’ll wear mostly neutrals or you’ll need a more subdued lip color to pair with a really electric eye look you want to do.

Are you checking a bag, carrying on, or going by a less restrictive means of travel?

Depending on how you travel, you may need to be more minimalist or you really could bring everything but the kitchen sink (this always happens if I travel by car!).  When traveling with a carry-on, you’ll have to worry about meeting current liquid restrictions and fitting everything in a quart-sized bag, which can get challenging as it includes things like lotions, creams, gloss, mascara, foundation, and so on.  I admit that when I travel, I often impose on my husband’s quart-sized bag to get everything to fit!  Another option is to buy smaller, empty travel containers and take only the amount of moisturizer you might need or to put a week’s worth of foundation in a sample jar, rather than taking an entire bottle.  This is also a great idea for your favorite perfume; I usually try to grab sample sizes in my favorite scents when they’re available for free when you make a purchase at Nordstrom or Sephora.

How you travel may also determine how safely you need to pack your makeup, as checking a bag will require better padding and securing to minimize shifting in your luggage.  I like to put anything fragile sandwiched between softer items, rather than sitting on the sides of luggage, so if something sits on it, it doesn’t get the immediate impact and the clothes around it will help absorb that impact.  You can also lay foam, bubble wrap, or tissues over powder products (like a freestyle eyeshadow palette) to prevent movement and loosening while in transit.  You’ll want to avoid keeping too many glass containers next to each other, and if you have any pumps, a little tape can secure them in place so you don’t open your bag to a mess.  I also like to contain liquids in plastic bags if they’re larger (say a shampoo) or if I have several of them (so if one leaks, it’s not on your clothes).

How I Made My List

I traveled to Boston this past week for about four days for a family gathering, which I knew had a few semi-formal to formal events, so much of what I took was dictated by the four dresses I had planned.  I anticipated doing more neutral-to-warm-toned looks and didn’t expect to use much color, though I took some pops of color that played off colors in some of the dresses I had in the form of eyeshadow and eyeliner. I took more eyeshadow than I normally would, because I knew I was going to be doing my sister’s makeup as well, so I wanted to be able to give us both a variety of looks and finishes, and I also had a mega-sized palette that I felt like, “Might as well fill it!”  I always travel with my favorite cream eyeshadows, as they’re my go-to if I run low on time or end up with a very casual or lazy day, but I didn’t end up using them this trip.  They also work well as an eyeshadow base if desired.

Since I knew I was going for warmer looks, I took one warm-toned blush and one more neutral-toned blush, plus two highlighters that could be worn with either.  If I thought I might have a cool-toned look in the plans, then I’d also bring a plum or berry-hued blush, as that’s my go-to option for cool looks or use a neutral blush.

For lips, I wanted something light, mid-tone, bold, and subdued, and I always use lipgloss as a layering product to give me more lip color variations so I try to go for more dramatically different gloss shades (one that can lighten, one that can brighten, one that can darken, and one that I can wear alone).

When it comes to tools, I pack a few of the different sizes/types that I like, so I don’t have to worry about washing brushes while I’m away, and I can still use them as I would at home (which is typically one brush per color unless they’re really similar).  I actually forgot a pencil brush this trip, so I would add that (I ended up using an eyeliner brush for that function) normally!  If you don’t mind washing your brushes, I’d recommend a solid brush soap to manage the amount of liquids you have or taking a smaller amount of your go-to cleanser into a travel-sized container.

I packed all of my brushes and eyeliners in a medium makeup bag, and then I split any additional cylinder-shaped items between that bag and a second bag.  All of the other non-liquid makeup products fit into the other medium makeup bag.  I keep a third makeup bag for things like deodorant, cotton swabs, toothbrush, bandaids etc.  The large, freestyle eyeshadow palette I took with me fit perfectly within my purse, which I packed in my carry-on (I use a much larger bag on the travel days, then switch to my regular purse while I’m at my destination), and this helped to keep it protected.

See a full breakdown of what I took on a recent trip!

  • Make Up For Ever Artist Shadows
    • Row 1: I414, I318, S234, S228, I238, ME828, I838
    • Row 2: M546, S616, S556, M548, ME612, D562, D552
    • Row 3: M626, M536, D716, ME512, S506, ME654, D712
    • Row 4: I662, I628, ME554, ME304, D306, S404, I508

  • Tom Ford Medium Makeup Bag (I use two for makeup, I don’t think you can purchase these)