As someone with crazy curly hair, I have found many of the tips for traveling with curly hair not applicable to my own hair. I've asked some amazing ladies (+ one guy) with all kinds of curly hair for their tips for dealing with curly hair on vacation, the best curly hair products for them, and easy travel hairstyles for curly hair. This includes natural hairstyles for traveling as straightening your hair 24/7 is not good for it. I also include travel beauty tips for WOC, which is often not included in tips for curly hair. Thanks to my contributors for their fantastic tips for their recommendations for travel tips for curly hair and the best curly hair travel products.
Note: this post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information.
As a traveler with curly hair, I know the struggle of find in a good travel hairstyle for curly hair given the craziness that travel can bring: rain, humidity, water... However, as someone with thick frizzy hair somewhere closer to 3B/3C, I can tell you that it's tough to find curly hair travel hairstyles that are inclusive of women who don't have straight/slightly wavy hair. Unfortunately, straightening my hair every day is terrible for it, so I've struggled to find curly hair tips that work for me.
I've asked curly haired bloggers (who are majority WOC) with every consistency of curly hair to give their favorite easy travel hairstyle for curly hair, including vacation hairstyles for black hair, and the best travel hair products for curly hair.
(Sorry to those with straight hair, but you're not included here.)
Type 2 Curly Hair
Type 2 Curly Hair is slightly curvy and/or wavy. You might have an S shape close to your head. It is still prone to frizz.
Amy from TwoDrifters
My hair is an odd blend of wavy/curly. It usually "listens" when I straighten it, or curls up nicely with mousse and a diffuser. But when traveling, I do NOT have that kind of time!
My tip would be use a good styling creme /curl mousse after showering and then DON'T TOUCH THAT HAIR! (Put your curl mousse in a travel sized container to ensure you're safe to fly with it!) I usually just throw stuff in it and go, and embrace the natural texture. It can be fun to see how different climates affect my hair; I never know what I'm getting. I prefer to wash every other day and use dry shampoo on the off days. Seriously, whoever invented dry shampoo deserves a medal. This keeps my ends from getting too dry but minimizes the oil that seems to collect on the scalp hair.
Speaking of oily hair....whenever I have an overnight or long, long flight, I totally give up on keeping my hair looking cute. It seems to get especially oily and dirty in transit. However, I hate tossing my hair up into a ponytail.
My go to easy travel hairstyle that looks cute when I arrive: I do two braids and cross them over the crown of my head, a bit of a Heidi look. I keep them in place with bobby pins. It's a very cute look, virtually prevents my hair from moving an inch, and best of all, goes untouched by my hands. Once I arrive at my destination, I take down my hair and enjoy the fun crimped waves that result. Voila....beautiful upon landing. :)
Suzannah from The Veggie Passport
Curly or straight? That all important decision determines if I’ll be ready and out the door in 5 minutes, or 5 hours. My hair is long and thick. When I allow it dry naturally, I get nice loose curls, but I prefer my hair straight – which amounts to some serious time, effort and maintenance on the road.
This year, I was desperate to get some good shots of me and my luscious locks, looking out into the distance for Instagram, so, naturally, I had to have PERFECT straight hair, and this is what I did:
Step 1: Ultimately, you need a GOOD travel hair straightener if you want to straighten your hair. I went with the ghd Gold V Max Hair Styler, because the regular sized plates are just too damn small and time consuming for my hair.
Step 2: After applying heat defence, section your hair into manageable pieces. After each piece, spray a generous amount of Lee Stafford’s Dehumidifier spray, and then finish with any extra hold hairspray. Note: your hair might feel a little greasy at first, but I was amazed at how well it held and how well it tackled the intense humidity of Thailand and UAE.
Note from Karen: You don't need an expensive hair straightener for it to do the trick. I love my Remington Wet2Dry hair straightener for straightening difficult curly hair, which is only around $25. For hair straighteners, it's good to have a converter/adapter depending on where you're traveling as hair straighteners are prone to issues if you only have a basic adapter.
Jacob (from Wanderlustingk.com)
Yes, my husband! Perfect curls while traveling is also important for guys with long hair! For those days where he's just not feeling like having frizzy hair and is on the go, he swears by the three hairband ponytail (one at the top, one in the middle, and one towards the bottom) for keeping the frizz under control while hair dries. He's become a bun person after realizing how fantastic it is to keep your hair off the back of your neck while traveling in hot weather. His must: Extra hair ties.
