How to Fly With Your Kit

Does checking your kit give you major anxiety? Do thoughts your kit, lonely and abandoned, circling a baggage carousel hundreds or thousands of miles away from where you are, and it should have been, haunt you? Read on for tips on how to pack your kit for travel, fly with it, and maintain as little risk as possible.

So, maybe you have a job in another state or a class on the other side of the country. How do you get all of the product that you need without risking losing it all if your luggage is lost or stolen?

First Things First

Before we talk about how to fly with your kit, let’s talk about the things you’ll need to do up front:

1) You’ll need to know what kind of work are you’ll be doing. Are you working on a lifestyle shoot? You do not need any shimmer products. Are you doing men’s makeup, exclusively? No need to bring anything that you wouldn’t use in a men’s grooming. Are you working on a campaign where you’re supposed to be highlighting the client’s product? Bring only the things you’ll need to support that makeup and lean on the products the client provides (within reason — I mean, if the products are sub-par, you’ll need to find a way to make them work).

Work like this will rarely ever require teal eye shadow …. Leave that at home.

2) Edit your kit. Really pare down your products and tools. If you’re only doing two models, do you need 103 brushes? No, likely not. Pack multi-purpose items: color wheels that can function as a host of cream blush, lipstick, color correctors, etc. Don’t bring things you likely won’t need, but have something in place in case you do. If you’re shooting a skincare ad, you will not need waterproof mascara — only regular mascara. In the event you DO need waterproof mascara, you can use cream liner and a sealing liquid (MUFE Aqua Seal, Inglot Duraline, etc.) to transform it into an on-the-fly waterproof mascara. Be discerning and tough — force yourself to bring only what you’ll need.

“Why did I pack every single foundation I owned?”

3) Depot as much as possible. Do not bring all of any one product, if you can help it. Got a cream blush palette? Bring half of each well — put it into a smaller palette. You can get empty pans and stick them into a palette or get a VueSet palette just for travel. Push comes to shove — you can clean out a kid’s watercolor paint palette and smoosh some product into the wells. Why would you do this? To protect a portion of your inventory. How lame would it be if your condensed kit had every lipstick you own smashed into the wells of two VueSet palettes and it never showed up in baggage claim? It would be expensive to replace and, should you have jobs booked immediately upon your return, you’re a little screwed, eh? Depotting a portion of that product into another vessel allows you to leave some it at home and, if all goes well, you can reunite it with it’s “travel portion” when you return home. This is called, “risk-management.” 🙂

Now that our kit is pared down and we know exactly what we need to take, let’s talk about the best ways to get it there. There are a few approaches you can take, all at varying levels of risk and cost:


Ship Your Kit:

Literally, put your kit in the mail. Wrap everything that could shatter in bubble wrap and send it on it’s way marked “fragile.” Be sure to include insurance and tracking. This is an expensive option. When I go to trade shows, where I have to fly in and out, I typically ship everything home that is liquid and that I can’t carry on the flight. This can cost around $50 and up. Usually up …. But! Think about it …. how much money would you lose if that package didn’t make it to your final destination? Probably a lot more than $100.

hard luggage

Check Part of Your Kit, Carry The Rest On:

*If you’re never flown, or if you haven’t flown in the last 12 years, there are some quick air-travel security bullet points we need to cover. Technically:

– all of your liquids, gels, aerosols, pastes, and creams need to fit into one quart-sized bag (with the exemption of medications and baby formula or breast milk)

– they must be 3.4oz or less

– these items cannot be flammable or hazardous, so this means no brush cleanser, sanitizing liquids like Beauty So Clean, etc. In fact, these cannot go in your checked luggage, either, technically.

– there are limits on sharp objects, too. Lash scissors, tweezers, all need to be wrapped or sheathed to prevent poking TSOs during inspection. There is a handy list of things you can and cannot bring here: What Can I Bring?

Some artists elect to carry on all of the things they can legally carry on: brushes, powders, lashes, pencils, disposables, and anything else that isn’t a gel, liquid, aerosol, paste, or cream. I know, I know — lots of people successfully carry pastes and creams through security. This is really up to the mercy of the individual TSO (TSA Agent) who is searching your bag at that time. Sometimes, you win the TSO lottery and they’re really nice; other times, not so much. Is that a risk you want to take? Do you want to risk tossing it?

So, in this scenario, you’ll check all of your liquid foundations, cream products, skin care, mascaras, etc. Wrap them tightly so they don’t get jostled around in your luggage. I suggest using a hard-sided suitcase for added protection. I also suggest including a business card because checked luggage also gets screened and if something suspicious triggers them to open the bag and rifle through it, having a business card helps those products look less suspicious. You’ll know the TSA has been all up in your stuff because they leave this creepy calling card in your luggage:

Larry wuz here….

If you are going to carry on part of your kit, I cannot stress enough how important it is to give yourself extra time. Palettes of little metal pans, rolls of brushes with metal ferrules, and airbrush machines look out of the ordinary through the x-ray and 99.9% of the time I’ve flown with my kit, my bag is sitting all by it’s lonesome in the “waiting for extra screening” section once I get out of the body scanner. Sometimes, they’ll just ask you questions about what’s in there; other times, they’ll swab test all of your products to ensure none of it is explosive. That takes time. If you don’t like running through the airport with a bag full of fragile powder palettes, just get to the airport earlier than you think you need to be there. Bring some business cards to help explain your profession.

I do not suggest storing your bag containing your kit in the overhead compartments. This bag should go under the seat in front of you. Bags shift in the overhead and, sometimes, people are in and out of them during the flight — unaware of your fragile items. Sometimes, there are kids …. Keep your fragile and important items close.

Checking your entire kit is like taking a laxative and a sleeping pill at the same time.  Could be ok.  Could be really awful. 

Check Your Whole Kit:

If you want to play Luggage Roulette, you can check your entire kit. Same rules apply — no flammable or hazardous liquids. I also suggest wrapping your palettes in bubble wrap or clothing to protect them; however, this does not guarantee that they won’t get unwrapped should the TSA need to inspect them.

In this scenario, it is extra important to depot a portion of each product to ensure you still have a kit to work out of should your luggage go missing. Also, you should have a backup plan in case you and your luggage are not reunited at your destination. Before you leave, see what beauty supply stores are in the area. Is there a Sephora, Ulta, Walgreens, or something similar? What are the hours? Have a plan of what you’ll need to buy in case you have to throw together a last-minute kit from Target.

It’s also a good idea to photograph your kit before departing and inspecting it upon arrival to ensure nothing is missing or damaged.

Have you flown with your kit? Share your favorite tips on how to get where you’re going with all of the things that you need!


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