When I started preparing for my first ever international trip this past July to England and Norway, my biggest worry wasn't "Will my bags make it?" or "What if I forget my passport?" or "Am I going to get charged for international data roaming?"
Nope. It was..."Will my essential oils make it through airport security?"
You might be laughing, but I genuinely fretted over this! See, at this point I was two months into using therapeutic-grade essential oils, and already relied on them every day for various purposes (like relaxing before bed so I fall asleep quicker, emotional support, relief from occasional stress, soothing sore muscles, and more).
I could NOT imagine leaving them at home for almost two weeks. No way! And, I couldn't fathom sticking such precious cargo in my checked baggage.
So after fretting for quite awhile, I did some searching on the internet and saw that I wasn't alone. Other folks had the same reservations as me. I read this post, then hopped over to the T.S.A. website to check out their rules on liquids.
Carry-On Rules for Liquids (Flying Within or Out of the United States)
Each passenger is allowed ONE quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-topped bag to hold liquids they want to carry on the plane with them. Each container within the bag must be 3.4 ounces/oz (100 milliliters/mL) or less.
There is no defined limit on the total ounces of the liquids in the bag, but you can only take what will fit reasonably within the bag itself. So, as long as the bag will zip properly and isn't bursting at the seams, you should be fine.
As soon as I read the rules...I sighed with relief. All of my essential oil bottles were either 5 or 15 mL, so way under the limit for each container.
Despite this, I was still slightly worried that the person surveying the carry-on bags would pull the essential oils off the conveyor belt for looking unfamiliar.
However, I reassured myself that one advantage of carrying on the essential oils was the ability to see the employee interact with the item and potentially talk to them about it. If I checked the oils and there was an issue...they might just disappear from my bag!
How to Properly Pack Essential Oils For a Trip
1. Choose the Right Storage Container
Even if all the liquids in your bag are under 3.4 ounces, if you try to stick them in an opaque make-up bag with a magnetic clasp, or any other bag that doesn't follow the criteria listed above, you'll get pulled aside and it might not make it through. But, don't worry! The container doesn't have to be fancy. You can use a zip-lock bag from your kitchen.
I wanted something a little sturdier for my trip overseas (I didn't want the bag to tear), so I went to my local Container Store and bought a plastic, clear, quart-sized bag with a zipper top (pictured throughout this post).
2. Narrow Down Your Selection
If your essential oil collection is quickly (or slowly) growing, you might be tempted to bring all of them (if they even fit in the bag)! Trust me, I know the feeling! But, please don't. For one, if you accidentally misplaced your oils or lost them on your trip, that would SUCK to have to replace your entire collection.
Two, the vast majority of high quality essential oils have multiple beneficial properties, so they can be used for an array of things. This means you can get away with bringing only a few oils that have diverse uses. Lavender and peppermint, anyone?
3. Clearly Label the Bottles
This isn't a hard and fast rule, but it will definitely speed up the screening if everything in your quart-sized bag is easily identifiable. If you like making your own essential oil blends and put them in amber or cobalt blue glass bottles, it's a good idea to label each bottle clearly with a sticker or even a piece of masking tape. Even if it just says "immune support rub", "sleepy time rub", or "jojoba oil", it'll help.
4. Seal Everything Properly
The last thing you want is your precious essential oils and blends leaking into the bag. Trust me, I know! I did a poor job of sealing my lemongrass essential oil bottle during my trip and it leaked on the rest of my bottles. Turns out lemongrass (like lemon essential oil) will eat away labels!
To make sure mine were completely sealed before the flight, I gave each lid a twist before going through security. After security I applied a few oils to myself in the bathroom (specifically Thieves on my feet and hands for supporting my immune system, and peppermint on my wrists, behind my neck, and under my nose for digestive support as I often experience motion sickness during travel), then went through the bag and checked to make sure the lid on each bottle was super tight. I knew that the air pressure from flying might affect them, so I wanted to make sure they were doubly sealed.
Getting Essential Oils Through Airport Security
Follow the steps above for packing, then when you're at the airport and have to take out everything to be screened at security, make sure to put the clear liquids bag in its own bin or on top of your other personal belongings. Hiding it under other stuff won't help!
Also, stay with your items if you can so that you're there (or close by) when the employee screens your oils. That way, if they have a puzzled look on their face, you can explain right away what they are and keep things moving.
What if the airport employee questions my oils?
