Kathryn Lamoreux is an English teacher who loves all things creative, including fashion, hair, and makeup.
Whenever I travel, I try to pack light, which means that even as a makeup lover, I want to bring just one or two eye shadow palettes that fit in the palm of my hand. Here are a few palettes that I like bringing with me on vacations, family visits, and road trips, with an emphasis on practical selections that offer a lot of variety in a small package—preferably with a mirror and brush included!
Top 6 Travel Eye Shadow Palettes: Little Packages, Big Possibilities
- Milani Everyday Eyes in Must Have Naturals
- Too Faced Natural Eyes Neutral Eye Shadow Palette
- Wet N Wild Color Icon Eight Pan Palette in Comfort Zone
- Bare Minerals READY Eye Shadow 8.0 in The Sexy Neutrals
- Tarte Make Believe in Yourself Eye and Cheek Palette
- Tarte Double Duty Beauty Palette in Don't Quit Your Daydream
1. The Best Drugstore Basics: Milani Everyday Eyes in Must Have Naturals
At $11, the Milani Everyday Eyes palette is pricey for drugstore makeup but worth every penny. It contains smooth, high-quality shadows in every shade you need to create basic looks, including two shimmery highlights (one with a beige undertone and one with a pink undertone), a transition shade, a shimmery taupe, a cool matte dark brown, and a true matte black. The colors are all pigmented and easily blendable, and they come packaged in a gold case that looks almost high end, along with a serviceable double-ended brush. For beginners, the back of the packaging also features suggestions about where to use each shade on your eye.
Although this palette works great on its own, it also makes a great supplementary palette to accompany palettes that lack a good transition, liner, or highlight shade. An example that immediately comes to mind is the Tarte Make Believe in Yourself -palette, which is also mentioned on this list. The basics in the Must Have Naturals palette, especially the light brown transition shade and the dark brown and black defining shades, complement the rainbow of shimmers in the Tarte palette very nicely, making it easy for you to create a complete look.
Neutral to cool-toned basics not your style? The palette comes in seven other color ranges as well, including a slightly warmer, more shimmery option (02 Bare Necessities), a smoky blue option (03 Smoky Essentials), an assortment of purples (04 Plum Basics), a warm terracotta version (05 Earthy Elements), and a bright, colorful option (06 Vital Brights). New to the range are 07 Matte Basics and 08 Must Have Metallics. From the looks of Matte Basics, it may give Urban Decay's Naked Basics travel palettes a run for their money!
Perfect for: Someone seeking a basic set of high-quality travel eye shadows on a budget. You might not be getting variety, but you are getting everything you need to easily put together a great, polished look for every day of your trip. Plus, the included brush means one less thing to pack.
Swatches From Milani Must Have Naturals
2. The Best High-End Basics: Too Faced Natural Eyes Neutral Eye Shadow Palette
A cult classic, this nine-pan set features a variety of matte and shimmer shades, including a matte creamy white (Heaven), a shimmery light pink highlight (Satin Sheets), a matte light tan transition shade (Nudie), a matte light brown (Cashmere Bunny), a shimmery dusty rose (Push-Up), a shimmery soft gold (Honey Pot), a matte deep chocolate brown (Sexpresso), a shimmery grayish brown (Erotica), and a medium chocolate brown with gold sparkles (Chocolate Martini). With the possible exception of Heaven, the colors are all pigmented, and they apply smoothly, too.
On my last vacation, I took this palette with me, and I loved the variety of options it gave me. Push-Up was my go-to lid color, but it was easy to switch things up by using the shimmery gold, Honey Pot, or the lighter pink, Satin Sheets, instead. Nudie and Cashmere Bunny both make great crease colors on my skin tone, and the shimmery browns, Erotica and Chocolate Martini are fabulous for deepening out the outer corner of the eye for a smokier nighttime look. Although this palette doesn’t have a matte black, I wear dark brown eyeliner pretty often, so I just tossed an angled liner brush in my bag and used Sexpresso as my eyeliner every day. If you prefer using a pencil, liquid, or gel liner, you can also use Sexpresso to set your liner, smoke it out, or deepen the outer corner and crease.
While the palette does not come with a brush, it does include a small mirror for application on the go. The metal packaging is also durable enough to pack with confidence, and the magnetic closure is firm and secure.
Perfect for: Someone who loves their shimmers but wants all of the elements needed to create a complete look in one palette. This palette provides enough variety of shimmers to create looks that are either natural or smoky, rosy or golden, soft matte tan or dramatic shimmery brown. Use the matte white as a highlight, the matte light browns as transition shades, or the matte dark brown as a liner to complete your look.
Swatches From Too Faced Natural Eyes
3. The Best Drugstore Shimmers: Wet N Wild Color Icon Eight Pan Palette in Comfort Zone
Another cult classic, Wet N Wild's Comfort Zone palette contains a variety of shimmers in basic browns, along with a warm copper, a light yellow, a silvery gray green, a vivid leafy green, and a warm reddish brown and blue duochrome, which is definitely the most unique shade in the palette. Every shade packs a super-pigmented shimmery punch, applying better than many high-end shadows. This is especially true for the leafy green and the brown and blue duo-chrome, both of which are absolutely stunning, either swatched or on the eyes.
Although matte lovers might not want to pack just this palette for travel, the Comfort Zone palette gives you everything you need to create both basic and fun looks while you're traveling. I like to use an angled brush to apply the dark brown shades as liners, with a lighter shimmer shade popped onto my lid. Unlike the earlier palettes on this list, Comfort Zone contains a few pops of color, including a green and a bright copper, but the overall color range is, as the title suggests, comfortably neutral, consisting mostly of browns and beiges.
