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Travel Size: Handy or Hoax?

by Erica MacDonald

Photo courtesy of Aqsa Momin

The word “travel size” is somewhat ubiquitous when packing for a trip. Whether you’re in a department store, drug store or beauty retailer, odds are you will see an advertisement about a conveniently packaged product that will make traveling “oh-so-easy.” However, these little luxuries can be a massive drain on your wallet. So, how do you determine what’s worth the splurge? There are three essential categories we’ll dive into: basic toiletries, skincare and make-up.

When it comes to necessities like body wash, shampoo and conditioner, small bottles can seem very attractive. No one wants to be lugging around full-size liquid products on their vacation; they can create massive complications for packing space, aren’t allowed by most airlines in carry-on luggage, and pose the threat of leaking all over your suitcase—the horror! But. the minis you can find in Target or CVS may not be the best alternative. For most travel-size shampoos and conditioners, they fluctuate in the three fluid ounce range. For long-haired folks, three ounces of conditioner might not cut it for a 10-day stay in Aruba. For most, 3 ounces will last the trip, but that means repurchasing these small bottles every time you go away. That can add up.

If your hair care is not drugstore, finding a higher-end travel size can be impossible. Salon and Sephora labels don’t often carry small bottles. When you’re on vacation, you want to be feeling your best, so drying out your hair with a shampoo you aren’t used to is not ideal. What can we do? Reusable travel bottles can be the solution to all your problems. They’re convenient and more environmentally friendly than constantly repurchasing plastic bottles that you’ll toss after one trip. These cute silicone bottles let you take your favorite products on the go without using too much space. Need more product? You can grab the standard three ounces version, or order ones with twice the capacity. It’s just one Amazon click away.

Now, what about skincare? Pricing here gets kinda tricky. Skincare is already quite expensive, so any markdown sounds like a superb deal, but you have to look at how much product you’re getting. Travel and mini size skincare can be a total rip-off. Sometimes, you can be charged as much as 70 percent of the original price for only 50 percent of the product amount. On expensive serums, this can be $20 or $30 wasted. Make sure to compare prices to ensure you aren’t just paying for convenience.

What about pros and cons for travel-size makeup? Mini makeup can be either a total win or a total loss. For larger items, like eyeshadow palettes, buying convenient minis is a good move. No one wants to drag around palettes with 25 shades when, in reality, you’ll only use five or six on vacation. Additionally, these palettes can be super expensive, and the jostling of travel can shatter the fragile pans, leaving both your powder and wallet broken.

The same goes for other powder products: baby bronzers, blushes and highlighters are great. Even if you are paying for convenience, at least these products take much longer to expire, so you should get many, many trips out of them before needing to buy replacements. They can also be used every day, ensuring that you get the bang for your buck. You’re more likely to use a travel-size makeup product in your daily routine than a travel-size shampoo.

However, not all travel-size makeup is a good idea. When it comes to products like concealer and mascara, unless you’re testing out a new one and don’t want to pay full price, I would avoid these minis. These more cream or liquid-based products expire far quicker: in the two to four-month range (product packaging should specify). You won’t use them up in one trip, and they might be expired before your next big getaway! Not worth the money. For vacation, bring your tried-and-trues. Products like concealer and mascara don’t even take up that much space!

When it comes down to it, travel size can be both handy and a bit of a hoax. It’s up to you to determine what fits your routine best. There are options for everyone. Just make sure to avoid unnecessary price mark-ups and keep an eye on expiration dates. Safe and smart travels, Terriers!

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