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How to Travel with Hand Luggage Liquids (& fit all your toiletries in that tiny bag!)

How to Travel with Hand Luggage Liquids (& fit all your toiletries in that tiny bag!)

If you’re travelling abroad for the first time in a while you may be feeling confused about the rules surrounding hand luggage liquids. What liquids can you take in your hand luggage and how much are you allowed?

With ridiculously long queues in airports at the moment and huge delays at airport security, the very last thing you want is to be held up due to getting your hand luggage liquids wrong.

At Manchester Airport last week there was an extra hours wait for anyone who needed to get their bags rescanned at security, and most of these rescans were due to people having random liquids in their bags.

So don’t get it wrong. Follow my guide to travelling with liquids in your hand luggage and hopefully you’ll avoid any lengthy delays at security! 

If you’re not a big reader, I’ll make things easy for you.

You need this bag, these bottles and these pots and you’ll be ready for airport security like a pro!

If you’d like a little more information then keep reading…

20cm x 20cm clear plastic bag

First of all, you need to have all of your liquids in a clear, plastic, resealable bag that measures no more than 20cm x 20cm. And yes, some airports will measure it so don’t be tempted to go bigger.

You are only allowed one bag, no more! All of your liquids need to fit in this bag.

If you’ve got a stray lip balm hiding in the bottom of your bag or a few mouthfuls of water left in your water bottle then the machines will spot it and you will have to have your bags searched. So make sure all of your liquids are in your hand luggage liquids bag and it’s no bigger than 20cm x 20cm!

Most airports do hand these bags out at security so don’t worry if you don’t have one.

But the ones they had out are flimsy so I prefer to use my own to avoid single use plastic waste and the possibility of it splitting open if it’s stuffed to the top!

I have these TSA approved hand luggage toiletry bags from Amazon and I can’t recommend them enough. They’re as big as they possibly can be without being too big so they have loads of space.

No liquid bottles bigger than 100ml

The second thing you need to remember is that nothing can be more than 100ml.

For many products this is probably going to mean decanting your liquids into smaller bottlers or buying miniature sizes.

I know it doesn’t really make sense because you could take 8 x 100ml bottles of the same shampoo, but you can’t take an 800ml bottle of shampoo!

It’s much more cost effective to buy hand luggage liquids bottles and decant your normal products into these. Miniature bottles are expensive and it’s even more single use plastic.

Yalbdopo 6Pcs 10ml / 10g Empty Frosted Clear Glass Cosmetic Sample Containers with Wood Grain...
  • GOOD MATERIAL --- Our empty frosted glass sample containers are made of high-grade glass and PP material. Leak-proof design, environmental protection, odorless, reusable and and recycle.
  • LEAKPROOF DESIGN --- Each glass sample containers have a wood grain plastic lid and inner liner to create a tight seal that will not leak or spill out. Easy to carry and convenient to travel with...
  • WIDE APPLICATIONS --- Refillable jars to store creams, balms, lip gloss, eye cream, salves, tinctures, makeup, essential oil aromatherapy blends, sunscreen cosmetic product, facial cream, mud mask,...

I have these lovely little jars that are perfect for travelling. They hold 10ml of a product and come with scoops and stickers so you can easily fill and label them. They look tiny but they hold enough product for a week away.

What are the best hand luggage liquids bottles?

Silicone 100ml bottles for travel

The best hand luggage liquids bottles are the silicone bottles. They’re more durable, easier to fill and you can squeeze out the last drops of your product.

Regular plastic bottles tend to split when you’re squeezing them so they don’t last long in comparison to silicone ones.

Gemice Silicone Travel Bottle, 4 Pack Portable Travel Containers Set LeakProof Refillable Squeezable...
  • Leak Proof Travel Bottles: 3-layer leak-proof design prevents liquid leakage or spillage, offers protection to your luggage and cloths. Opal shape allows no liquids stuck in the bottle corner and...
  • Food Grade BPA Free Silicone Designed with safety first and convenience a close second. Our silicone travel bottles are made of FDA approved and 100% BPA free food grade silicone, making it safe for...
  • Wide opening for filling and cleaning: Unlike most travel bottles, this one is wide opening makes it easy to fill with thicker fluids, and it easily fits a brush to clean the inside of the tube

I recommend buying high quality silicone bottles with a wide neck so they’re easy to fill.

Whittle down what liquids you really need

This is everything I use on a day-to-day basis but I definitely don’t need all of this for a short holiday!

If you’re travelling with just hand luggage then I’m guessing you probably won’t be away for too long, so think about what you actually need and get it down to the bare minimum. 

Can you go a few days without a leave in conditioner hair mask? Probably. 

Can you leave your anti-wrinkle serums and lotions at home? I’m guessing so.

Is it the end of the world if you don’t use your tooth whitening gel for a couple of days? Nope.

Cut it back to what you REALLY need before you even begin packing your hand luggage liquids bag.

Some miniatures are worth buying

There are some things that are messy, tricky or impossible to decant into smaller bottles. For me, these things are toothpaste and hairspray. I travel with tiny tubes of toothpaste and little cans of  75ml hairspray. Alternatively, wait until you’ve almost finished a tube of 100ml toothpaste and roll it up and take that with you.