Jacob is a big fan of ethical products that don't test on animals. He's been amazed by how much healthier his hair has become after using products with argan oil/not using an all-in-one shampoo. (Luckily, he has a wife who recommended changing his shampoo from an all-in-one to a shampoo and conditioner.) One additional note: if you have issues with dandruff while traveling, it's best to bring a small travel sized dandruff shampoo as the options where you're traveling may not work as effectively as what you have at home, as Jacob has learned.
Jacob's go to shampoo and conditioner for curly hair is from the Organix brand shampoo for frizzy hair with argan oil. When he's traveling, he carries his shampoo in travel sized containers. Showering often and conditioning well is an essential for him due to how bushy his hair gets when it's dry.
Type 3 Curly Hair
Type 3 Curly Hair includes lightly curled hair and very curly hair. The defining feature is springy soft curls.
Olga Marina from LatinasWhoTravel.com
Managing my curls and avoiding frizz while traveling is not always easy. I'm a Latina traveler with very curly hair (small, tight curls that also get dry easily). One of my biggest secrets is to find and get the right haircut for curly hair before I travel, especially when traveling for a longer period with curly hair. You don't want to risk finding a new person abroad to cut your hair, especially if you are in countries that can't understand or have experience with your type of hair.
I always carry a bottle of travel sized coconut oil and I typically freeze it. I use coconut oil for shine enhancement, moisturizing my hair, styling my curly hair while traveling, detangling, frizz control and deep conditioning treatment. Make sure that your coconut oil is TSA size compliant. I also carry a wide tooth comb to detangle my hair and a universal diffuser, that attaches to any hairdryer, to dry my curly hair faster. If all else fails (we've all had bad hair days), I just pick up my hair in a quick bun. I always carry a brush, pins, some spray or gel and hair ties.
Karen from Wanderlustingk (Me!)
This might shock my readers and friends, but I have very curly, frizzy hair (closer to 3B) and dealing with my curly hair while traveling has been a struggle. I am learning to be better about my curls, but I'm getting there.
I find that not washing your hair daily makes a huge difference for my hair (which is a bit oily) and it looks best on the second or third day. I also love dry shampoo. It is also a lot better for the health of your curly hair as it makes good hair last a lot longer and you can just spray/go if you're having a good hair day.
After a good hair day (with plopping [more below!], I often tie up my hair in a tight bun overnight, brush my fingers through it (a boar's head brush can make it too poofy), then just spray dry shampoo in it in the morning to be able to go in 5 minutes. I'm always shocked how many people still compliment me on my bed hair. Also, hats are very helpful if you want a photo on a bad hair day.
When I lived in Singapore, which has very high humidity, I worked hard to find the right curly products to just keep the frizz down as straightening it was almost useless as my hair would explode once I got outside.
The best product for curly hair in hot weather for me has been the John Frieda Frizz Ease Beyond Smooth Frizz serum. I've used it on a daily basis, which gave me big curls that also looked cute. (If you are into straightening your hair, it's good for dealing with the frizz.)
Be aware that if you're traveling with curly hair in countries where most people don't have curly hair, you need to bring your own curly hair products for travel. Finding good curly hair products abroad may be difficult and expensive (and just not work for your hair). I really struggled when I was in Singapore for this reason.
As mentioned by Olga, your haircut is important and I made the mistake of getting a hairstyle that looked better straight, not curly, so it's good to think what your hair will be like curly when getting it cut before your vacation. It was also a bit too short to tie up properly, which was a pain. If you're looking for an easy hairstyle for travel in hot climates, it's important that it does not touch the back of your neck when down and/or you can tie it up easily. Similarly, bangs are a terrible idea for people with poofy/frizzy hair while traveling (in my experience). It just looked like I had a big poof ball in front of my face. (No photos.)
Tips for dealing with curly hair in the rain... I'm kind of an expert after living in Amsterdam for dealing with the rain after biking in the rain a lot. It's best to tie your hair down using a scarf with keeping it tight on your head prior to going outside to compress the frizz and get inside ASAP.
For straightening, I swear by straightening my hair with a high quality travel straightener that gets very hot (I usually do about 400 degrees F) with only going once over my hair and giving my hair a pre-straightening treatment to prevent damage. I also swear by the Aussi 3 minute Miracle as an overnight treatment to help it heal. If you don't have much time to let your hair straightener cool off, I recommend using a towel to gently wipe it in every few seconds.
When I travel, I try to take time in between straightening my hair whenever possible to prevent damage and when you're having a long travel day: who cares what your hair looks like. That said, when I'm in humid environments for days on end, I love a good bun.
