I stood there in my orange bikini, glaring at the Pacific waves rushing towards the shore, the salty water tangy on my tongue and lips. My skin, quickly drying in the Mexico sun, was speckled with bits of sand.
Ellie called out, “Ok, everyone, it’s time to go back to the house!”
As we all gathered up our shoes and shook out as much sand as possible, I groaned, thinking, “I have to get this sand and salt out of my hair tonight…”.
When the trip began, my hair was in a nice halo flat twist. After that day, it was in a low ponytail until my return flight a few days later.
I hadn’t brought any of my hair products…
If this has happened to you, then you’re not alone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worried about my natural hair while traveling. On that trip, I knew that I shouldn’t have gotten in the water, but it looked so fun!
That being said, I’ve put together some tips on traveling with natural hair.
Tip #1: Check the Weather Before Leaving
Knowing the weather of your destination will give you a good idea of the hairstyle that you should wear.
For summer climates, I recommend:
- Mini Twists
- Box braids
- High puff
- Low bun
- Halo twist/braid
- Twist/braid out (you will have to moisturize and re-twist or band your hair each night)
Since you’ll be outside and more likely to get sweaty, I would advise that you save some coins and hold off on the silk press.
There’s nothing worse than paying for a silk press and sweating it out the next day.
(or, if you’re like me, the moment you step out of the salon on a rainy day…)
For winter climates, I recommend:
- Box braids
- Crochet Braids
- Senegalese twists
- Jumbo Twists
- Silk press
- Mini twists
- Halo twist/braid
Besides the silk press, these styles will keep your hair nice and bundled up for the winter. You will need to care for your scalp, but it’s a lot easier than trying to keep your entire head from drying out.
Tip #2: Pack Your Products
Regardless of the season or hairstyle, your hair will get dry sometimes. Don’t neglect your tresses just because you’re on vacation.
Pack some travel sizes of your favorite moisturizer, oil, and a spray bottle at minimum. You want to be able to re-do your hair if need be, or at least borrow something from a friend.
To set yourself up for success, go to your nearest drugstore, Walmart, or Amazon to buy travel-sized bottles. You’ll want to do this anyway for your full-sized products like body wash, lotion, etc.
Even if you’re checking a bag, always bring travel-sizes because the airline could lose your checked luggage with your full-sized products.
Tip #3: Don’t Change Your Nightly Routine
If you’ve been to the YouTube school for natural hair care, then you know that “everybody” should wrap their hair in a silk/satin bonnet/scarf at night. Your routine shouldn’t change even when you’re traveling with natural hair.
Two tools that I use:
(About seven years ago, I purchased my satin bonnet from Flor Bella Boutique and it’s still going strong).
I use a slap cap for my plane rides because the air is so dry up there. If you happen to fall asleep every time like I do, then you want to protect your hair from rubbing up against the seat and your clothes.
Tip# 4: Decide If You Want To Swim On Vacation
Some people completely avoid swimming while traveling (or in general), but I don’t. Normally, I’m able to prepare by:
- Having my hair in braids or twists
- Wetting my hair before getting in the pool/ocean
Like I explained above, braids and twists make traveling with natural hair so much easier. They also allow you to take advantage of the hotel pool that you’re paying for!
Keep in mind that I would only recommend wetting your braids if they are about 3-4 weeks old. If you just got them done, then they will slip really bad (unless they’re knotless).
If you’re wearing your regular hair, then I recommend wetting it with regular water in the shower beforehand. Our hair is like a sponge and can only hold so much water at one time, so it won’t soak up as much pool/sea water.
I never recommend wearing your hair loose while swimming, because it will matt up! Of course, if you’re washing your hair afterward, then by all means…jump right in!
Tip #5: Avoid Washing Your Hair If Possible
If you’ve decided to wash your hair during a trip, then I have a few words of advice. If you’ve been swimming, then wash your hair asap to get the chlorine out and the moisture back in.
Washing your hair will be different depending on your location. Obviously, this isn’t true everywhere, but some places don’t offer steaming hot water. Or, if they do offer hot water, then it doesn’t last very long.
For example, the water in Mexico and Ghana was lukewarm and then gradually got colder within minutes. The climate is so hot that locals use the shower as a way to cool off.
Unless you like to wash your hair in ice-cold water, I would recommend avoiding having to wash your hair abroad.
Tip #6: Bring Extra Hair Accessories
You never know what you might want to do with your hair.
Maybe you want to pin up a few box braids to make a new hairstyle…
Maybe you want to re-do your halo twist/braid…
If this sounds like you, then I would advise that you bring:
- Hair ties
- Bobby pins
- Hair jewelry
- Turban/Scarf/slap cap
These are all small enough to fit into your suitcase or carry-on and useful if you need them.
Tip #7: Use the Hotel Hair Tools
If you’re staying in a hotel, then I would advise that you use their hairdryer and save space in your luggage.
Depending on your location, you could accidentally blow a fuse if your personal tools aren’t compatible with the hotel’s electrical system.
This is especially true for international travelers, because the power sockets change by country.
I would advise you to avoid using hair tools with a travel adapter, since it can quickly burn out.
Tip #8: Buy Natural Hair Products in Foreign Countries
Let’s say that you forget your hair products, or TSA confiscated them…
What are you going to do now?
Just remember black people are everywhere. This means that they most likely have access to natural hair products in some way.
When I needed hair products in Paris, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there’s a whole subculture that caters to Black people (don’t judge me).
I was able to find a hair store, buy my product, and learn about international natural hair brands like Les secrets de loly among others.
If you can’t find a hair store or something similar, then you can always get sulfate-free shampoo, moisturizing conditioner, and a bottle of oil from the grocery store.
A Note To Remember:
When you’re traveling with natural hair, people will stare and try to touch you if they aren’t familiar with Black people. Sometimes, people’s reactions stem from curiosity but others feel entitled to invade your personal space.
Conclusion: Traveling With Natural Hair
Traveling with natural hair shouldn’t feel like a chore. I know what it’s like to have a bad hair day in the middle of a great vacation. Following these tips can prevent other naturals from making the same mistakes.
For more travel tips, read the blog here.
Until next time,