Switch to solid toiletries where you can

Wherever possible, switch to solid toiletries – not just for travelling but for life in general. They’re cheaper, better for the environment and usually better for your skin too.

I’ve switched to solid soap and solid shampoo and I can honestly say I’d never go back to liquids now – it just seems so unnecessary!

I like the Garnier Ultimate Blends Solid Shampoo Bar and I also really like the XHC one. I found the XHC bars in B&M for £1.00. You can get a pack of 3 for £9.99 on Amazon which really still feels like a bargain if you can’t get to B&M.

3 x XHC Shampoo & Conditioner Bar - No Plastic Waste - Coconut, Banana & Papaya
  • 1 x Banana Shampoo & Conditioner Bar
  • 1 x Coconut Shampoo & Conditioner Bar
  • 1 x Papaya Shampoo & Conditioner Bar
Garnier Ultimate Blends Honey Treasures Strengthening Shampoo Bar for Damaged Hair, Clear, 60 g...
  • Garnier Ultimate Blends Honey Treasures Strengthening Shampoo Bar for damaged hair, prone to breakage
  • Our first solid Shampoo Bar, with zero plastic waste
  • Highly nourishing shampoo, easy to lather and fast rinse FORMULA

Airport security liquids: What is classed as a liquid at security!?

What is actually classed as a liquid can be a bit confusing. I once heard a security guard say, ‘If you can spread it, it’s a liquid!’

So this is obvious things like:

  • Liquid medicines
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Toothpaste
  • Face cleanser
  • Liquid foundation
  • Roll on deodorant 
  • Contact lens solution

And not so obvious things like:

  • Lipbalm
  • Lipstick
  • Aerosols

Can you take liquids on a plane if you bought them in duty free?

Yes, if you’ve bought liquids at duty free then you can take them on the plane, no matter what size they are.

If I’m travelling with just hand luggage then I’ll often buy a big bottle of sunscreen at Boots in the airport because I know they’ll have my favourite brand. 

You can even buy things online at Boots and have them ready to be picked up at duty free!

Just remember that some airlines can be funny about you getting on the plane with big duty free bags so I’d always be careful about buying too much.

Does toothpaste count as a liquid in your hand luggage?

Yes, it does!

You can buy dry toothpaste or ‘toothy tabs’ from shops such as Lush but, to be honest, they’re disgusting. They’re dry and gross and don’t give you the clean, minty fresh feeling like regular toothpaste does.

Maybe it just takes some getting used to but I don’t like it!

So yes, you’ll need to put your toothpaste into your clear, plastic hand luggage liquids bag and it must be smaller than 100ml. But actually, a 100ml tube of toothpaste is pretty big and could last a whole family a few weeks.

How can I take perfume in my hand luggage?

You need to get yourself one of these refillable 5ml perfume bottles. You just take the cap off your perfume and you squirt it into this little bottle.

Even if your perfume bottle is under 100ml I would recommend one of these. It’s cheap, easy and lightweight and much easier than carrying a bulky perfume bottle.

ILLUVA 5ML Perfume Atomiser Refillable Bottles, Portable Mini Travel Perfume Atomiser, Empty Spray...
  • Value Set - Come with 2 Pcs 5ml refillable perfume atomiser in 2 different colours (pink and silver)
  • High Quality - The perfume atomiser bottle features a sturdy aluminium body to better store the liquid.
  • Leakproof Design. Lipstick size for easy carry.

Do I need to put my liquid medication in my hand luggage liquids bag?

Yes you do.

What happens if I try to take liquids on a plane in bottles bigger than 100ml?

Your liquids will be confiscated and you won’t get them back.

So please, please don’t try and get on the plane with 1 litre of expensive whiskey or a bottle of champagne or a giant bottle of perfume because it will be confiscated.

Can I take a refillable water bottle through airport security?

Yes, provided your water bottle is empty, you can take it through security. Most airports have drinking fountains so you can refill it on the other side of security. If there isn’t a fountain then you can ask a bar or cafe to fill it for you.

How many 100ml bottles can I take in my hand luggage?

You can take as many 100ml bottles as you can fit inside your hand luggage liquids bag.

If your bag is 20cm x 20cm and fairly wide then you can easily fit about 8 100ml bottles in it.

That’s why I highly recommend getting one of these little bags from Amazon as you can fit so much in them. They’re wider than the ones they hand out in the airport so you’ll get way more in them!

Here’s everything I put in my hand luggage liquids bag

Here’s everything I put in my hand luggage liquids bag:

  • Toothpaste
  • Conditioner (I haven’t found a solid conditioner that works for my dry hair)
  • Roll-on deodorant
  • Face cleanser
  • Facial SPF 50
  • Moisturiser
  • Face serum
  • Foundation
  • Concealer
  • Cream blush
  • 2 x contour sticks
  • Lip balm
  • Creamy eyebrow pencil (I have no idea if this actually needs to be in there)
  • Liquid eyeliner
  • Mascara
  • Lipstick
  • Hairspray

Read more:

Can you take razors on a plane in your hand luggage?

Olivia Martin

Sunday 6th of August 2023

Really helpful tips! Did you get through Manchester airport security okay with this toiletry bag?


Monday 14th of August 2023

Yes, I've probably used it about 20 times at Manchester Airport now and it's fine!