Updated August 28, 2022.
“The straight-hair girls, they all want curls
And the brunettes wanna be blonde…” –Sara Evans, “I Keep Looking”
Isn’t it true? We all want what we don’t have. Hair is one of those things we don’t get to choose for ourselves, making it one of the more frustrating things in life! I hated my curls until I was about 12 because I didn’t know how to take care of them. My poor mom always had stick-straight hair, so she didn’t know what to do with it either. But once I figured out you’re not supposed to brush curly hair, wash it every day, or let anyone without their own curls EVER cut your curls, things started to fall into place!
My hair has gone through crazy changes over the years, from tight kinky curls to ringlet curls to waves, to almost completely straight! And I’ve heard all kind of stories of hair changing from straight to wavy to curly and vice-versa because of hormonal changes as a teenager, pregnancy, and my biggest change actually happened because of anesthesia used for my two foot surgeries! I’ve cried more tears over my hair than anything else in my life! Curly girls, you know the struggle.
With all the craziness of curly hair, travel can definitely throw a wrench in an already complicated hair situation! Not to worry, though, because I’ve got you covered with my tried-and-true tips, tricks, and curly hair hacks for traveling with those beautiful curls!
Know What Works for Your Curls
Because every curly head is different, we won’t all be able to use the same products with the same results. I’ve tried gel, cream, mousse, foam, wax, Curly Girl, Deva Curl, dry cuts, wet cuts, straightening and then cutting, foam rollers, finger curls… you name it, I’ve probably tried it! What has worked for me over the years has changed, and it probably has for you, too. So be willing to try new things when your hair needs a change, but once you know what’s working, use it with confidence!
Tip for Travel: Test out new products for a few days at home first, instead of taking something new on travel. If it doesn’t work like you’re expecting, it’s better to know that before you travel. Always pack products that you know will work!
Right-size Your Product Load
Whether your goal is to pack light or not, packing less is always a good idea: less to remember, less to lug around, less mess to be made if it leaks in your luggage, and less to forget at the hotel when you come home! Less is more, girl friend. I encourage you to cut it down to a maximum of three products. For me, the max is conditioner, gel, and foam. But I can also make it with just conditioner and mousse if I need to go lighter!
One of the best ways to get a handle on your curls and use less product is to get the right cut. Whether that’s a Deva Curl cut, Ouidad cut, layered cut, or something else, the right cut will make a world of difference. For me, the Ouidad method actually brought my curls back to life after the anesthesia made it straight! But it’s not right for every curl, so be willing to try a few things! Google “curly hair expert in _____” and fill in your hometown or the largest city nearby to see if there are some options you haven’t thought of yet.
Trip for Travel: I know it’s hard to “break up” with your stylist, but if you’re not happy with your cut every time or if they don’t seem to be listening to what you want, make the change! Talk to your stylist about what you want, what you struggle with, how your hair may have changed recently, and be very clear about what you want! I recommend a low-maintenance cut that can look great with just a few products and an air-dry when you’re on travel!
The one product that has always been there for me, always been my curls’ saving grace… is conditioner. I can’t shampoo every day because it just dries out my hair too much. I usually wash once a week or as needed, but I condition everyday! It keeps my hair happy, but in a pinch I know I can also use it as a leave-in product just in case I forget or run out of mousse, gel, or foam.
Ouidad’s Advanced Climate Control Conditioner works really well for me. It’s on the pricier side, but you don’t have to use very much, so it lasts quite a long time. What conditioner works for you? Please share your secret in the comments section!
Solid Natural Options
The solid hair product people have very recently come out with a solid shampoo and conditioner bar made with shea butter and argan oil, and I am loving it! These are fantastic natural options, and because they’re solid, you never have to worry about them taking up space in your TSA liquids bag.
Tip for Travel: Definitely bring your own conditioner instead of relying on the hotel’s brand. Get a good refillable travel-size bottle and make sure it’s topped up before every trip!
Pick and Choose the Right Products
My go-to products are Frizz-ease mousse on its own, or a combination of Ouidad Advance Climate Control Heat and Humidity Gel and Ouidad PlayCurl Volumizing Foam. If I want to keep it as simple as possible, I take my travel-size mousse. If I want the whole polished look and I have the room in my liquids bag, I leave the mousse at home and take the gel and the foam! So, use the products that work for you. If they don’t come in travel size, bring them in your own travel-size container.
