Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel Tips for Women | Feminine Hygiene and Toiletries
If you’re a woman looking to downsize, miniaturize, and figure out how to fit your feminine hygiene and toiletry routine and supplies into your travel bag without giving up your comfort and cleanliness, then keep reading!
As the female half of a single carry-on only (‘onebag’) couple who’ve been traveling long-term and continuously for over two years (and still going!), I’ve picked up many packing and gear tips along the way. We have onebag travel tips, DIYs, and how-tos that have worked tried and true for us. This article is focused on feminine hygiene and toiletries, but don’t miss the packing, clothing, accessories, and makeup tips articles!
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A Special Note
As the title indicates, this post is aimed mainly towards women. So we thought it fit to diverge from our normal post style and have Shannon write this one. Although, Sergio contributed occasionally. That being said, while this article is focused on tips specifically for women when traveling, we encourage the guys out there who are, will, or aspire to travel with a woman to read this as well. We think it’ll help give them a better appreciation for what the women in their lives go through when travelling, especially when it’s only out of a travel backpack (onebag)!
Before embarking on our travel adventure I picked up tips and tricks from others. But in the two-plus years that we’ve done continuous long-term travel out of a single carry-on travel backpack (Osprey Manta AG 36) I’ve refined a travel packing list and style that works especially well for me.
I’m big on DIY (do it yourself), frugality, and being a minimalist. I tend to shy away from the ‘off the shelf solutions’ and prefer being resourceful and creative. My style is bound to be different from yours, so take what works and leave the rest!
Don’t Give Up What Makes You, You
Stereotypically men dominate the long-term, lightweight, and extreme traveling lifestyle. Therefore, much of the information out there on packing lists is mostly male focused.
When doing research on traveling with a single carry on bag (known as ‘onebag’) most of the information I found led me to believe that I needed to minimize my backpack down to the absolute bare minimum. This would mean leaving behind many of the things that made me feel like me. In other words, loosing some of my femininity.
When I focused my research on packing tips for female travelers, I mostly found tips for the average ‘vacation’ traveler who takes double, triple, or even quadruple the amount of luggage I was going to be carrying. Of the few tips I found from women who travel with a single carry-on bag, most were generally vague and unfortunately not as informative as I would’ve liked. Plus, when you add to that that every woman has unique beauty concerns and needs, I was getting nowhere fast!
Tip: I’ve since found the sub Reddit r/HerOneBag which is full of women that are eager and willing to provide plenty of advice and personal experience. It’s a great community for women who seek to or actively travel with a single carry on travel backpack or bag.
Again, what works for me is minimal (relative to the majority), but ultimately I refused to give up what I considered to be my bare essentials to still feel like me.
This post is focused on feminine hygiene and toiletries, a large part of my daily routine and a comfort that I refused to compromise on!
Feminine Hygiene Tips for Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel
For me there’s nothing more important or more feminine than my personal hygiene. Thankfully, traveling with a single carry-on bag doesn’t mean you have to make earth shattering compromises. With a bit of resourcefulness and ingenuity you’ll be able to travel out of only a travel backpack and still feel clean and fresh!
I carry a sample container (.5 oz) of baby powder that helps get me through an especially long day. It’s a great way to absorb some of the oil in your hair (its’s the main ingredient in most dry shampoos). Plus, a little bit in certain lady spots and underarms can absorb moisture and add a bit of freshness.
Diva Cup and Menstrual Supplies
I wasn’t an easy convert, but once I gave it a shot, I became a huge advocate of using a menstrual cup!
I personally use the Diva Cup and have no complaints, but I’m sure most menstrual cups would work well. If you’re timid about how to use a Diva Cup, I encourage you to look up instructional videos on YouTube (it’s not as bad as it sounds!).
I started using it before traveling but I love it even more now that we’re constantly on the go. By using a menstrual cup I don’t need to buy boxes of disposable menstrual supplies each month, I can forgo taking up so much space (and adding weight) in my backpack, and I eliminate a lot of unnecessary waste!
Not to mention, menstrual cups are more hygienic than tampons, they reduce the worry of toxic shock syndrome, can go up to 12 hours before needing removal and emptying, and the overall cost is dramatically decreased!
