6 Things We Buy When We Arrive

6 Things We Buy When We Arrive

There’s no need to travel with a ton of luggage! We’ve found many ways to travel with less stuff and truly enjoy traveling with just a single carry-on bag. One of the ways we do this is by not packing things we can buy at our destination. See what we always carry on us, and what is easier to purchase when we arrive rather than pack it.

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We want to travel with as little stuff as possible. Less stuff equals less weight and more space!

Our travel pattern is centered around house sitting, so we’re moving to a different location every several days to three or four weeks.We’re extreme, so it’s likely that rather than take a bus the final leg of a journey, we’ll walk the three to five miles instead.

It’s amazing how much difference a couple of pounds can make on comfort and mobility.

We keep a bare minimum of supplies on us, like one to two ounces of hygiene essentials that gets us through transition periods. And since we carry such a minimal amount of personal items, when we settle into a location one of our first goals is to purchase our personal hygiene supplies. When doing so we look for the best value on each item, making sure it meets our needs.

We also keep in mind how much we’re going to use since we hate to waste. We work at using as little as possible and then anything we have left over we do our best to leave for someone else rather than discard it.

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The Six Items on Our Shopping List

1. Shampoo/Conditioner

When stocking up on shampoo and conditioner we look for bottles that are big enough to get us through our stay but not so big that we’re wasting a bunch. Plus, having short hair means we use less.

Shannon's shampoo of choice is 2 Chic Ultra-Volume.

2. Toothpaste

We get the sensitive toothpaste, preferably without any type of sugar in it (read the label and avoid sorbitol and saccharin).

Also, avoid toothpastes with beads in them, as they may ruin your gums by getting stuck and becoming infected (the jury is still out on this, but a great starting place to get more info is Dental Patient News).

Our toothpaste of choice is Bexident toothpaste

3. Mouthwash

At home we had a great dental hygiene routine thanks to Dr. Ellie and her book Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye: A Do-It-Yourself Mouth Care System for Healthy, Clean Gums and Teeth. It has been great and kept us cavity and plaque build-up free for five-years.

We sadly can’t upkeep this while traveling because of space and weight it consumes. However, we do continue to use Listerine.

4. Soap

Bar soap is the most economical soap option so we usually don’t purchase liquid hand-soap or bodywash.

We prefer soaps that smells nice and fresh and we know we go through a standard bar in about 10 days (yes we tracked it!). We avoid all anti-bacterial soaps, even going as far as to use our purchased soaps over the hand soap wherever we’re staying. Dove soap is a favorite of ours.

Don’t miss our Ultimate Gear and Packing Lists! Whether you’re traveling long-term or going on a short vacation, we'll show you how to travel with a single carry-on. We share our packing lists (his and hers!), packing tips, and our favorite gear. Plus, we discuss what we don’t carry and why!

5. Lotion

Since ashy skin just isn’t sexy, lotion is a must. It needs to be of decent quality to be effective. We left home with a container of Eucerin, however now, we can generally find a store brand that does the trick.

6. Bath Scrub/Washcloth

This may seem odd, but it surprised us that washcloths and exfoliating bath scrubs aren't a common fixture in every shower and linen set in Europe.

We feel squeaky clean with a nice exfoliating scrub down, so we pick up a cheap scrubby. At home we used a natural loofah that we'd find in a Mexican market and get the entire loofah plant for under $3.00! We'd then cut it into shower size pieces.

The plastic one isn't as good on our skin or the environment, but it's the 80/20 solution.


We pick up the basics in each location we're staying, so that we can travel with less.


What We Keep in Stock

Then we have the items we stock up on as needed. These are the essential items that we choose to always have with us.  

They are items that give us a sense of normalcy and make us much more comfortable, or we simply couldn’t do without.

Face Scrub

In our opinion there’s nothing like a clean, exfoliated face!

We avoid chemicals and plastics* when scrubbing our face by using rice flour. In the US we bought small amounts in bulk from Whole Foods or Winco. So far, in Europe, we have found small bags of it in ethnic corner markets.

Not only is rice flour a great hack for avoiding chemicals and plastic pollution, but it’s a budget hack too. We spend under a dollar on a month or so supply, versus four to five dollars on a drug store face scrub.

*The Story of Stuff Projects article, Plastic Microbeads: Ban the Bead is a great place to learn more about the pollution of plastic microbeads.

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Contact Lens solution

This is a must for Shannon. No skimping here since eye health is critical and an eye infection would be devastating.

We purchase what we need when we need it and refill our travel container from it. We’ve tracked it and know that she goes through 20ml every 2 weeks.

We wash the travel container and never reuse old solution. Shannon has been disappointed to not yet find her tried and true solution, Opti-free in travel size in Europe.


We used to use Q-tips every day, but now we do our best to reduce our use to every two or three days. We can’t give them up though, dirty ears are gross!

Face SPF and Moisturizer

Skin health is a priority! We want to have fabulous skin today as well as 30 years from now. So, we carry this with us at all times. We don’t use much, but we use it daily. On our last shopping trip we got Neutrogena oil-free with SPF.

Donate and Giveaway the Extra Supplies

Inevitably there’s extra product when we leave to relocate to our next house sit or destination. We’re big advocates of not wasting and have had difficulty adjusting to a new mentality of not packing leftovers for later use. Whatever we have extra of, we leave with the homeowner or donate wherever possible.

Our Challenge

We’re always evaluating and challenging ourselves to use less. We see if we can use just a bit less of shampoo, pushing it further each time until we find out the bare minimum that we need. We do this with all of our products, saving us money and reducing our material impact on the environment. We challenge everyone to do the same!

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