Nine times out of ten, your essential oils will make it through security without a second thought, but you may run into a new employee or someone who has never encountered them before, which could cause them to be extra curious.
The third time I flew (domestically) with essential oils, this actually happened to me. The guy screening the carry-on bags looked really young and when he got to my bin with the essential oils he stopped the line, pulled it out, and just starred at them for a bit. I saw him doing this, walked over, told him they were my essential oils and that I used them for supporting my health. He nodded, and put them back on the conveyor belt. Easy peasy!
IMPORTANT: For your returning flight, especially if you're traveling internationally, research the specific rules for the airline you're flying with and the country you're departing from BEFORE your trip. To save save yourself hassle, learn exactly what their rules and regulations are regarding liquids. I didn't have any problem flying back from England, but this may differ in countries where English is not the native language.
The Best Essential Oils to Bring on Your Vacation or Trip
This list will vary based on where you're traveling, what issues you're dealing with at the time, how long you're away from home, the season, weather, and so on. With that said, here are some essential oils and blends I usually bring with me on both short and long trips.
My collection has grown quite a bit since I first started back in April 2014, so if you are just now getting into essential oils, don't feel like you need a whole bunch! These days I usually bring 20 or more (I can fit about 27-28 in my bag), but I tend to over pack. :)
Note: I only use Young Living essential oils (and personally recommend them), because transparency and purity are very important to me in a company. You are certainly welcome to use whatever works best for you; however, I encourage you to seek out a brand/company that you can safely use topically and that is NOT adulterated. Most essential oils sold at health food stores are for aromatherapy only, so NOT safe to use on your skin. Always check the labels for recommended usage before applying them topically. Even better, investigate how the oils are made before using them on your body and those of your loved ones! Click here to read my post on what you should ask before using essential oils.
I pretty much don't leave the house without my peppermint essential oil. Seriously! It is my go-to essential oil to quickly provide all different types of digestive support, soothe sore muscles or feet (great for traveling), and energize me when I'm feeling tired. I always bring it with me on trips to apply before traveling on planes, buses, and cars.
I tend to go a little nuts trying new foods and dessert when I'm on vacation (not surprising, right?) so if I've overeaten, something isn't settling right in my stomach, or I'm feeling backed up (sorry if that's TMI)--this is my secret weapon. DiGize contains a blend of essential oils (tarragon, ginger, peppermint, juniper, fennel, anise, patchouli, & lemongrass) that support your digestive system in a variety of ways. This stuff WORKS! Often in as little as 15 minutes. I wouldn't go on vacation without it.
This is the "Swiss Army Knife" of oils, so when in doubt--use lavender essential oil. It pairs well with other oils for pretty much any health goal, smells amazing, and has a relaxing, soothing effect for the mind and skin. If you're traveling somewhere sunny or plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, this is a must-have.
This blend contains five powerful essential oils that have historically been used to support the immune system. It smells like Christmas to me and was the very first Young Living oil I tried. When I travel now, I'll bring Thieves essential oil + an empty glass spray bottle. Either in the airport (after security) or once I'm at my hotel, I'll mix 3-5 drops of Thieves with the cleanest water I can get my hands on in the spray bottle to make a spray that I can use on surfaces, my hands, and even on the back of my throat.
Immune Support Foot Rub
To reduce the number of oils I take with me on trips, I mix this before leaving home and roll it on my feet twice a day to support my immune system. This stuff works! Almost every year for the past decade at least, I'd start feeling crummy around Christmas time from all the stress of running around doing errands and interacting with so many people who were not taking care of themselves properly. Not this year! The basic recipe is equal parts Thieves, Lemon, and Oregano essential oil diluted 50-50 with a carrier oil.
You can add in extra oils like Lime, Orange, Thyme, Frankincense, and Basil to for extra support, but they're not necessary. I put this in a small 5-ml bottle and apply a roll-on fitment to it so I can easily put it on my feet without touching my hands. The reason for this is that oregano is VERY potent. You will smell like an intense herb garden, but it's still worth it.
Calming Face Serum
This is a blend I make with frankincense, lavender, and jojoba oil. I apply it to my face every night and morning to promote healthy skin and improve my overall complexion. It also does double duty of helping me relax before bed. Even when I'm on vacation, I try to keep up my regular routine.