Unfortunately, this palette does not come with a mirror, and the included applicators are low quality, including a tiny sponge applicator and an equally tiny, rough and stiff brush. If you pack this palette, be sure to toss in your own brushes and a mirror with it. Also, be sure to pack carefully, as the packaging on this set is more fragile than the other selections on this list. With the price tag under $5 for these gorgeous shadows, minor failings like cheap packaging are to be expected. However, with the money you've saved buying this instead of more expensive comparable shadows, you can go out and buy a decent set of brushes and still end up getting one heck of a bargain.
Perfect for: Someone on a budget, or anyone who loves pigmented shimmers in neutral and earthy tones, as long as you don't mind packing your own mirror and eye shadow brushes.
Swatches From Wet N Wild Comfort Zone
4. The Best High-End Shimmers: Bare Minerals READY Eye Shadow 8.0 in The Sexy Neutrals
This Bare Minerals eyeshadow palette was my very first high-end palette, and I was so impressed by how buttery and pigmented the shimmer shades were. This palette includes a shimmery taupe (Hot Commodity), rose gold (In the Buff), and dusty rose (Bare Skin) to die for. The other colors are also high quality, with a buttery texture and easy application. They include a light neutral shimmer (Nude Beach), a matte beige (Natural), pale pink (Pure), and cream (celebrate), and a very deep brown (Perspective). The palette also contains a small double-ended eye shadow brush, with one dense side for packing on color and another narrow side for lining or smoking out liner. Since the brush is so tiny, it works well for detailed application of eye shadow. Other nice bonuses include a large, high-quality mirror and sleek, simple rose gold packaging. The fact that the mirror stands up on its own makes on-the-go application as easy as possible.
In the swatches below, you may notice that some of the lighter mattes are difficult to see when swatched on fair skin. However, these matte shades can be nice for setting eye shadow primer, highlighting the brow bone, or blending out the edges of darker shades. I also imagine that these shades would show up much more dramatically on darker or more olive-toned skin.
For the same high-quality formula in a different color range, you can also try Bare Minerals' other eight pan palettes, the cooler toned Posh Neutrals, and the grayer toned Power Neutrals. Posh Neutrals adds a lavender, purple, and blue to an otherwise neutral color range, and Power Neutrals includes a range of grays, taupes, and a yellowy beige.
Perfect for: The chic minimalist. This is a high-quality set with everything you need to create a variety of natural or glam looks, including the mirror and brush.
Swatches From Bare Minerals The Sexy Neutrals
5. The Best Colorful Option: Tarte Make Believe in Yourself Eye and Cheek Palette
Definitely the most fun palette on this list, Tarte's Make Believe in Yourself is filled with nine beautiful shimmers and one pinkish-brown matte transition shade. The shimmers include several shades of blue, purple, green, brown, and coral. I like to use my fingers to apply the colors to my lids since this results in the best pigmentation. However, when applied with a brush, the colors go on sheer and shimmery and can be built up for a stronger effect. Worn alone, they can give you some fun, colorful shimmer, or you can add a darker crease color, liner, and highlight for a full shimmery smoky-eyed look.
To supplement the shimmer shades, the included matte color, Myth, can be used as a base or transition shade, but I like to add another palette to the mix so that I can use a matte highlight and a darker shade for liner. The Milani Must Have Naturals palette works really well for this. With a small, simple palette of basics, this palette is a great way to create a variety of colorful, extra shimmery looks on the go.
The palette comes in a round, gold compact about the size of an adult woman's hand, with a beautiful pink, purple, and blue watercolor design on the lid. It contains a sizable mirror and a white highlight shade in the middle of the ten eye shadows—all of which smell like heavenly vanilla. You’ll have to pack your own brushes with this set. I would recommend a densely bristled eyeshadow brush for picking up the eyeshadows, which can be a bit difficult to do if you want intense color, and a larger brush for highlighting with, such as a fan brush or a setting brush.
Perfect for: Lovers of sparkle and color who don't mind tossing another palette into their bag for mattes and neutrals.
Swatches From Tarte Make Believe in Yourself
6. Best Smelling Travel Palette: Tarte Double Duty Beauty Palette in Don't Quit Your Daydream
Since the Tarte Make Believe in Yourself palette also smells of delicious vanilla bean, it may be cheating to include a second vanilla Tarte palette under the category of "Best Smelling," but I couldn't resist including this adorably packaged palette of basics with a knock-your-socks-off gold (Boss Lady), a gorgeous metallic coral (Strive), and one of the most pigmented light matte shades to feature on this list (Rock On).
If you're a fan of warm pinks and browns, enjoy working with metallics, and like to have a variety of matte and shimmery highlighting shades on hand, then Don't Quit Your Daydream is the travel palette for you. True to the name, this palette is mostly filled with lighter colors and, therefore, best for daytime looks, although the shimmery shades can be combined with the dark brown (Werk) in the crease and outer corner for a smokier nighttime look.
In addition to seven pigmented warm neutral shadow shades (three matte and four shimmer), the palette contains a sheer creamy yellow highlight (Shine On) in a bigger pan than the others, which will allow for more regular use over a larger area of the face, such as cheekbones, the bridge of the nose, or the cupid’s bow. It also features a full-sized mirror for easy application on the go, although you’ll have to prop this up yourself, as the palette does not stay open unless it’s held that way. There is not an included brush, so you’ll want to pack some eyeshadow brushes as well. I recommend a dense one for packing on color, a fluffy one for blending, and an angled brush for applying liner.
Perfect for: Anyone who loves a warm, natural look—and golds that packs a real metallic, pigmented punch!