13 Top Tools and Hairstyles for Traveling with Natural Hair

by Sojourner
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Where are all my Black women traveling with natural hair?!

Both the Black travel movement and the natural hair movement for Black women have been on the rise. We love to see it! However, many Black women often worry about taking care of their hair as they travel.

I’m here to ease any concerns!

As I traveled to Spain, Morocco, Portugal, the UK, and Italy during my study abroad experience, I wore box braids. When I moved to Spain post-graduation and traveled everywhere from Belgium to Greece, I brought my own Marley hair to install it every month. When I hike around Wisconsin, I do a curly updo with a scarf, and on vacation in Costa Rica, I also installed Marley twists. So believe me – I’ve been there and know what I’m talking about.

Through all that traveling with natural hair, type 4C if you want to get specific, I’ve acquired key tools, tips, and hairstyles to help you. Not all destinations have beauty supply stores. Therefore, we have to be prepared. Black women: this post is for us, by us! Let’s dig into what you need to know.

Tools to Pack for Black Women Traveling with Natural Hair

Satin headscarf

Apart from the more stylish headscarves, you need to pack your satin headscarf! Hotels, hostels, and even Airbnbs often do not have a satin pillowcase. You can either bring your own satin pillowcase or go with the satin headscarf. It’s really based on convenience and if you want to wash that pillowcase throughout the trip. 

Headscarves and headwraps

In addition to bringing that satin bonnet, consider investing in good headscarves. These come in handy as you are traveling and don’t have time to style your fro. I also think they are a great way to add a pop of color to your look. My favorite website to order mine is The Wrap Life. They have so many styles, colors, and fabric textures to choose from. Their headscarves are also ideal for a cute updo (more on that below), and they have

Headwraps are also great for when your roots need to be refreshed or if you’re in a rush. I always pack one or two just in case! YouTube is your best friend when looking up ways to style them. Sites, such as The Wrap Life mentioned above, also have head wrapping videos using their products. However, their videos are great headwrap inspiration, even if you don’t buy from them.

Flexi rods and/or perm rods

For Black women who decide to travel with their afros out, try a regular twist out and curl the ends. This process gives you a curly fro with a lot of bounce. To make this curly fro work, pack your flexi rods and/or perm rods. As someone with 4c hair, I can get a few days with this look without retwisting my hair. I generally wear it out the first day or two, then put it into a headscarf as a half-up, half-down look. How many flexi rods or perm rods you bring will depend on the length of your hair and the size of the twists.  

Aluminum foil

If you know, you know right? Well, if you don’t, here’s a pro tip. To curl the ends of your Marley twists, you roll some aluminum foil horizontally. You are pretty much mimicking the shape of flexi rods or perm rods. It’s a tip that comes in handy if you forget your actual perm rods or flexi rods too. Additionally, if you want to save them, bring a reusable travel-size bag to put them in. That way, you can carry them with you after only making them once. 

Weave, extensions, all that

Not every destination will have a beauty supply store! Before a trip, you’ll need to have the weave with you. This is the only way to guarantee you’ll have the brand and type of weave you want. If there are certain styles you want to rock, be sure to install the hair you need into your head first. You can also pack it if you are living abroad long term to change styles. If you travel for leisure with natural hair for a few weeks, I suggest just sticking with one style. 

In my experience, if you do need weave of any kind abroad, find the Black people who live there. Chances are they know someone who knows someone. Or, they can point you in the direction of a beauty supply store in the area. However, again, packing what you need is key to a more enjoyable adventure. 

Travel-size hair products

Key phrase: travel-size! Do not pack that huge container of deep conditioner and think you’re getting through customs. Make sure to bring the travel-size version of all products. Or, you can buy travel-size containers and transfer the product. Just see if they’re marked with how much the container holds. If not, it can be confiscated by the TSA. Be sure to follow the airport guidelines. Therefore, there is a chance some things you may have to sacrifice and buy at the destination when you arrive. Also, pack your essentials in your carry-on just in case your luggage gets lost.

Bobby pins, hair ties, and other hair clips

Yes, we have to remember the little things! Given that bobby pins have multiple uses for our hair, it’s always good to have some on hand. I suggest carrying your smaller hair items in a small, travel-size pouch. That way, you can have a hair travel pack as you’re sight-seeing and be prepared to switch it up at any moment. For travelers on more long-term trips, bringing the hair clips you use for wash day is best. The style you want may not be sold in-country. 

Hairstyles for Black Women Traveling with Natural Hair

Marley twists

This is my go-to! I love a good install of Marley twists for any adventure. They are easy to put in and take out. The usability makes them an ideal hairstyle for Black women traveling with natural hair. Marley twists are great if you are swimming or super active on your trip too. I learned how to do mine on YouTube. Marley twists can be for short-term or long-term traveling. Consider switching it up with the colors to make them more fun! I wore purple Marley twists in Mexico, light brown ones in Costa Rica, and red ones in Germany. Travel is all about adventure so do the same with your natural hair.  

Box braids

If Marley twists aren’t for you, try box braids! They have a similar purpose and are also great for more active adventures. Whether you’re swimming in Jamaica or hustling around the cobblestone streets of Spain, box braids are extremely versatile. You can put them up in a bun, a ponytail, or even use one of the headscarves you packed. Similar to Marley twists, you can switch up the colors and have some fun with them.

Updos with headscarves and headwraps 

Put those headscarves to work! Updos are great if you’re planning a warm, beach vacation. In hot and humid destinations, consider styling Marley twists or box braids up and off your neck. For those wearing their fro, once that twist out or braid out gets old, consider an updo. You can headscarf it with those bobby pins you packed or pull it into a puff if you brought an elastic. 

Plus, updos with headscarves are also perfect for my outdoor adventure travelers. I personally use bobby pins to pull the front of my curly fro down to have a curly bang. Then I leave the rest up and hanging through the top of the scarf. Just remember to tie the scarf tight enough to hold the style in place, but not too tight.  

Turban styles with headscarves and headwraps

See, this is why packing those headscarves is so handy – they’re so versatile! While updos are one way to wear headscarves, the turban style is another to try. Full turban styles are ideal if you are in a rush to the airport or don’t want to deal with a fuzzy or puffy afro. No one wants to worry about their hair while hiking in the Costa Rican rainforest! Be mindful that if you fully cover your hair, they will most definitely pat it. But honestly, they would do this with any Black person traveling with natural hair or hairstyle that’s not Eurocentric.   

Afros

While some people want to protective style their natural hair on vacation, others want their fros to shine. And there is nothing wrong with wanting your fro to be free! Just be sure you have the tools and products you’ll need to maintain it while you travel. This means bringing those travel-size essentials mentioned above. Another suggestion is to embrace the frizz! The humidity and climate change are based on your destination. 

Crochet hairstyles

Of all the hairstyles mentioned in this post, crochet styles are the only ones I haven’t tried. However, I have friends that live by them on their travels. Comparable to box braids and Marley twists, they can be installed and last for at least a month. This durability makes it an ideal style for long-term travelers who don’t want to fuss over their hair. If you are going to install and maintain them yourself, remember to bring your own hook and weave.

Do not let anyone tell Black women travelers can’t see the world with natural hair! That’s foolish. There are so many ways we can style our hair. And to be honest, this isn’t even an exhaustive list. Wearing your natural hair on vacation is possible if you plan before you go or bring what you need. However, you may have to learn a few new Black natural hairstyles yourself if you live abroad long-term. Nevertheless, the experience will be worth every detangle and install. Good luck sis!

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