Keep Your Hair Looking Beautiful When Traveling With These Hair Care Packing Tips

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Considerable things in our usual daily routine have to change when traveling. With airlines raising checked baggage prices, many of us are packing extra light and keeping our beauty products down to what can fit in a carry-on bag. That can mean leaving some of our favorite styling tools at home. But it doesn't have to be that way. There are products and tips galore to help you keep your tresses looking lovely, even when you're not in your natural environment. 

We've got ideas for you in terms of what to pack, how to protect your hair from sun and sea, and whether or not to bring hot tools (since hotel hairdryers are about as strong as someone standing next to you and flapping their hands back and forth). We also included some fun ideas about styling your hair and getting as close as possible to your normal routine. You'll thank us when you get a ton of likes on that vacation selfie. 

Bringing your own hair products

It's been many years since we were first forced to pack liquids in small bottles in tiny plastic bags. An entire industry around airline-friendly travel products has been created, but they can be hard to find at drug stores beyond the basics. One trick is to use our plastic wrap trick or see if your favorite shampoo and conditioner come in smaller sizes on Amazon or similar sites. Trial sizes are often close to the compliant airline maximum as well.

Pack your conditioner if you have dry hair since hotel products can damage your hair type. Look into co-washing for black and textured hair (washing with conditioner only). Your salon might have samples of your favorite product, and the checkout line at stores like Sephora and Ulta often have travel-sized items, so you can try a new brand while you're away. 

One idea to save space is a solid shampoo bar like Ethique. Just pack it in a ziplock so you can bring it home wet. In fact, dry products are a great idea, like hair wax instead of gel or a solid body moisturizer with shea butter, which you can also use to tame flyaways and moisturize ends. Lush has one called Charity Pot Coin that is scented so it can double as perfume. We'll get to styling products, but it's worth taking up space with your usual styling brushes because travel brushes can often be a bit flimsy. 

Which hot tools to pack

Hotels usually have hairdryers (call to check), but they might not be strong enough if you're on a time crunch. Travel-sized hair dryers are very easy to find, but if you're going overseas, make sure you have a plug converter for that specific country's requirements. Ensure to check the voltage numbers because they vary by country. For instance, European appliances use 220 volts, while the U.S. uses 110 volts. Don't forget to carefully wrap the cords around the handle to avoid damage.

As for straighteners and curling irons, they're a little tougher to travel with. There may not be many ways around a straightener, but if you do pack one, make sure you also bring a heat-proof sleeve to put it in if you have to leave while it's still hot. Instead of a curling iron, soft curlers may do the trick for you, like Aimin Hair Overnight Hair Rollers that pack flat and don't need heat. Use Flexi rods rather than iron for tighter curling. We like Ustar Travel Size Flexible Curling Rods to curl while you sleep. You can also loosely braid your hair for soft waves if you have longer tresses. 

Styles and products that work on the go

Before you go, look at your destination's weather. Will it be humid? A small pot of styling wax is a great option. You can also use a leave-in conditioner to tame flyaways. Protective styles for afro-textured hair include Bantu knots, twists, cornrows, single plaits, or braided extensions. A bun is a good option for many hair types, particularly in the heat or if you haven't had time to wash your tresses.

A styling product that can be your best friend is dry shampoo. They come in travel sizes and are powdered spritz that absorbs oil in the hair and leaves a fresh scent — that blowout you got right before you left can last much longer. They are often "clear," which can look white on darker hair, so purchase those featuring colors for matching hair shades, like Batiste Dry Shampoo. If you're covering grays, a color hair mascara will save your style when the roots come in. You can even do it by applying a little pressed eyeshadow in a color that matches your hair. Eyebrow powder works great if you already have that packed.

Say you have a favorite styling product, and you're going on a short trip. Instead of packing that 10-ounce bottle and checking a bag, grab a couple of cheap contact lens cases, mark them with a Sharpie, and put your styling products in there. 

Protecting your hair from sun and salt

If you're heading out for a summer vacation, it's important to protect your hair from damage from salt water, chlorine, and the sun. A great way to do that is with a hat. Adding some leave-in conditioner (or even regular conditioner) to your hair is also a good idea before swimming. If you forget, many shampoos keep lighter hair from turning green. Ultraswim has a product that doubles as a treatment for hard water damage if that's an issue due to your location.

The sun can do much harm, and we know you're already wearing sunscreen. But don't skip your hair! First, a sunburn on your part is one of the most painful things in existence. A solid sunscreen stick like Bullfrog Quick Stick is great and isn't a liquid. There are also sun protectants for hair and scalp, like Sun Bum SPF 30 Scalp and Hair Mist, that are worth a try. 

Skip the lightning sprays because the peroxide and lemon juice (citric acid) in those can be very damaging. If your hair is colored, keep it out of direct sunlight with a scarf or that hat so it doesn't fade. 

Tips and tricks for a glorious travel hairdo

Finally, we've got some tips and tricks to save space and keep your hair looking great. Nothing is more frustrating than looking for a hair tie in a giant suitcase. Wrap them around the handle of your hairbrush so you can see them all in one place. If you bring bobby pins for updos, attach them all to the edge of your toiletry bag or on an index card or piece of cardboard that is easy to see.

One great idea from Celebrity Hairstylist Harry Josh, via Well+Good, is to give yourself a deep scalp treatment before you go, so all the buildup from products is gone before you get a pre-vacation style to make it last longer. Headbands — including the stretchy cloth ones from Y2K that are back in fashion — are great if you don't want to wash your hair but must cover up the oily hairline. These also double to keep your hair back when you wash your face. Wrap a cloth around all your brushes so they stay together. If you're heading out for a night or two and you really want to use a styling product you love from home, scoop out a bit with a Q-tip and put it in a ziplock. Bon voyage!