I have wavered between being staunchly carry-on only and always-check-the-bag (even when the bag is easily carry-on size). I’ve never had a big problem with packing light, but I don’t enjoy lugging things around when I don’t have to on long layovers, and I like to have things like my multi-tool with me for at least 50% of the trips I take. I can also be particular about my sunscreen, and it’s easier to just bring the whole bottle.
Aside from sunscreen though, I can make it an awfully long time on 100ml max of any one liquid toiletry. (Take that, terrorism!) And after finding what I believe to be the HOLY GRAIL of reusable travel bottles something like 6 years ago, I feel like a winner every time I chuck my travel kit into a bag.
I tried a bunch of bottles, from cheap stuff you get in Boots to expensive things from Aveda. They always broke or were hard to clean or got stained or were too fiddly or SOMETHING. Something that made me fed up enough to keep looking. And then one day when I was in London, I wandered into a Muji, (likely drawn by the dizzying array of stationery) and my TSA-compliant prayers were answered.
I think of Muji as the IKEA of Japan. They have everything and it’s all very functional and cleverly designed and minimalist in the nicest way. They do clothes too, but I am a tall western lady not fit for the proportions of Japanese clothing lines (I have a hard time in Uniqlo with anything other than the sleeveless), so I don’t normally bother with that section, but it’s nice stuff as well.
Anyway, Muji has a pretty comprehensive travel range, and they sell a few different types of travel bottle, but the ones I have and love are the frosted, squishable ones. They are PET plastic so not for solvent-based stuff, but I use them for shampoo, conditioner, and sometimes hand lotion if I don’t have a tiny enough bottle of it. I have a few of the 100ml ones and a few of the 50ml tubes and I have been using the same ones since I bought them ages ago. They are super easy to fill, empty, and clean (even my bright red Aveda colour conserve conditioner, which stains EVERYTHING, did not stain my travel bottle), and if there is a way to break them, I haven’t found it.
The other thing that’s great about these is that they sell them separately, so you don’t have to buy some kit of random bottles you don’t end up using all of. You just buy what you’re gonna use and they last forever and ever and ever. For non-squishable liquids like sprays, they have clear, non-squishy bottles. I do have one of the foaming pumps for the cleanser I used to use, which was really great because the travel-sized branded one was WAY pricey.
Muji have lots of other little travel bits and bobs that may or may not be just as awesome, so it’s probably a good place to look if you’re in the market for that kind of thing. The other really handy thing I have from there is one of these clear, zippable, TPU plastic pouches to hold my beloved bottles. I was so fed up wasting ziploc bags at airport security I just decided to try one of these one day and see if it flew (har har). And I’ve never had a problem. It’s the same size as the disposable bags they offer you at the airport, but it’s super durable, (again) easy to clean, and plenty spacious, and security is always happy with it. It’s not completely waterproof, so if you’re super worried about spills, then maybe it’s not for you, but then these bottles have never leaked on me in 6 years, so it’s not something I think about too much.
So, if you’ve been searching high and low for the be-all, end-all of travel toiletry containment, I highly recommend you have a look at Muji. I get nothing from them for saying any of this, I just really, really love those bottles.