My tip for easy travel hair with not much work: PLOP your hair after getting out of the shower
You don't need to straighten your hair on vacation. I swear by a thing called plopping that you can watch in this short video (I've queued it up for you). As soon as you get out of the shower, you'll want to brush your hair, then flip your hair upside-down prior to wrapping it in a t-shirt to compress the frizz as it dries. You might need to keep your hair inside of the t-shirt for some hours (and bear the mocking of family members cough for how silly you look, but it works like magic on my curly, frizzy hair.
I usually use an old shirt, but if you're traveling, it might be good to carry a microfiber towel as you might not have an old shirt laying around and it's just good to have a microfiber towel. As soon as your hair is dry (check and don't fully unwrap the towel until it is), your hair will look curly, magical, and perfect until the humidity kicks in.
Paroma from Yrofthemonkey
I want to start off with these bold lines of "frizzy hair, don't care" but in all honesty, I so absolutely do. I have super curly hair, and not the good kind which is lustrous and can be tossed around with that sexy careless abandon, much like what those darned models do. I have extremely thick hair and as my curls metamorphose from tight ringlets right after a shower to loose, dry balls of frizz with every passing day, my head looks like an untended topiary where some little bird could easily lose her way.
So once the D-day of nightmarish bad hair day approaches, I put some styling product (I use Oribe hair styling shield) to get some moisture in those dry strands, comb them up into a top knot, tie it first to a pony tail, twist it into a bun and secure that with bobby pins. When my hair is of shorter length, I simply let it hang loose or just tie a simple pony tail near the nape of my neck to create the illusion of a low bun and pull out some curls from near the sides for a disheveled look (kind of like a glam bed head, with way more bed head and way less glam in the mix). I also wear chunky, colorful and bright drop earrings to take the attention away from the mess that is on top of my cranium and and that trick works when all else fails.
Click for Paroma's favorite product: Oribe hair styling shield. Be warned that it's a bit expensive, so you might want to consider the budget alternative of ALTERNA BAMBOO Smooth Pure Kendi Oil Pure Treatment Oil.
Gabby from Packs Light
Hey there, I'm Gabby and I'm a curly-headed traveler. I have what my fellow WOC would know as "3C" hair, meaning my hair has tight coils, and is not at all "loose" or "wavy. My hair type is often the most tempermental, and I feel like I'm always in an endless battle with both humidity and dryness! If I use too much product, I have crispy or greasy curls, and if I use too little all definition is lost and I'm left with frizzy, massive hair.
My hair does not do well with directly applying oils, but thrives with mayonnaises and lotiony conditioners. I'm carry-on only, so often this means trying a ton of different products in each country because I can't cart around my favorite conditioners in bag! So my tips is to KNOW YOUR INGREDIENTS. It took trial and error, but now I know products that are sulfate-free, contain shea butter, and avocado oil (very light), are my saving graces when on the road.
Type 4 Curly Hair
Type 4 hair ranges a lot in texture as it can be thin to course, however curls tend overall to be coily.
I've asked Eulanda, Annette, Briona, and Chelsea to go into their favorite natural hairstyles for traveling because everyone deserves to have fabulous curly hair while traveling. Keep reading for vacation hair routines for WOC and easy travel hairstyles for curly hair.
Eulanda Shead from Hey Dip Your Toes In
The popular saying 'curly hair, don't care' doesn't quite do it for me. I do care. A lot. My hair was first relaxed (chemically straightened) by my grandmother at the age of twelve. I went through the next seven years trying to make my hair (and mind) conform to what I saw was attractive in the mainstream media. The idea of embracing my natural hair texture never even crossed my mind until I started university.
The best I can ascertain is that by the time I reached the age of twenty, I was pretty fed up with slathering on the burning white cream, commonly referred to as 'creamy crack,' every two months. Additionally, being in a university atmosphere and taking thought provoking classes addressing the systemic racism present in the American media, was like rehab for my 'creamy crack' addiction.
These are the best hair products for Afro-textured hair curly hair while traveling (at least for me).
Washing: I use Beautiful textures 'Tangle Taming Shampoo' & their 'Tangle Taming Conditioner.' I've tried the whole wash my hair every day, and that definitely does not work for my hair texture. I co-wash (washing with conditioner only) and fully detangle every two weeks, and then do a full shampoo & conditioning wash with a deep condition once a month.
Deep Conditioning: I slather Cantu's Leave-in Conditioning Repair Cream through my hair, and separate it into four sections, which a roll, and pin into Bantu knots. I then put a shower cap over my head, and let it sit for thirty minutes. I sometimes use my blow dryer to gently blow over the cap. I condition and style as normal.
