Which? Money-Saving Monday:  How to beat airport queues and save money by being crafty with travel toiletries

With travel chaos at UK airports expected to continue throughout the summer, passengers have been advised to stick to carry-on luggage to avoid lengthy check-in queues. 

We all know that the size of our cosmetic containers and toothpaste tubes can have a huge bearing on the length of time we spend in the airport. But opting for convenience by picking up those tiny travel-sized toiletries in the airport can be expensive. 

Snapshot analysis from Which? found that travel-sized toiletries used for holidays can end up costing considerably more per 100ml than full-sized versions of the same products. The consumer champion compared the prices of several popular travel mini products and in every instance, the mini version cost more per 100ml than the full-sized counterpart. 

With the cost of living adding pressure to many budgets, Which? has rounded up ways to save money on travel toiletries.

  • Decant regular toiletries into small bottles 
    Holidaymakers could avoid paying for mini toiletries altogether by making their own instead. Which? suggests decanting regular-sized toiletries into smaller bottles, which can then be taken through security. Reusable toiletry bottles can be bought cheaply, for example, a set of 7 empty travel bottles is £1 at Poundland – or you could reuse old ones to avoid the added cost.

  • Get toiletries delivered to the airport
    Those wanting to take toiletries that are larger than 100ml on holiday with them could use a click-and-collect service to get them delivered to an airport branch of Boots. These can be picked up after passing through security. Customers can order and pay for the toiletries they’d like online by placing the order three days in advance. They will also need to choose the date of their flight as the pickup date. Check whether there is a Boots at the airport by using its store locator online, they can be found around the UK, including at Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Manchester airports. Boots’ click and collect service costs £1.50 for a spend less than £15 – otherwise, it’s free.


  • Buy abroad and/or share the cost
    If travelling in a group, you could buy your toiletries when you arrive at your chosen destination and share – rather than buying individually. Consider coordinating and sharing full-sized items. For instance, one person buys the sun cream, while someone else brings toothpaste. If one member of the group is taking a bag for the hold, consider splitting the cost of full-sized toiletries to go in their bag. In its price analysis, Which? found that a full-sized Dove body wash, costing £1.15, was cheaper than the travel-sized version, which cost £1.50. In the case of the Tresemmé Moisture Rich Conditioner, it costs £1.50 for the miniature 100ml size, nearly five times the cost per 100ml for the full-sized product.
  • Use shampoo bars and solid toothpaste
    Many brands now offer shampoo and conditioner bars. They are easy to travel with as they don’t count as a liquid, gel or aerosol and won’t need placing in a see-through bag to pass through security. It’s also possible to buy things such as solid toothpaste and deodorant sticks, which won’t count towards your liquids allowance either. These kinds of products are growing in popularity as they often use less packaging and may be more sustainable. 


  • Earn or spend loyalty points
    Supermarkets and beauty stores that offer holiday-sized toiletries often have loyalty schemes, allowing customers to earn points on what they spend. People who tend to spend a lot of money at the same shops throughout the year might have enough points to get their toiletries for free.
  • Check if your hotel provides toiletries
    Some hotels and Airbnb rentals provide shampoo, conditioner and shower gel for guests.
    See if you can find out whether they offer these products before you go so you don’t buy products you won’t need. It can also be worth keeping the bottles to reuse for your own liquids in the future, as they’re often travel-sized and many hotels will just throw them away when you leave.


  • Use cashback sites and reward cards
    Cashback offers a way to make a percentage of money back on your purchases – whether that’s using a cashback debit or credit card, or shopping via online cashback sites such as Quidco and TopCashback. If you make purchases with a cashback credit card, just remember to pay back your full balance each month to avoid cashback gains being wiped out by interest charges. 


  • Get rewarded for recycling your toiletries
    After returning from holiday, check if empty bottles can be recycled before throwing them away, as some retailers offer vouchers for empty beauty products. For example, John Lewis has a ‘BeautyCycle’ scheme, where customers can get £5 off their next purchase for bringing five or more empty beauty products to a branch and showing their My John Lewis card. Lush has a ‘Bring It Back’ scheme offering 50p off your next purchase for returning qualifying, empty, full-sized Lush products. The Boots Recycle scheme offers up to 250 Advantage card points, worth £2.50, for putting five empty products in its in-store recycling bins. However, shoppers also need to make a purchase of at least £10 to qualify for the extra points.

Reena Sewraz, Which? Money Expert said:

“Unacceptably long queues and widespread chaos at airports have been causing a huge amount of stress to those planning to get away this summer and the cost of living crisis is adding significant strain to budgets. 

“To keep costs down, consider ordering cheaper toiletries to pick up at the airport, or decant your own products into bottles before you go. If travelling with a group, you could buy full-sized toiletries when you get to your destination and split the cost.”

Notes to editors: 

  • Over the coming months, Which? will be highlighting free and useful money-saving advice every Monday to help consumers manage the ongoing cost of living crisis. The series will cover a range of topics, from how to save money on household bills, to childcare and travel.

  • Which? looked at the prices of some of the most popular toiletry brands, comparing the price of the miniature with the full-sized version in the same shop. We’ve compared prices across Asda, Boots, Sainsbury’s, Superdrug, and Tesco. The table shows the cheapest miniature in each store.*


Item Shop Price of miniature Price of full-sized Price diff per 100ml
Colgate Max Fresh Cooling Crystals Toothpaste   Superdrug £1.50 for 20ml (£6 per 100ml) £2.99 for 75ml (£3.99 per 100ml) £2.01
Listerine Total Care Mouthwash Boots £1.50 for 95ml (£1.58 per 100ml) £4.80 for 500ml (96p for 100ml) 62p
Head and Shoulders Anti-Dandruff Classic Clean Shampoo Tesco £1.50 for 90ml (£1.67 per 100ml) £4.75 for 500ml (95p per 100ml) 72p
Tresemmé Moisture Rich Conditioner Asda £1.50 for 100ml (£1.50 per 100ml) £2.99 for 900ml (33.2p per 100ml) £1.16
Batiste Dry Shampoo Blush Asda £1.50 for 50ml (£3 per 100ml) £3 per 200ml (£1.50 per 100ml) £1.50
Gillette Series Sensitive Skin Shave Gel Asda   £1.50 for 75ml (£2 per 100ml) £2.25 for 200ml (£1.12 per 100ml) 88p
Nivea Protect and Moisture Sun Cream Lotion SPF30  Sainsbury’s  £3.30 for 50ml (£6.60 per 100ml) £5 for 200ml (£2.50 per 100ml) £4
Dove Deeply Nourishing Body Wash Asda  £1.50 per 55ml (£2.73 per 100ml) £1.15 for 225ml (51p per 100ml) £2.22

* Prices correct as of 29 June 2022


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