How long do travel-size toiletries last? Those mini containers may be small, but they pack a big punch—big enough to get you through your vacation and then some (which is especially useful when you are looking for the tools and gear to pack light). I discovered this fact for myself by doing a little experiment. It is an experiment you can do yourself, although you might not want to (it got a little tedious). However, I was pleased with the knowledge I gained and the assurance that I will most likely never run out of product while on the road.
Travel-size toiletries experiment
My experiment began with a late-night Target run. Although I went with a purpose, I found myself wandering and finding items I did not realize I needed until that moment (anyone else?). Anyway, when I found myself next to the travel-size toiletries, I had the thought that I should stock up on some before my next trip. That made me wonder what I might already have in stock. This led me to wonder how long those little bottles lasted anyway. I usually buy some new ones before I leave on a big trip. However, if I just use them for a weekend getaway, I am never sure how many more days I might have before they run out. I decided it was time for an experiment to see how many uses I could get out of the travel-size toiletries I typically use. So I grabbed a few items and headed to checkout. Here is what I picked up:
- Shampoo (1.5 oz.)
- Body wash (3 oz.)
- Facewash (1 oz.)
- Lotion (1 oz.)
- Toothpaste (.85 oz.)
- Shaving cream (2 oz.)
- Face moisturizer (.17 oz)
My plan was simple: every time I used one of the products, I would make a check mark on a piece of paper. Although the plan was simple, because a little goes a long ways when it comes to travel-size toiletries, the process became quite tedious. I misplaced my paper several times and it seemed to take forever for certain products to run out. However, I stuck to it because I wanted to know the answer. Plus, I was invested at that point. Below are the results of my experiment:
Shampoo (1.5 oz.)
(Disclaimer: I do not wash my hair every day. And I have short hair.) My 1.5-ounce test shampoo lasted through 13 washes. If you consider that I wash my hair every other day, that is 26 days worth of good looking hair. A fair amount and more than I need for most trips.
Body wash (3 oz.)
I felt like my body wash was the bottle that never ended. I should have picked up something smaller. Oh well. If you are going on adventures that get you really dirty, you may go through body wash a lot faster than I did. But it took me 44 washes before it ran out—and I was being really generous toward the end. If you are anything like me, you should not have to worry about buying a new body wash for every trip.
Facewash (1 oz.)
Facewash goes a long ways. My 1-ounce bottle lasted through 31 washes—enough for a month-long trip, two two-week trips or many weekend trips.
Lotion (1 oz.)
Lotion was the product I used the most of in one sitting. My 1-ounce bottle of lotion lasted through eight uses. So I guess I need about one ounce for every week I am traveling—probably a little more if I am going somewhere really dry.
Toothpaste (.85 oz.)
Those little freebees you get from the dentist take forever to use up. My .85-ounce tube took 40 uses. Since I brush my teeth twice a day, that is 20 days worth! One small tube was not enough to last me a month in Australia. But for a two-week stint, or shorter, it will do just fine.
Shaving cream (2 oz.)
Shaving cream is not something I typically travel with but I figured I would try it out for the sake of this exercise. A 2-ounce can lasted through 10 shaves. Since I am not a shave-your-legs-everyday kind of girl, this was more than enough for a two-week trip or less.
Face moisturizer (.17 oz.)
This went a REALLY long way. I realize that a face is smaller real estate than say, a leg. But I was shocked at how far a tiny bottle of face moisturizer went. It lasted me 12 days! This travel-size toiletry gives you a lot of bang for your buck.
Using a scale
About half way through my experiment, I thought of another way to measure: use a kitchen scale to weigh how much of a product you use each time. Then divide the total amount by that single-use amount, and you will know about how many uses you can expect from a particular travel-sized bottle. Note: this only works if you have a sensitive scale. Some do not measure smaller than an ounce.
I tested out my scale to see how accurate my check-mark method was. First, I tried out some toothpaste. I had to do a little math (which is not my strong suit), but I finally came up with 40.8 uses. Above, I mentioned that my check-mark method resulted in 40 uses. It appears that my calculations were right in line with my check marks. Awesome! Next, I measured some lotion. I came up with eight uses—which is exactly how many check marks I got out of my experiment. Although I am glad I followed through with the check mark method, I recommend you go with the scale method if possible.
Everyone uses different products and everyone uses products differently. R has a lot more hair than I do so she uses more shampoo per washing. As I mentioned earlier, I do not use conditioner at all. So that is one less product I have to worry about. However, I do have to pack pomade for my short locks. Since we are all a bit different in what we use and how we use it, no two people will get the same amount of uses out of a travel-sized toiletry. However, in general, I would say that unless you are traveling for more than a month, the TSA 3.4-ounce rule is going to be fine most of the time. In fact, you are probably going to come up with leftover product.
What to do with leftover product
Rarely do I run out of anything on the last day of my trip. Most often, I come home with half-filled bottles that get shoved into a drawer with the rest of my travel accessories. The easy solution for left-over product (and one I need to do a better job at) is to simply use it up. Why not brush your teeth with your travel-size toothpaste until it runs out? I kind of like starting a trip with brand-new, travel-size toiletries, but I am not a big fan of wastefulness. Using up what you have left is one way to be more sustainable.
Another option is to consolidate. Save up those half-filled bottles of shampoo until you have enough to combine into one. This takes up a bit more room in that drawer and requires a bit of diligence, but it is a good option for certain products (toothpaste, not so much).
I would say that the best option, however, is to purchase some cute, reusable tubes. With this option, you use your usual brands while on the road and when you get home, it is super easy to use up the leftovers or refill for the next trip. Note: you will want to label your containers. Otherwise, you may end up putting something other than shampoo on your hair like R did.
The TSA limit of 3.4 ounces goes a long ways. Unless you are traveling for a month or more, most travel-size toiletries are going to last through your whole trip. You are going to have more trouble figuring out what to do with the leftovers than anything else.