Vacation Hair: Doing (and Packing) the Least


As you know, the airlines are bugging. They are essentially charging for luggage by the pound with a separate fee for the clothes on your back O_o. So, when you learn that your airline is charging $43 for the first checked bag, $40 for carry-on and an additional $25-$100 for any luggage over the weight limit, you figure out how to make do with less really quickly!! Now, in the past, I’d pack everything but the kitchen sink … I hate being under-packed. But, my frugality far outweighs my fear of not having options, so I knew that I had to keep my checked bag under 40 lbs … and that meant big ol’ bottles of hair product were NOT making the cut!!

So, I came up with a plan to get through my vacation in Playa del Carmen with good hair and minimal products and effort. I had three goals in mind.

  1. Clean hair: I didn’t want to worry about shampooing on the trip.
  2. Well-Moisturized: Needed to make it through the week of heat, humidity and water activities.
  3. Sustained Style: I needed to start with a braided or twisted style that would last a few days, stretch my hair and could be transitioned into other styles through the week.

So, I started by washing and styling my hair on the Friday night before I left for my trip.

  • Pre-pooed/deep conditioned with Aubrey GPB Conditioner mixed with Vatika oil, lightly finger detangled and twisted hair in 6 sections (1 hour w/thermal heat wrap).
  • Shampooed twists with diluted DevaCare No Poo.
  • Conditioned and thoroughly finger detangled each section with Herbal Essences Hello Hydration (HE HH) before re-twisting.
  • Applied Aubrey Green Tea Green Cream Rinse directly over HE HH and rinsed with cold water.
  • Set hair in 12 braids (3 in each quadrant of my head) with Aubrey Honeysuckle Rose (HSR) Conditioner and sealed my ends with Amazing Botanicals JBCO. I decided on braids because I knew that they would last longer and result in less frizz than twists.

Now, I was all set for the week with the exception of packing a few hair essentials. For this job, I had a few more goals in mind. I knew that I needed the following:

  • Multi-purpose products.
  •  A moisturizer.
  • A sealer.
  • A styler.
  • A “cleanser” in a pinch.
  • A “shiner.”
  • A “slicker.”
So, I settled on 3 products that could satisfy all of these functions and packed small, travel-sized containers of them. The items that made the cut?
  • A small squeeze bottle that I filled with Aubrey HSR Conditioner = moisturizer, styler, cleanser.
  • A small sample pot of Wonder Curl Polishing Pomade = shiner, sealer.
  • A carry-out container filled with Eco Styler Olive Oil Gel (a 1/2 c. container would have sufficed) = styler, slicker.

I also packed an empty spray bottle so that I could dilute the conditioner and make a liquid “leave-in” moisturizer to apply as needed.

Now, on to the vacation hair tools! Again, I wanted a style that I could transition throughout the week. So, I brought my trusty banana clip, a black satin scrunchy (not pictured), a few bobby pins, a set of Goody Spin Pins and my trusty sheathed purse shears (never leave home without it … but had to put it in my checked bag as I didn’t want to get detained as a potential terrorist at airport security! *lol*). I also packed 4 small perm rods and a small jaw clip.

And, of course, I had to protect my hair! So, I packed a satin bonnet, wide and narrow satin scarves, my terry-lined shower cap and a satin pillowcase (never leave home without that either ;).)!

Then, I packed a couple of hats to conceal my scalpy braids and protect my hair from the hot sun of the beach and I was ready to go!

Saturday and Sunday: Braids

Monday: Braids

Monday Night: Braid-out

Tuesday: “Folded” ponytail

Wednesday: Banana-Clipped Braid-out

Thursday morning: Braid-out (for family “photo” shoot)

Thursday: Bun

Friday: Bun (for tubing and snorkeling at water park)

Saturday, 8 am: Braid-out (heading home)

Saturday, 10:30 pm: Frizz head

Finally home and done!

(Check out my FB album for more vacation hair pics.)

So, I barely put a dent in the conditioner throughout the week! I diluted a little in the spray bottle and spritzed the ends of my braids for the first few days, sealing with the Wonder Curl Polishing Pomade and … okay … I’ll admit. I had another product, but it was Wei’s! He uses coconut oil for his skin and it also works as a natural mosquito repellent (especially with peppermint oil), so I used it on my hair and body! But, it really was his item, not mine ;). So, I used a little of that to seal my ends sometimes too. When I released for the braid out, I used the Polishing Pomade for shine and Eco Styler to smooth my crown. When I bunned, I re-moisturized with the Aubrey HSR “leave-in” and sealed with the pomade again. And, on Friday night, after wearing the bun at the water park, I lightly finger detangled and placed my hair in 4 big, loose braids for the “beach wave” braid-out on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, it was so frickin’ humid and hot … even inside … it didn’t fare too well. Even if it had, it was time to wash, which I did on Sunday.