Daily upkeep: Before jumping in the shower, I spray my hair with Jane Carter Solution's 'quench' hydrator. It gives my curls a moisture boost and helps to detangle it when I run my fingers through it in the shower (using steam and wet hands). Every few days, I use Cantu's Leave-in Conditioning Repair Cream (with argan oil) to bring more definition and length to my curls. I put a dab on my fingers, and then pull it through my hair, stretching out the curls. I also alternate with the leave-in cream and swap it for Cantu's Coconut Curling Cream
Travel essentials for afro hair textures: I take three small travel sized containers that easily fit in my carry on allowance. I fill a small spray bottle with the 'quench' spray, and two small containers filled with Cantu leave-in conditioning cream and Repair7 Oil Elixer. If I'm going on long haul trips, I'll also take a travel sized container of the Beautiful Textures conditioner.
Fun stuff: I use Jane Carter Solution's 'Natural Twist Out Foam' for more defined styles like twist and braid outs.
Although I feel quite confident in my current hair regimen, I'm still learning what works best in various climates around the world when I travel. For instance, when I travelled to Iceland I had no clue what to do with my hair when I got in and out of the thermal baths. Let's just say, I had a new introduction into the effects of cold weather on wet afro hair. I'm grateful that I now have access to products that are created for my hair type. However, I'm more grateful for what the journey towards embracing my hair has taught me about patience, fortitude, and self-love.
Annette from FromAnnette
When I was younger I didn’t know how to manage my 4C hair, Coily Ziggly hair. The universal beauty standard tells women that long straight locks are more desirable than kinks and curls. So I remember getting my hair pressed and flat ironed as a little girl to achieve a more acceptable look.
After one bad perm, I gravitated towards natural hairstyles like braids and dreadlocks.
One of the best things about being a Black Woman is the opportunity to change up my look in a matter of minutes. From a mohawk to a fro and everything inbetween I just love switching up my look. And don’t even get me started on my wig collection!
Favorite easy hairstyle for traveling: Braids because of their flexibility. Braids are my bestie! I braid my own hair, so that’s a major plus. I like to swim and be active while I travel so braids are my best bet for the digital nomad lifestyle I’m currently living.
Briona from YouMeTravel
My hair type is mostly 4B with curls that have a lot of definition but it doesn't seem like it because I prefer really big hair and usually pick it out to elongate the strands. Sometimes I do twist outs, but I'm a lazy naturally curly girl who like to spritz and go.
I got my first chemical relaxer when I was in middle school just like most of my friends had. There was no more hair barrettes after this point. Instead, I embraced the straight look. I wore my hair relaxed until my sophomore year of college when I did the big chop. I allowed my hair to transition first, so that it wouldn't be such a drastic change but it still was.
Suddenly I'd gone from having the shoulder length hair I've had most of my life to rocking a short and coily tapered haircut. I loved it and the style forced me to find new angles when I took pictures. Almost three years later, my hair has grown tremendously and I'm a lazy natural now. My hair retains moisture well so I don't have to use oils or butters everyday to keep it healthy.
I opt for Jane Carters Leave In Conditioner to refresh my fro' in the morning and sleep with a satin pillow case to keep the moisture in my hair overnight. I wash once a week with SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Shampoo (when I travel I like to use a shampoo bar from Lush) deep condition with SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque.
Chelsea from That'sChelsea
Chelsea Williams is a wellness blogger based out of Washington, DC. She is the founder of ThatsChelsea.com, an "all things wellness" blog that encourages women to live a more mindful lifestyle through a plant-based diet and non-toxic cosmetics.
Chelsea has type 4C curly hair. When traveling, she prefers to wear her hair in its natural state as a curly fro or in a "pineapple", otherwise known as a high curly ponytail as she finds it difficult to keep her hair stretched while she is on the road. Some of her favorite products to use are:
Innersense Organics Hydrating Collection - Great for dry, coarse curls
Lux Naturals Passion Fruit Rose Whipped Shea Butter - Provides medium hold for twist outs and braid outs without any crunchiness or flaking
Coconut Oil by Conscious Coconut - Perfect for traveling as it's packaged in a convenient squeeze tube
Do you have curly hair? What's your go to travel style for curly hair?
Karen and Jacob. American expats and cat lovers from New York City and Kentucky who lived in Amsterdam.... Now in Paris with moving back to the Netherlands this month.
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