5 Steps to Solid Travel: How to Beat Airport Security Every Time

With airline surcharges for extra checked bags, and some airlines even levying fees for just one checked bag, the pressure is on to pack light. But even if you think you have done everything you need to do to be in the coveted carry-on-only club, you’ll get nailed by security for your toiletries if you’re not careful.

The last time I flew with just carry-on baggage, I meticulously packed my toiletries to allow me to skirt through security unscathed. But even so, I was told my toothpaste was too large. Not that I had too much of the toothpaste itself, as the tube was 3/4 empty. No, my dear flying friends, apparently it doesn’t matter how empty the container is ”¦ if it can house enough liquid to exceed the limit, then it’s out. I was courteously given the option to store my near-empty toothpaste tube at the airport for $1/day during my absence, or mail it to myself. Instead I chose to donate it to airport security, who in turn donated it to the garbage man I’m sure.

The next time I flew, I had a “shampoo incident”. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about: open up your luggage after a long journey, only to discover that your luscious liquid is everywhere, having “cleaned” everything you own, except your hair.

Since these two debacles, I have turned over a new leaf in the world of travel. I am a solid traveler – at heart, and with toiletries.

Clear Registered Traveler
© hyku

The relatively recent insurgence of liquid body washes has made solid soap something of a thing of the past. And rightfully so – enjoying the invigorating sensation of a loofah and foaming wash, with a wide array of scents is wonderful. It’s no longer even taboo for guys to do it, with lots of “manly” body washes available.

However there are a few problems with liquid body washes:

  1. It’s more expensive. As much as you scrimp on the daily doses of body wash and foam it up with all your might, you’ll pay more for a bottle and blast through it faster than you would a bar of soap. (Not to mention the occasional “over-pour” which accidentally happens from time to time, depleting your stash faster than intended)
  2. It’s not environmentally friendly. Generally speaking, the packaging required for body wash is considerably more than that for its bar soap counterparts. Not only that, but body wash bottles aren’t always recyclable, whereas the standard cardboard solid soap packages are.
  3. You can’t carry-on decent quantities of the stuff.
  4. You leave yourself susceptible to “liquid incidents“, vulnerable to the possibility of unzipping your luggage and finding it covered in the stuff.

Step 1 to Being a Solid Traveler: Go Back to Solid Soap

It’s not a hard transition to make – really. We all have used solid soap at one time or another. Even die-hard body wash converts can make the switch again, and may be pleasantly surprised at the selection available intended to compete with body washes.
You can go all-natural or not, but either way the packaging will likely be less, the cost will be cheaper, and you can carry the stuff on to airplanes.

Just be sure to keep your soap in a dry cool place, or you’ll be stuck with a gooey mess in the shower.

Step 2 to Being a Solid Traveler: Solid Shampoo

Less common than solid soap is solid shampoo. It is exactly like liquid shampoo, minus the water (which most of us have access to during the shower process, so no love lost).

Shampoo bars also claim to last up to five times longer than their liquid shampoo counterparts, so you’ll get all the same benefits as using bar soap, including eco-friendly packaging and a fatter wallet.

Solid Shampoo Bars
Solid Shampoo Bars © Chagrin Valley Soap

There are also many people who double up their shampoo bars as body wash (and even laundry soap) too, cutting down on luggage weight and size, or making trips to the gym much easier.

Some great resources for all-natural soaps and solid shampoos are Lush, and Chagrin Valley Soap.

Step 3 to Being a Solid Traveler: Solid Moisturizers

The same providers above who carry the solid soaps and shampoos also have variations of solid moisturizers or lotion bars. These are designed to melt at external body temperatures, and provide a surprisingly luxurious and effective moisturizing skin nourishing experience. Gosh – I sound like a beauty ad.

Step 4 to Being a Solid Traveler: Paper Soap

Many travel accessory providers or camping stores carry paper soap leaflets. Although I originally found these little sheets of soap paper gitchy and impractical, I understand the need. Imagine yourself stuck in a dirty foreign public bathroom, with no soap or toilet paper to be found anywhere. Or even locally, after a particularly greasy gas-pumping experience or before catching dinner at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with great food and an abysmal bathroom. You probably won’t have a bar of soap on you, but you can whip out your portable soap leaflets to save the day.

Step 5 to Being a Solid Traveler: Paper Shaving Cream?

If you look hard enough, you can find paper body wash, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, laundry soap, and even powdered toothpaste and mouthwash. Travelon has the full compliment of such products, but buying them all in one place can be tricky, as they don’t currently retail their products directly to consumers.

Paper Shaving Sheets
Paper Shaving Sheets © Travelon

I haven’t test run any of these products, and although they may be quite effective and possibly eco-friendly, they strike me as over-packaged, ultimately unnecessary items, geared for travelers with deep pockets who are hell-bent on traveling ultra light.

And as I alluded to earlier, if you find a great shampoo or body bar with the right ingredients, it can do double or even quadruple duty for you. No paper required.

So depending on how dedicated you are to solid travel, you too can reduce the liquids in your bags and pack light. I for one, have turned over a new leaf: I am a Solid Traveler!

7 Responses

  1. Amanda

    Hey Nora, some really solid advice there :-) But seriously, this sounds all very sensible. The only trouble I always have is getting a foolproof container for the soap (which is inevitably still wet when I pack it while traveling). I hate that whole gloopy, gungy half-wet soap stuff.

    Reply
  2. Dan

    Shaving paper? Never heard of it. Another solid option for shaving cream is shaving soap. Of course you need a brush then too.

    Reply
  3. Fenrir

    The link in the picture of the solid shampoo doesn’t work and doesn’t match the link in the paragraph. Just thought you’d like to know!

    Reply
  4. asdf

    Shaving paper… yark! Ok I never tried solid shampoo…

    I bought some small nalgene bottles that never spill, no matter what your backpack goes through. Make sure they are under the size limit, fill them… and save space.

    Refill them whenever you can while traveling.

    For shaving cream just buy a new can when you get to your destination

    Reply
  5. donna

    I travel with solids all the time. I even switched to tooth powder instead of paste. Just keep everything in the original labeled package and you should have no worries. I’ve traveled for many weeks with just a carring on duffle. Dr. Bronner castille soaps work for hair, face, body and laundry. Good Earth Soap makes a solid body bar in a push up container that makes storage easy…and it’s delicious on the skin. Sunrise Shampoo Soap are also very good for an all-in-one. And you can rub peppermint soap under your arms as an effective deoderant. So my little baggy of 3oz or less liquids has become quite minimal.

    Reply
  6. Sabrina

    so you’re not allowed to take more than a 3oz bag of liquids at a carry on. What about in your regular bag? I am flying for the first time in a few weeks and I’m kinda confused about this whole liquid thing. I went with Southwest so I do get a free bag.

    Reply
  7. Mary

    Have flown quite a bit and never been questioned about my bar soap until yesterday. In carry-on, in original paper wrapper, a large bar and I was pulled aside by TSA. I guess on the x-ray machine it looks like explosive? So the solids will not guarantee a free/easy pass-through security :(

    Reply

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