travel tips curls

Whether it’s to indulge in culture and history, to laze around unapologetically or party ferociously, we all love to travel.

This week I returned from the trip of a lifetime: a journey across Central and South America. I stood in the shadows of Chichen Itza, trekked across mountains to Machu Picchu, cuddled too many llamas, got soaked with water at Iguassu Falls and stared at the power of Christ the Redeemer. The weather changed from hot to cold to rainy to sunny and back again as we made our way through almost a month of Mexico, Peru, Argentina and Brazil.

It was amazing.

However, holidays can come with some inconveniences, and for a person with curly hair the struggle is real. While it is tempting to pack everything in your curly hair routine, it simply isn’t practical.

So, I’ve put together some basic tips to help you prepare for your next lengthy holiday.

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Take mini bottles

Don’t settle for the shampoo and conditioner (well, sometimes there’s conditioner) provided by your accommodation. They can contain chemicals that are harsh on curls and, depending where you are, the ingredients may be written in a language you can’t read. These products are formulated for generic use by everyone, so if that is not the kind of thing you would use at home you needn’t start on your trip.

I tried each of the duos provided by our accommodation and most left my hair feeling rough and matted when wet. They also failed to provide any body or definition to my curls once dried. This is unhelpful when you are in changing climates and conditions that can be damaging to your curls.

It’s a good idea to take your trusted shampoo and conditioner with you. However, when you’re living out of a suitcase, less is more, so go small. Purchase some travel-sized bottles and fill them with your favourite showering products.

Still, be mindful of any hotel policies. I spent one night in the Amazon jungle at a beautiful lodge where the management requires guests to use the eco-friendly showering products provided, as they are gentle on the environment.

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Pick your all-rounder

Don’t waste room and weight in your luggage by packing all your styling products. Be realistic; when you’re on holiday you’re not going to care about all your fancy hair styles. So leave your 4 niche products at home and take the all-rounder: the product that conditions, detangles and defines.

This will be the product you can wear to the beach for deep conditioning, to clubs for definition and everything in-between.

Avoid choosing a product that creates lots of build-up as it will be your refresher on days 2, 3 and 4.

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Pack a microfiber towel

Regular towels take a lot of room in your luggage, weigh a lot when they’re wet and are unlikely to even be used. If you’re staying at hotels there will always be bath towels available and they can often provide a beach towel for the day. The only towel you should pack is a small microfiber towel to dry your hair.

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 Pack your silk

Pack a silk or satin pillowcase as a well as a scarf.

Hotel pillowcases are often made of cotton which disrupts curl patterns and can cause breakage. Pack a silk or satin pillowcase or a scarf to wrap around the hotel pillows. This is a handy way to minimise wash days by extending your hair styles and reducing the amount of product needed each day. Silk is super thin so there is no excuse for not packing it.

It’s also a good idea to wear your scarf during flights to keep your hair curly and stop it from fluffing. If your hair is too short to tie, wrap it in a silk or satin scarf, and if it’s longer, tie it in a loose pineapple then add the scarf.

curls holiday tips

Headbands, bobby pins and hats – Oh, my!

Use head bands and bobby pins to minimise wash days and to save time when you’re running short. These are also handy when you know you’re going to have a classic bad hair day.

There were a number of days on my trip where I simply couldn’t do anything with my hair: freezing at Ollantaytambo in the strong wind tunnels that were previously used by the Incas to store perishable foods, and sweating my way through a 6 hour trek to Machu Picchu. It is much easier to survive those conditions with a scarf or hat to pack the hair away.

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Research the locals

If you’re in a country where curls are prominent, chances are you can get your hands on some effective products, so do some research before you go.

While in Mexico and Peru the only curls I saw were on the llamas. When I reached Argentina I started to see some curls creeping through. It wasn’t until Brazil that I knew I was in good hands.

I walked into the closest drug store to assess their shelves and take photos (let me tell you, there was lots to choose from). I then returned to Wi-Fi to translate the labels and decide what to purchase.

curls holiday tips

curls holiday tips

Protective styles

Protective styles like braids are a reasonable way to reduce drying out your curls on beach holidays. If you can’t do it yourself you should be able to find help. Many people offered me cheap braiding services at markets and beaches in Mexico and Brazil.

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Travelling the world is an incredible privilege and I’m grateful every time I get the opportunity to do it. I hope these tips make it easy for you to do the same, and to help you focus on the more important aspects of your journey like respecting the culture, having fun and staying safe.

♥ R

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