Your Little Bag

Part of traveling now is the liquid bag. While you can take as much liquid as want if you put it in a check bag, if you’re not checking a bag (which I recommend for all business travel, if not all travel of a short enough duration), and bringing all your stuff through security, you have to follow get yourself that little liquid bag. The TSA has all the details on the regulations up, even a little wallet card for the wallet-stuffers out there

Sure, we all know these rules are absurd and there’s a whole cottage industry in the press when it comes to making fun of the TSA. For the rest of us who just want to get home sooner and fight The Man from the comfort of our home-ground, here are some tips.

The Bag

Little Liquids

You want a sturdy bag that’s not going to rip up easy and that opens and closes quickly and easily. If you’re traveling as frequently as I do, you’re going to go through a lot of these bags, esp. if they’re flimsy. Also, when you’re unpacking or packing up your stuff early in the morning, the last thing you want to do is fuss with those annoying plastic zippers on the tops of cheap zip-lock bags.

Instead, I use bags like the one pictured above: a quart-sized “freezer” bag with the little plastic zip-helper do-dad.

There’s no one brand that I’ve found better than another. I’ve bought over-priced Whole Foods bags, Hefty ones, and all the rest. They’re all the same, the price is just different.

Now, you’re still going to go through about 2-3 of these a year, maybe 1 a quarter if you over-pack the bag and have container corners puncturing the plastic. Also, if your dogs get ahold of them, you’ll get some holes in them ;>

As bonus, these bags are also good for packing other things you bring, esp. stuff with cords that might unravel like travel headsets.

Packing the Bag

While you can buy all sorts of “travel” sized (3 ounces or less) toiletries, you should really get your hands on little travel containers. You’ll save money and be able to take whatever stuff you want. This doesn’t apply across the board: toothpaste and shaving cream are esp. hard to re-container.

I have 3 such custom containers in my little bag: my conditioner, my face soap, and my hair-gel (I don’t use shampoo, see here). For the conditioner, I use a squeeze bottle, and for the face soap I use a little squat container with a screw top.

The hair-gel is a recent addition. I used to just carry the whole pomade container, and while TSA people never harassed me about it, I noticed that is over 3 ounces. The pomade I use is expensive, about $13-16 a puck, and I damn sure didn’t want to toss it in the name of absurdity. Also, the container was way too big for the little bag. So, I got Kim to give me one of her little make-up discs, which I scoop about 3-5 days worth of pomade into. It’s worked well:

Little Liquids

After slimming down the container, I have plenty of room in my little bag and I think it’ll rip less often.

As you can see, I also put toothpaste in there (a tube I picked up at a hotel, though you can get plenty of good travel sized tubes anywhere) and my shaving cream (a little travel size Barbersol: cheap and effective).

I also put my razor in the bag, just to have it all in one place and keep it from banging around in my bag. Toothbrushes are usually way too big to fit in the bag. I ended up getting an ultra-violet light bacteria killing toothbrush holder gee-gaw for Christmas (the Violight iZap UV Toothbrush Sanitizer to be exact), so I’ve been using that to carry the toothbrush.

Working with your little bag

Finally, for the frequent traveler, it’s worth considering where and how you pack your little bag. It’s one of the key items you have to fuss with when you go through the security gate (others being your shoes, laptop, coat, watches, phones, and other metal stuff). I always pack mine at the top of my shoulder bag, on one of the corners.

This way, I can unzip one of the shoulder bag’s corners, pull out my little bag and quickly put it in the bin for scanning. I leave the corner unzipped on it’s journey through the x-ray machine, and then when shoulder bag and little bag come through the other side, you can quickly stuff the little bag back into it’s special spot.

Join the Conversation


  1. Great post… Amazing how similar our processes are… I’ve been meaning to downsize the Crew container but have been too lazy. That 0.53 ounces is going to cost me $15 some day, and that’ll probably be trigger.

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