Holiday Travel Tips with Stephanie Johnson


Packing for trips is a nightmare for me. You’d think I’d have it down to a science by now, with all the traveling I do, but no. I’m a hot mess.

My biggest problem (aside from last-minute packing) is deciding which makeup and toiletries to bring (I want everything) and then finding a way to squeeze them into my suitcase.

This holiday travel season, I made a pact with myself to get organized and stay organized. For expert advice, I turned to Stephanie Johnson, founder of the much-loved Stephanie Johnson cosmetic bags. Stephanie has a minimalist style that is clearly displayed in her streamlined, functional bags. Her line offers a vast selection of cosmetic bags, in shapes and sizes for every taste, in gorgeous fabrics and patterns.


Makeup Bag: Hi Stephanie! Thank you for taking the time to give us some expert travel tips for the upcoming holiday season. I read that you’re Type-A and love to have everything organized and matching. Do you have any packing tips for beauty junkies that have a TON of products?

Stephanie Johnson: If you are a true beauty junkie, the first step is to admit that you have an “addiction,” and then start organizing! Set out all of your products (which may take a while), and then take inventory of what you have and what you will need, and then organize them according to category; put all hair-care, body-care, and then skin-care items together, and then select a bag (or bags) for each category. For example, you may want an ML Traveler or a Darlene Brush Bag for your make-up and brushes, and then a separate toiletry bag like the Martha, which is the “mother of all toiletry cases” and includes 3 separate zip compartments inside, or a Jenny Train Case for the other hair and skin products. Also, consider “down-sizing” products and getting samples, travel-sizes, or putting products into smaller bottles (Keihl’s and Sephora are always a great place to score trial size items) to save room. And remember, some hotels have great products too (like the W Hotels, they offer all mini sizes of Bliss basics), so sometimes you don’t have to pack shampoo, conditioner, lotion or soap.

Makeup Bag: For a 3 day business trip, which bags would you recommend?

Stephanie Johnson: When traveling for a short time, I prefer the path of least resistance and try to get everything into my Wendy Roller Bag. I then use the clear bags from my steph&co. line to hold all my products. This way, I can stay organized, which is true to my Type-A nature, but security won’t stop me because the bags are see-through.

If you can’t do just the carry-on, you may want to pack a smaller make-up case like the Grace Brush Bag or a small or medium clear zip bag, and probably the Jenny Train Case, which is a smaller than the Martha, for toiletries.

Makeup Bag: For a 7 day vacation with the entire family, which bags would you recommend?

Stephanie Johnson: Try a bigger make-up bag, like the ML Traveler or Darlene Brush Bag, and larger toiletry bag like the Martha Briefcase, and then add some of the small and medium clear zip bags for all the misc. items that the kids are going to need like hair bands, Band-Aids, cloth wipes, and whatever else you consider essential.

For the upcoming beach season, I am really excited to use our new mesh bags and tote from the Malawi Collection – since it is mesh, it is see-through and easy to clean, and everything from bottled water to sunscreen can be packed securely! And it looks very chic…

(The Malawi Collection will not be available until January 2009)

Makeup Bag: I like to keep my makeup stash at home in a makeup bag instead of a drawer or bin—I find it’s easier to keep organized. However, I have so much makeup, I need several bags to accommodate my collection. How do you organize your beauty products at home?

Stephanie Johnson: Actually, I do the same thing and keep everything in separate bags – of course! My philosophy is that if all of your products are already in bags, then you are automatically ready for your next trip, so that is one less thing to worry about. I really like the Darlene Brush Bag because it holds all of my brushes (obviously) and then I keep extra make-up items in my individual clear steph&co. zip bags. For example, all eye shadows and mascara go in a medium zip, all blush and foundation in a small zip, and extra lips sticks and glosses in a small zip.

Makeup Bag: What beauty products are you loving right now?

Stephanie Johnson: I love items that work well but are easy to travel with like the Ted Gibson Hair Sheets, Kai roll-on perfume, Bigelow Mentha Lip Shine and Kiehl’s tinted moisturizer.

Makeup Bag: With a new baby, you’re probably lucky to get a daily shower in, but what do you have in the works for Stephanie Johnson? Any upcoming collections that you can tell us about?