Tip: Discoloration of your menstrual cup is completely normal, although it can be a bit unsightly (in my humble opinion). I tried boiling my cup in water, soaking it in vinegar, and scrubbing it clean. None of these methods are recommended by the manufacturer, and while none of them damaged my Diva Cup, none of them removed the discoloration. I ended up stumbling on a solution that works every time to get it back to looking nearly new: oxi detergents! Just an hour or two soaking in water with a half-a-teaspoon or so of an oxi detergent removes nearly all discoloration. I’ve done this every month or two for almost three years and haven’t had any damage to my Diva Cup. However it’s against manufacturer recommendations, so proceed with caution.
Salt Rock Deodorant
This tip is for both men and women, traveling or not. Salt rock deodorant is fantastic for day-to-day use and even better for travel. Here’s why:
It doesn’t need to go in a TSA approved liquids bag (it’s not a gel or liquid, no matter how much the rare TSA agent may want to convince me otherwise!).
It works better than I thought it would. As much as I want to think I smell like roses all day long, I most certainly don’t! So, I was skeptical at first. But Sergio (like many things I don’t want to try) insisted I give it a shot. (Sergio here! I’d like to think I push her comfort zone for the better, hehe!) Salt rock deodorant isn’t a miracle worker, but it keeps the odor at bay even on hot and muggy days.
It’s healthier for you. It’s not a hippie-dippie theory that the chemicals in traditional deodorant (and especially antiperspirants) can increase your chances of developing cancer, it’s pretty well proven. Just that alone is enough to switch.
The standard size may be heavy but it comes in travel sizes (1.5 oz)too!
It’s cost effective and it lasts FOREVER (or so it seems!). The standard size Crystal Salt Rock Deodorant (4.25 oz) claims to last a year. But in both of our cases, they’ve lasted over a year and a half!
Tips for using your salt rock deodorant:
Only apply it on clean skin. If applied on skin that isn’t clean, the bacteria will transfer to the salt rock and likely leave it smelling like body odor.
Don’t drop it! We dropped one of ours and we were incredibly grateful that it didn’t shatter. However, it did crack. Over time the crack filled with moisture and eventually grew a tiny spot of mold. We were about to discard it and buy another but we decided to soak it in a water vinegar mix until the moldy portion dissolved. Sadly, we lost nearly two-thirds of the stick but it worked and we’re still using it!
We thought we’d outsmart the manufacturer and their bulky packaging by removing the salt rock from the plastic enclosure. We wrapped the base with a thick rubber band (like the ones found on fresh broccoli stalks) to add a DIY grip. It was wonderful… until we dropped it and it shattered!
For those with sensitive skin, the salt can irritate your underarms and leave them dry. Combat this by only applying it once a day and making sure to moisturize the area well.
Instructions usually say to wet the salt rock for application. We reversed this direction by instead wetting our underarms (or not drying them after a shower). We find this gets the rock less wet and (we think) prolongs its longevity.
Toiletries Tips for Carry-On Only (Onebag) Travel
Everyone has different needs when it comes to a hair brush. I have very fine, yet thick (as in lots of it) hair. Before traveling I had a boar hairbrush (for my oily hair), a round brush (for blow drying) and a standard get the tangles out plastic bristle brush. There’s no way I could travel with only a carry-on (onebag) travel backpack and continue to use three brushes!
Since blow drying was going to be basic (I grew out my styled short A-line hair cut) and detangling was more important than the oily factor of my hair, we compromised by buying a travel size detangling brush.
For the first year I used a small vented plastic bristle brush that I already had (why buy a new one, right?!). Year two found us looking for a new brush when the old one lost the plastic nubs that keep a brush from snagging hair.
We found one of the most awesome, smallest, and absolutely adorable brushes from the Body Shop. A year later, and we still love it. (Sergio here! Our little brush works well for both of us and it’s really small and lightweight!)
Night and Day Face Moisturizers
Just like I do with my foundation, I use small (about 0.5 oz) and lightweight sample containers to store and travel with my day and night moisturizers. There’s no need to give up on keeping your skin healthy when you’re on the move!
