4 ways to simplify your beauty routine for travel

New and updated for 2019!

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I only recommend and link to products I have actually used and stand behind. Purchasing from one of the Amazon links means I get a small cut of the sale at no extra charge to you. It helps keep this blog alive, so thank you!)

A common rookie traveler mistake - especially for women - is trying to bring your entire, regular daily beauty routine on the road with you. But when you’re traveling, the last thing you want is to spend too much time in the morning getting ready for your day’s adventures. Time spent in front of a mirror is time you’re not out there experiencing your destination!

And if you’re following my advice about packing light - traveling with just a carry-on instead of checking luggage - you can’t have too many products in your luggage (literally) weighing you down. 

However, I don’t know about you, but I still want to look and feel my best when I travel. The circumstances of travel call for a slimmed down, minimalist approach to your morning beauty routine, so I try to embrace a natural, fresh-faced look. 

Over my years of travel, I’ve tested a variety of products and approaches. Here’s my best travel-savvy beauty advice, along with a few products to try that can help you look amazing with the least amount of effort and luggage real estate.


The first step to streamlining your beauty routine is cutting down on the number of different products you use - and the easiest way to do that is to choose products that kill two birds with one stone. If you normally wear moisturizer and sunscreen, try a moisturizing tinted SPF instead. My fav is EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Facial Sunscreen, which I use every day while traveling and at home. It has hydrating hyaluronic acid so I can skip other moisturizers, even in dry winter. You can also try makeup primers or BB creams with SPF.

Try wearing your tinted SPF alone with just a few dabs of concealer instead of a full face of foundation. If that’s too bare-faced for you, try a pressed powder foundation on top of that - the slim compact won’t take up much space.

Convertible color products can also do double duty and save space in your luggage. Go for a blush that can also act as a lip color, like Stila Convertible Color or Benefit’s Benetint cheek and lip stain. Choose a palette that can work as eyeshadow, contouring bronzer and highlighter, like my fav, Tarteist Pro Glow to Go.

Be sure to take care of your lips, too! Dry, chapped lips are a common issue on my trips, especially with all that recycled, dehydrating air on flights. Instead of dragging around lip balm and a separate lip color, go for hydrating glosses and balms. I like Burt’s Bees’ tinted lip balms, especially the Rose color, which is a sheer pop of red that makes my lips look naturally healthy. My other travel go-to is Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Lip Shine which has hyaluronic acid and keeps lips hydrated even after the gloss wears off.

Coconut oil is a great multipurpose product, too. Pack a small tin (which travels as a solid!) and use it as a natural skin moisturizer and lip balm, or to tame flyaways and frizz.

You may find that some products that claim to do multiple jobs succeed well at neither (I’m not a huge fan of 2-in-1 shampoo + conditioners, for example). Just play around with it. Experiment at home before your trip, and try out your new minimalist look on lazy weekends till you find a new routine you can take on the road with you.

You know this is really my makeup bag because of how dirty the brushes are. 😂

You know this is really my makeup bag because of how dirty the brushes are. 😂


Paring down your liquids for a 3-1-1, airport security-friendly quart-sized bag is one of the biggest challenges to overcome when packing with just a carry-on. The trick is to swap as many liquids for solids or powders as you can.

If you’re big on liquid foundation or CC creams at home, try a loose or pressed mineral foundation instead. I’ve been using BareMinerals mineral foundation for years, and though I’ve begun using it a bit less as I edge further into my thirties (it can make fine lines more visible), I still prefer it for travel just because it’s so much easier to pack. 

Soaps are an easy one to swap for solids - so even if you usually use body wash at home, go back to regular ole’ bars of soap when traveling. Same for face wash - I bring my super-gentle SAPO charcoal facial bar instead of the foaming cleansers I often use at home.

I’ve even swapped liquid shampoo for Lush’s solid bar shampoo, which suds up nicely and gives my hair lots of volume, especially Seanik and Jumping Juniper.

Switch to an old school loose powder dry shampoo too, instead of one that comes as an aerosol spray, which airport security will totally assume is a liquid. I like Blowpro Faux Dry Shampoo.


You’re traveling to either relax or find yourself on a grand adventure. Who has time to wrestle with a blowdryer, curling iron, and hordes of products? If you never air dry your hair at home, it’s time to give that a shot.

Find a product you like that will tame or give texture to your hair as it air dries so you can simply wash and go, and then (this is key) plan to wash your hair at night so it has time to dry. Personally, I usually find myself wanting to hop in the shower after a full day of traveling anyway, even if I showered that morning.

My fine, blonde hair is naturally a little bit wavy, so a volumizing beach spray like Oribe Apres Beach Wave and Shine Spray or Fekkai Soleil Beach Waves Spray (I love both) adds the perfect amount of texture and body while bringing out my natural waves. If you have thicker, fuller hair, curls, or unruly frizz, maybe you want a smoothing cream instead.

Either way, embrace your natural hair and try to bring only what you absolutely need to bring out its texture and beauty.

And whatever you do, don’t actually pack a hair dryer. Even the mini travel-sized ones take up way too much space in your luggage and I’ve found most hotels, Airbnbs or hostels will have them on hand. If there’s not one in your room, you can often ask at the front desk and they’ll have one you can borrow. If you’re super worried about this, check the list of amenities before you book your accommodations - you’ll usually see blow dryers listed as a specific line item.

A little Good Hair Day luck plus my trusty cordless curling iron. Photo taken in Hoi An, Vietnam.

A little Good Hair Day luck plus my trusty cordless curling iron. Photo taken in Hoi An, Vietnam.


If something goes awry with my air-dried look and I end up with a hot mess of frizz, I just wrap a few locks around my slim, cordless curling iron, holding it up as a wand, for a few more beachy curls. In fact, I often skip the beach spray entirely if I know I’ll have time to curl my hair in the morning.

The Conair cordless curling iron I bring on my trips is powered by butane ThermaCell cartridges. I know that sounds like a security risk, but actually these little guys are approved for air travel by the TSA! Just be sure to pack them in your carry-on luggage, not your checked bags, as the pressurized cabin is safer for them - and be sure to bring the cartridge already inserted into the curling iron, instead of toting around the cartridge by itself.

I actually discovered this after bringing a dual voltage curling wand on my honeymoon and blowing a fuse in our Paris apartment (which also bricked the wand). In my experience, styling tools that claim to automatically switch between voltages never actually do, or they draw too much power for older, historic buildings like those in Europe.

Better to avoid even having to worry about voltage wherever you’re going and just bring a tool that doesn’t need to be plugged into the wall at all. There are butane-powered cordless straightening irons too, if that’s more your jam.

I’ve been using my Conair at home, too (the lack of a cord to catch on drawer handles is so much easier to deal with!) and I’ve found that one ThermaCell cartridge lasts me for months of daily use - so you only need one for a trip shorter than that (which is good, because the TSA only allows you to bring one anyway!).

The curling iron itself is also really small and slim. I can easily slot it into the side of my carry-on suitcase, which is typically dead space otherwise.


4 ways to simplify your beauty routine for travel

Finally, remember that glowing from within is the best beauty trick of all. Embrace your natural beauty and go confidently into the world as you are (or as close to it as you’re comfortable getting)! 

When you look back at your travel photos, the last thing you'll think to yourself is, "Wow, really wish I'd spent more time putting on makeup that day." Instead, you'll see your fresh-faced glow, big smile, and remember what an amazing time you had.

Like this? Pin it!

4 ways to streamline your beauty routine for travel
Travel TipsMegan Van Groll