Traveling evokes a sense of escape, wonder, and adventure. Packing for travel: not so much.
The act of getting from here to there has become for most of us laborious, expensive, and uncomfortable. And more so for women, who often have to make allowances for makeup, hair styling products and tools, and sanitary items—all things that weigh us down and take up costly space in our carry on.
As an ethical living and wellness educator, my mission is to help you be physically and financially well, so that you’re free to make ethical choices aligned with your purpose.
When it comes to travel, this means packing light, smart, and economically, and with ethical products that are healthy, fair trade, and kind to the environment—this way you can most enjoy and be present to adventures on your vacation!
My goal for you is no checked, lost, or heavy bags, and no added baggage fees. All of the products I recommend are lightweight and small enough to carry not only in your carry on, but on your person.
A streamlined toiletry bag packed with ethical products is essential to a successful trip, and I think essential for everyone to have ready at all times, especially women. It’s so comforting to have the independence to get up and go at a moment’s notice, knowing you have your reliable, trusted products at the ready.
#1 Shampoo Bar
Its multi-functionality, decreasing the amount of items you have to pack, is the main benefit of the shampoo bar, but it’s also cheap, and being a solid doesn’t leak.
The LUSH shampoo bars are great quality products, but they have a drawback for travel, in that they take a while to dry after each use. Wet, they stick to their container, so you have to dig them out and they tend to crumble. I prefer the cheaper J.R. Liggett’s bar because, just like a bar of soap, it dries quickly and can be wrapped in wax paper or a plastic bag right after use. You can find varieties of the J.R. Liggett’s bar at many health food stores and online.
#2 Thai Salt Crystal Deodorant
Running through airports, hauling bags, managing layers and alternating climates—you’re gonna sweat. Sweating is good, it’s natural and healthy. Smelling, not so much. Forget antiperspirants, but please remember deodorant.
Thai Crystal Deodorant Stone is 100% natural solid rock crystal, so it won’t melt or spill in transit. It comes in a convenient travel size that lasts a very long time. And it works. Like the shampoo bar, the Thai Crystal is a solid, so there’s no melting or spilling to worry about, which can be an issue in desert or tropical climates.
There are two things to be mindful of if using the rock salt: the rock is activated by wetting, then applying. So you will need a minimal water source. And if it falls on a tile floor or pavement, it could break. It won’t be dangerous—it’s not glass. And it will still be useable, but not as convenient. So try not to drop it.
#3 Reusable Fabric Sanitary Napkins
Having your period is no fun. Having your period on vacation is the worst! To add insult to injury, we have to lug tampons and pads in our already prime carry on real estate.
The environmental and economic strain a woman incurs over the course of her lifetime by buying and trashing sanitary napkins is immense. But a reusable pad can last about 5 years and replace hundreds of disposable products or more.
If you’re going to the beach, an inserted device is desirable. Some women use menstrual cups with great success. For non-bathing suit attire, I recommend a reusable, washable fleece pad that snaps around the underwear and is comfortable, long-lasting, effective, lightweight, and discreet.
Two or three of these lightweight pads will cover you for your trip, as you can use your shampoo bar to wash one out at night while you wear the other, and alternate until your period is done.
Again, planning and practice is key here. Try them out and find one you like before your trip: 30,000 miles above sea level is not the time to realize your sanitary products aren’t working for you, and neither is in the middle of a foreign country.
#4 Sun Block Stick
In clouds and in snow, let alone tropical locales, you can get sunburned, which hurts, looks awful, and can cause serious sun damage, and even skin cancer. At the least, it’ll put a serious dent in your vacation fun.
If you’re from a relatively temperate climate, the sun of the desert or tropics is hotter than you think, and you can burn very quickly.
Keep a sunblock stick in your pocket or purse to apply whenever you suddenly find yourself without shade. I recommend a hat or visor, scarf, and sunglasses, but they don’t cover everything. A stick is easy to carry and apply on yourself and kids, and easy to share with a travel buddy.
I recommend one by Acure that’s SPF 30. It’s for babies, so it’s safe, but it’s strong enough for the whole family. It’s small, lightweight, and toxin-free. And it’s solid, so it won’t spill or leak in your luggage!
#5 Nail File and Buffer
So at least a week or two before your trip, stop using polish, so that your nails can strengthen and whiten. (I recommend you stop using polish all together—it’s healthier for your nails and your whole body.) Then take with you a new or nearly new travel-sized nail file and buffer, so that you can file, remove ridges, smooth, and buff your nails to a high shine as often as you like with just one small tool. Your nails will take seconds to maintain, yet always look done.
A travel file and buffer is lightweight and cheap, so you can carry it in your pocket and won’t fret too much if you lose it.
Ladies, do we honestly want to waste our precious time and money curing our nail polish, recovering from sunburn, cleaning up messy spills in our luggage, or buying tampons in Tunisia?
Imagine the space, time, and money you’ll save by packing 5 small, lightweight, spill-free, reusable, and multitasking products that take the place of shampoo, conditioner, face soap, body soap, shave crème, laundry soap, sanitary items, sunblock, and a manicure kit.
These ethical hacks are as smart at home as they are on travel. I hope you’ll incorporate their ease and effectiveness into your daily routine for a happier, healthier, more ethical lifestyle.
Note: I highly suggest trying out these hacks at home well before you travel so you know what works for you and what you like. Like me, you may find that you incorporate your travel hacks into your home life. With a little planning and practice, you can spend more time experiencing the world, and less time lugging your stuff across it.
Jessica Johnson is the founder of StraightUP! Ethics. Through writing, coaching, & public speaking, Ms. Johnson helps people be physically and financially well, so they feel free to make ethical decisions aligned with their purpose. With a common sense, straight talk approach, she promotes fair trade, trafficking free, cruelty free, and sustainable products and practices, including clean eating, minimalism, social justice, compassion, and courage. Join in the conversation with StraightUP! Ethics on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.