Tip for Travel: The hardest travel size container to find is a foam dispenser, so if that’s what you use, here you go!
A Note about Blow Dryers
Okay, curly girls know that heat is the enemy, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil. I definitely always recommend going without heat styling as a rule of thumb, but if you think you need it to feel your most confident, be smart about the products you choose.
Converting to the Right Voltage
Remember that international power outlets can have a different voltage, so if you’re traveling internationally, make sure you bring a converter, not just an adaptor. Otherwise you could have an explosion on your hands and in your hair. Not good.
This one has both:
If you need to bring your own blow dryer because you’re not sure what will be provided at your accommodation, this is a good option for travel. It’s flatter than your usual blow dryer, making it easy to pack. It also has a cool setting and a cold blast setting to minimize heat exposure.
If you want to make sure you have a diffuser, go with this one! It is silicone, and not only does it stretch over most standard blow dryers, it also collapses down for easy packing!
Don’t Be Afraid to Try Dry Shampoo
I resisted dry shampoo for a long time. Brush it out? Are you kidding me?! But hear me out! Sometimes it’s fun to wear my hair straight. I have a great blow drying hairbrush that I use to straighten my hair in just 10 minutes or less (use the warm or cool setting, never hot!), and with dry shampoo, I can make it last a whole week—even through workouts! You’ll just need a hairbrush, dry shampoo, and shower cap to make it happen. I never take the brush-dryer with me; I just keep my hair straight as many days as I can (or want) with dry shampoo and my travel brush, and then go curly from there!
Tip for Travel: If you know you’ll be in a dry climate or you just want to try something different, use dry shampoo to make your straight locks last a few days!
Don’t Let Your Hair Stop You
Okay, truth time: Who’s guilty of arranging their day to accommodate their hair? Confession: I have! But I never let my hair stop me from doing things I can’t do anywhere else or things that make me happy on my travels. For instance, everything I read about going to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland said to never, under any circumstances, get my hair in the Lagoon’s water. So I put extra conditioner in my hair, piled it up and secured it on top of my head, and hoped for the best.
But things happen, and wouldn’t you know, I slipped and fully submerged myself—and my hair—under the water! And you know what? It wasn’t the end of the world! My hair didn’t feel like straw later, it didn’t fall out, it didn’t break, it didn’t turn green, etc. In fact, I think the conditioner protected it well enough because my hair actually felt softer when I washed it after our time at the Blue Lagoon! So, don’t let your hair stop you from doing the things you want to do!
Tip for Travel: Curly girls feel very strongly about their hair as part of their identity, so it makes sense that we want to protect it! But don’t let your hair keep you from experiencing the places you visit!
Hair Scarves and Scrunchies are IN!
And the curly girls are here for it! Scrunchies are so much easier on your curls than regular hair ties, and they can easily become an accessory, not just a hair tie. And scarves—oh the scarves! I love tying them in a bow to dress up a ponytail, especially after a long flight or a long day of traveling.
We all know that curls are a one-shot wonder: for the most part, if we want to change our hair style, we just have to wet and reset—there’s no brushing it out and starting over again! So we have to work with what we’ve got between showers. So scrunchies, scarves, barrettes, headbands, and the like are all fair game!
Tip for Travel: Pack a few hair scarves or other light hair accessories for days or evenings when you need a bit of flair!
One of the most complicated times of year to travel with curly hair is winter. Curls get serious and unfixable hat hair, but it’s so important to keep your ears and/or head covered and warm outside in the cold! I have found two solutions that I absolutely love and recommend to you!
The “Messy Bun Beanie” is perfect for hiking or a casual day outside because you can still show off your curls while keeping your head warm. And “Ear Bags” are a real good hair day saver for days when you want to wear your hair down or need to keep it nice. They slip right over your ears and don’t give you hat hair, fuzzy hair, or put a weird bump in your hair like regular ear muffs. I love mine!
Tip for Travel: These are so light and packable, and the ear bags can literally just slip in and out of your purse or pocket as needed.
Okay, curly girls! Tell me your stories! Tell me your secrets! Straight-haired girls, comment with your own travel hair woes!
Need more travel tips, hacks, and essential information? Check out my Travel Tips Page for all of it!
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