The Unusual Way Rick Steves Packs Toothpaste Instead Of Buying New Travel-Sized Tubes

Toothpaste is one of the few necessities travel expert Rick Steves recommends bringing no matter where you're traveling, because many hotels don't provide it. With that being said, it can also be annoying and expensive to constantly be buying travel-size tubes that are less than 3.4 fluid ounces to follow TSA rules. The travel expert and writer also doesn't believe in checking a bag, so that rules out bringing a full-size tube — which is about 3 ounces over the TSA regulation limit. You also have the option of buying toothpaste at your destination, but why do that when you can listen to Steves' advice instead?

Luckily for travelers, Steves has shared a clever way to avoid repeatedly buying travel-size tubes of toothpaste or full-size tubes at the destination with this travel hack. Steves shared in a blog post that he reuses one TSA-approved tube by squeezing toothpaste from a larger tube into the smaller one. Some of his readers also took the opportunity to write about some of the clever ways they've come up with to pack toothpaste and shared some alternatives to a traditional tube.

Rick Steves' toothpaste traveling hack

The travel television personality shared his short and sweet "crazy packing tip" that he has even come up with a name for — docking. "I've developed a way to 'dock' two tubes of toothpaste (simply holding them together, mouth-to-mouth, really tightly) in order to squeeze paste from one tube into the other," he wrote. 

This trick usually means he has enough toothpaste for his travels without having to stock up on a new tube once he arrives. While it may sound like a cheap item to bring each time, the cost adds up quickly for people like Steves who are quite the frequent world travelers. 

One of Steves' readers took the advice and even suggested via a travel forum on his site that travelers should open the smaller tube and squeeze it slowly until the toothpaste is at the opening of the tube, so they can get the air totally out of the travel-size tube and make the most of the refill. Steves didn't elaborate on how many tubes he brings per trip, but other users suggest bringing around one per week of travel, depending on how much toothpaste someone uses, of course. Most dentists recommend a pea-sized amount, so if you adhere to this you can make the most of your travel tube. Steves never forgets to pack other toiletry essentials for a trip –– including a toothbrush, floss, sunscreen, deodorant, a hairbrush, facial cleanser, and a razor.

Other ways to efficiently pack toothpaste

A few of Steves' readers suggested even more frugal hacks that can save travelers even more money. To score a free travel-sized toothpaste vessel, you can reuse the tube your dentist hands out at the end of a visit. Other users pointed out that travelers could start out with a cheaper small toothpaste tube from a dollar store. 

On the opposite end of that spectrum, while more expensive, there are refillable toothpaste tubes available for purchase that make Steves' hack easier. The TSA-approved tubes are designed to open at the opposite end of the mouth, so people can fill it up with their preferred toothpaste before folding the flap down and sliding a tight clip over the end of it. Some brands even offer different sizes that are all less than 3.4 fluid ounces, so you can pack extra light for a weekend away, or maximize your toothpaste allowance for a multi-week trip.

If you're really looking to lighten your load, there are some traditional toothpaste alternatives, like chewable toothpaste tablets. The tablets have grown in popularity because they are eco-friendly, easy to travel with, and lightweight. Most of the tablets have similar ingredients as traditional toothpaste, but they're used slightly differently since people bite down and chew a tablet with a wet brush. Whether you try Steves' clever "docking" technique or one of the other creative alternatives shared on his forum, there are lots of top tips for successfully packing light.