I went to a local department store makeup counter, very kindly explained our upcoming travel plans and asked for a few empty sample containers. I was turned down at the first counter, but found success on my second try!
When I got home I filled two containers with our AM moisturizer and two with our PM moisturizer. The containers easily fit into my TSA quart sized liquids bag and nicely nestle around the larger items. Now when I’m out of moisturizer, instead of having to go without, I simply purchase more on the road and refill my containers.
TIP: If you’re not up for asking your local makeup counter for a few sample containers, you can purchase plastic sample containers on Amazon (usually in bulk). I prefer smaller containers (half to one ounce) because I can use more than one if needed and they fit more easily into my toiletry bag. However, if you’d prefer you can purchase TSA approved containers that are larger (3.4 oz) and get several months or more of moisturizer out of a single container.
Sergio and I both share a container of sunscreen, since just a bit goes a long way when it’s the ‘good stuff’. We prefer chemical free sunblock that uses Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide for both UVA and UVB protection.
We use our DIY lightweight collapsible toiletry container hack to carry just the amount we need with no wasted space or unnecessary weight.
I don’t wear perfume often, but sometimes I just want that extra sexy and feminine touch!
There are three ways to go about perfume when traveling with only a carry-on travel backpack:
DIY/Free Perfume for Travel
Sephora has a great sample policy and your allowed three samples (per department). The sample perfume spray bottles are travel friendly and good for 2-10 uses (depending how much you wear and how full they fill it). Plus, you can get three different fragrances!
Tip: You can re-use these containers (screw on and off tops) and fill them with your own perfume. However, they do tend to leak a bit during travel, so consider taping the top before tossing them into your toiletry bag.
Frugal Off The Shelf Perfume for Travel
Purchase a refillable perfume atomizer and fill it with your favorite perfume. Unlike sample containers, these shouldn’t leak in your toiletry bag and you can fill them up with six to eight milliliters (5-10 times the size of a sample spray bottle).
No Hassle Off The Shelf Perfume for Travel
Don’t want to mess with sample perfume containers or DIY your own? The easiest method to get your favorite fragrance in a travel size container is to purchase it off the shelf in a travel size. The downside is that not all perfumes come in travel sizes. But who knows, maybe you’ll luck out and find your preferred aroma!
Hair Styling Products
When we started traveling we carried a half-ounce plastic container of hair gel with us. We quickly found that we rarely used it and just couldn’t justify the space in our bag.
However, if hair product is a must for you, find a container that will hold the smallest amount to get you through a few days (and under 3.4 ounces if you’re going on an airplane). When you get to your destination you’ll have a few days buffer before you need to purchase more.
Contact Lenses, Contact Solution, and Eye Glasses
As much as I wish this wasn’t a need, in my case it is. I carry a three to six month supply of contacts and also carry an emergency pair of eye glasses. Some countries sell contacts over the counter without prescription, making it easy to restock. Otherwise, it’s a matter of having a re-stock supply sent via a care package from ‘home’, or visiting a local optometrist (which may be easier said than done, thanks to a language barrier) for a new prescription.
Of course, disinfecting my contacts is critical. The last thing I want is an eye infection!
In the beginning of our travel adventure I only carried a 60 ml bottle of solution. However, after finding ourselves in countries (Switzerland, Norway, etc.) where it was expensive to resupply or the only type I could find was of questionable efficacy/comfort, I’ve since decided to add an empty (I can fill it on demand) 100 ml bottle to my pack.
I find that 20 ml lasts me about two weeks. I purchase new solution and refill as needed, but try to plan strategically (for example purchasing at the beginning of a longer stay or filling the 100 ml bottle) so I waste as little as possible.
I’ve heard over and over from other women that they’re astounded by the type of travel I (and my husband) do. In a way I can understand, as there’s a misconception that traveling with less means automatically giving up on feminine care and hygiene. However, with a little bit of creativity and resourcefulness, this doesn’t have to be the case at all!
If you really want to only travel with a carry-on (onebag) travel backpack, like most things in life, where there’s the will, there’s a way!