Stephanie Johnson: Actually, our spring 2009 collections will launch in January and include new shapes like a compact make-up/brush case called the Gidget, a small pleated linen clutch called the Pamela, and we have brought back a great jewelry wallet called the Korey. We also have a bright batik print called Bora Bora, a colorful floral that really “pops” called Palm Beach (which is my hometown), a gold linen called Champagne, and a lavender linen called Provence. For our steph&co. line, which is our collection of clear and mesh bags, we have a multicolored stripe called Barcelona, a zebra stripe trimmed in orange called Mozambique, and a mesh collection with a giraffe pattern trimmed in lime, called Malawi (a portion of the proceeds for this collection will be donated to an orphan care initiative called Raising Malawi

Makeup Bag: I have teenage daughters that have tons of sleepovers and out-of-town trips for sports— I also have a 6 year old that likes her own cosmetics bag for her toothbrush/toothpaste, lotion and hair ties when we travel. Do you have any plans for age-specific collections or patterns? I think they’d be a hit (at least in my household!)

Stephanie Johnson: Since having my baby, I certainly have been inspired to do other lines geared toward a much younger demographic, and that is another great idea. I also think that our steph&co. line, which includes clear and mesh bags, is well suited to younger people (who like to think they are older than they really are) because the colors and patterns are whimsical and bright and still have the “fun” details like bamboo zipper pulls that appeal to teenagers – and moms too.

Makeup Bag: Being a frequent traveler, would you share some travel tips (outside of packing toiletries) for the upcoming holiday travel season?

Stephanie Johnson: Here are some of my best tips that can hopefully help during travel season:
For Carry-On:

· Always stay well hydrated and bring your own empty water bottle on the plane and have the flight attendants refill it.

· Add 1 tablespoon of chlorophyll to water to help with circulation.

· Bring a pashmina to replace the airline blanket; it is warmer and more hygienic.

· Wear Thorlo socks to protect feet while going through security, or pack them to stay warm during flight.

· If you wear contacts, try to fly without them and only put them in when landing.

· Take Airborne prior to your trip to build immunity and pack more “just in case.”

· Remember Shout Swipes for in-flight spills.

· For relaxation, try Bose noise-canceling earphones and an eye mask.

For the Suitcase:

· Pack the items you will use first on top so they are immediately accessible.

· Place toiletry bottles upright in a cosmetic bag, then slightly loosen the cap, and don’t fill to the very top. (Pressure in the plane may force contents to expand and overflow.)

· Place scented dryer sheets between clothing.

· Dry-clean good clothes and have them stuffed with tissue paper prior to packing.

· Pack a travel-size bottle of The Laundress Crease Release for extra wrinkle removing.

· Try shoe, lingerie and laundry bags from Anna Moi for extra orderliness.


I put the popular Stephanie Johnson ML Traveler to the the test and I have to admit, being organized feels really good:

This is the Kyoto print ML Traveler. The print is so sweet and the vinyl makes it easy to wipe clean.

Inside there are two removable mesh pouches and one removable plastic pouch.

The removable pouches make finding products easy and can be unsnapped and thrown into my purse for essentials on the go.

The inside zip pocket comes with a small mirror and is perfect for eyeliner pencils and other slim objects.

I’ve put all my liquid items (foundation, fragrance, lip gloss) in this removable plastic pouch for easy access through airport security.

Now that I’m on my way to being organized, I’ll be adding the Darlene Deluxe Brush Case, for makeup brushes, and the Martha Ultimate Briefcase, for toiletries, to my wish list.

I can’t wait for my next trip!

You can find Stephanie Johnson bags at fine retailers nationwide and online at

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  • Great post! I love SJ makeup bags, they’re so cute and durable.

  • I love that print. My bags are fabric, but really pretty. I will definitely take some of this advice.

  • Great interview – she sounds fabulous! I really love being organized – but I always have to pack a special bag or two for traveling. I really miss the good old days when I could pack it all in my carry on:(

    And I fear palettes or other dry items cracking – so I always bring those with me. I cracked the wheat in my Stila summer palette over a 4th of July trip – a TSA casualty I guess.

  • Thanks, that was a very interesting read.


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