I will give this one caveat about getting through the week without washing my hair. I only got it wet in the pool one day and for very little time. I’m not really a pool person. But, I brought the conditioner to serve dual purpose for co-washing, if necessary. And, although I was able to get through the week without washing my hair, I know that won’t work for everyone. But, having a conditioner to co-wash after time in the pool could allow for WnGs or another set of braids or twists during the week.

So, to wrap this up, here are my tips for easy, peezy vacation hair with minimal effort and products:

  • Wash, condition and style hair the day or night before the trip.
  • Choose an initial style that “travels” well (i.e. tolerates humidity, winds, snow, etc.), can last several days and can be converted into other styles later in the week.
  • Consider a stretched style so that, if washing and a detangling are necessary, it cuts down on the time needed to do it.
  • Think about the activities that you will be doing and how/if they will impact your hair so that you can select the right products for the job.
  • Select products that you don’t need a lot of so that you can bring travel size containers instead of full-size ones.
  • Select products that will serve multiple purposes.
  • Bring hair tools that will allow you to maintain and convert your look, if necessary, through the week.
  • Hats can be your friends in all seasons. They can conceal scalpy twists or braids, salvage a bad hair day and protect your hair from the elements.

And that’s it! Hope that it helps!


 How do you do vacation hair? What products and tools do you consider essential? What tips do you have for making vacation hair painless?

21 responses »

  1. That post was great ! That Monday night braid out was hot.!
    I just came back from atlanta. I packed everything in a carry on. I
    knew I wasnt going swimming or anything so I wore a twist out the
    whole time. I just brought some vatika oil and cantu leave in. I
    brought a scarf, bobby pins, and a headband. I even got my hair patted
    down at the airport! But my twists were cool the whole trip!


  2. Great post!!!! I can’t pack light and if I do I always end up under packing (and forgetting things I REALLY need!).

    I love your hair – that cut is amazing makes your braid out pop!

    Sidenote: I really wish it was easier to comment on your blog – for some reason it makes me log into WordPress which is annoying as I don’t remember the password…


    • Tama, someone else told me that about the comments. But, I just looked at my settings and I don’t have the box checked that says commenters need to be registerd and logged in to comment. It just says you must enter an e-mail. Maybe I’ll change that setting and you can tell me if that stops it from requiring you to log on?

      And thank you both:)!


      • No probs! I will let you know. I have wanted to comment like 5-10 times on your posts since you had your hair cut. I would get to the end and then it would ask me to sign into WordPress and as I couldn’t remember the password I couldn’t comment…..


  3. So I can “hear” you packing. “Go no where without the banana clip!” LOL. You did a great pack job. I wouldn’t be wanting to pay for any extra luggage either. As a matter of fact I wouldn’t have even brought shoes but the ones on my feet and those would be flip flops because they are light lol.

    That’s true what Tama said. That’s why I use my yahoo address now. Seems as if you have a wordpress blog OR gravatar associated with an email, it makes you log in. But here’s the kicker I tried to even log in with my gravatar email and it doesn’t even work!


  4. I was literally waiting on this post before I packed for my honeymoon!!!!! I was so nervous in how to style my hair an how to pack the products. I’m gonna print this post out and put it on my suit case ha ha


  5. I hate the bag fees too, especially if the cost of the flight was reasonable. If I see a cheap fare, technically it’s not. You pay the difference in baggage charges.


  6. This is one of the best blog post I’ve read in a long time, such practical information. My last trip was on a cruise and I didnt have to fly so I brought everything I wanted but like you I hate paying for baggage fees when flying. I too will print out this post and save it for future use 🙂


  7. THIS! Its why I LOVE this site! You give the info that Naturalistas really need… Comprehensively and straight up! Vacation hair was something I dreaded (usually get a weave) but now I see how I can manage it AND still be fabulous! Thanks again Shelli!


  8. Awesome detailed tips! Smaller bottles are definitely the way I go as well. Also when I make a purchase at a cosmetics counter and I get a sample, I’ll sometimes ask for an additional empty container to keep for future use.

    Childhood airport flashback: What happened to the 70lb suitcases with a two piece allowance?


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