Update: I now like to add a few drops of Palmarosa, Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood, and Helichrysum to my serum for even more healthy skin support. It's one of the perks of expanding your oily collection. ;)
Deep Relief or PanAway
These are two Young Living blends that are handy for soothing sore muscles. After I ran out of the PanAway that came in my Premium Starter Kit, I switched to Deep Relief, which I think is a bit more affordable. Deep Relief is like a godsend when I have occasional tension in my upper back (a byproduct of sitting down too much all day at a computer) or during my monthly cycle.
I usually combine it with lavender and sometimes copaiba to magnify the effects and it works quickly to help. These are essential oils that you'd bring just in case, but hopefully wouldn't need to actually use while you're on vacation.
Peace & Calming + Cedarwood
I use both of these essential oils every night to help me relax before bed and fall asleep faster. I love, love, love them. You can watch my Youtube video to learn a bit more about how and why I use them. I can honestly say that these two oils have positively changed my life for the better! This is coming from a former night owl with sleep issues that stemmed back to my early adolescence.
When you're traveling, Peace & Calming and cedarwood can help you cope with jet lag by relaxing you before bed, so you can get back to a normal schedule more quickly. Sleep is so important for energy level, mental alertness, and your immune system, so I never leave home without a few oils that will help facilitate restful sleep.
Update: I really love to use Vetiver essential oil now in addition to these two oils! :)
Joy + Valor
These are my "Happy Oils". No joke! They're both Young Living blends that are calming, relaxing, and promote happiness. I can honestly say that these two oils together are what really won me over to the power of therapeutic essential oils and aromatherapy. Both of these oils are a part of the "Happy Protocol", which includes Joy, Valor, Harmony, and White Angelica. I don't have the other two oils yet, so I started using the first two and saw a huge difference in my mood immediately.
Nothing works faster when I'm in a funk than these two oils. For this reason, I always bring them with me on trips. Especially when I'm around a lot of people who might be in a bad mood and try to bring me down emotionally. I'll whip out these bottles, make the person inhale the oils, and then apply Joy over their heart and Valor on their wrists.
Stress Away + Vetiver
Does flying or traveling worry you? Slather yourself in these two oils to calm down and smell wonderful. Stress Away is a Young Living essential oil blend that smells like lime and vanilla, and vetiver essential oils has a grassy, earthy scent that is very relaxing and grounding. I bring both of these oils on trips just in case I'm in a stressful situation, or if I run into anyone who needs them.
This is a new addition to my oily arsenal that I've been using twice a day for about a month. This essential oil blend (containing Fennel, Clary Sage, Marjoram, Lavender, Yarrow, and Jasmine) helps to support healthy, balanced hormones.
So far, it has vastly improved my mood before and during my monthly cycle. I also noticed that my skin has improved in the last month and my cycle was a bit shorter and lighter! I plan on continuing to use it every morning and evening for the next few months, and will bring it with me on every trip I take this year.
I brought this blend with me on a whim when I traveled to Breckenridge, Colorado over Thanksgiving and boy was I happy to have it around! The cold, dry weather was not helping my nose, so I applied this blend on and off throughout the day to help promote healthy breathing!
It contains a mixture of Eucalyptus Staigeriana, Eucalyptus Globulus, Laurus Nobilis, Peppermint, Eucalyptus Radiata, Copaiba, Myrtle, Blue Cypress, and Eucalyptus Blue essential oils to help you breathe better! If you're going to a warm climate on your trip, you may not need a blend like this, so it just depends on your situation.
This is my go-to blend for healthy skin when I'm spending a lot of time outdoors in the spring and summer months. If you're traveling somewhere warm, this is a really handy oil to have around.
It's also excellent at purifying the air, so it's practical to bring on trips so you can make your hotel/motel room smell better. If you don't have a portable diffuser, you could put a few drops of purification on a cotton ball and stick it in the air vent to freshen the air. Or, make up a batch of my DIY Smelly Odor Knockout Spray in a travel size plastic or glass bottle.
I'd like to hear from YOU!
What are your best tips for traveling with essential oils and homemade DIY products that contain them? Do you have anything in particular that you MUST bring with you when you leave home?
Keep Reading! More Posts From The Rising Spoon:
- A Simple Introduction to Essential Oils
- How to Make Lip Balm
- DIY Honey Lavender Lip Scrub
- Five Tips For Transitioning to a Real Food Lifestyle
- Five Summer Essentials You Should Make Instead of Buying
- 40+ Dehydrator Recipes For Preserving Food, Saving Money & Eating Healthier
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