Hassle-Free Travel Hair Care Tips for Kids With Kinks and Curls

Parents might feel overwhelmed deciding what to do with their children's hair during a vacation. But they don't have to be! These hassle-free tips ensure your next vacay is a breeze.

siblings wearing swimsuits and sunglasses walking on the beach
Photo: Sweenshots & Shaymone/Stocksy

One of parents' biggest fusses is what to do with kids' curls while on vacation. While many cities and countries have salons and beauty supply stores that are great for all textures, you never know. Packing well is wise, but bulky products are a pain when you have limited bag weight. The threat of spilling liquids all over your luggage also makes traveling with hair care products a big concern.

Black hair care experts share their best tips for child-safe travel hacks that will help you pack light and avoid bedhead—no matter where your family roams.

Start with the basics.

Before worrying about curling irons and hairdryers, don't forget to pack the essentials. A wide tooth comb, detangling brush, and boar bristle brush will work miracles, no matter the texture of your little one's hair. Having these tools makes it easier to adjust if your child's hair responds differently to local water and weather patterns.

Similarly, bring ample hair elastics for ponytails and boy buns. Arrogant Smith, a hair consultant with keswig.com, says, "before packing combs and brushes, clean them off with a little bit of shampoo to remove any product buildup—this will help keep your hair healthy on the road."

Remember the oil.

"You can use almost any shampoo while you're on the road," says Ghanima Abdullah, a hair expert, and cosmetologist at therighthairstyles.com. "Just use oil while the hair is still wet to lock in moisture." A small, travel-sized bottle of oil will work wonders for dry climates or exposure to chlorine. If you find yourself stranded without your beloved hair oil, go to the nearest grocery store and look for coconut or olive oil. Both are perfectly safe for skin and hair.

Bring styling gel or leave-in conditioner.

Whether you plan to braid their hair or let the wind breeze between their curls, gels, and leave-in conditioner can often make hairstyles last longer. Depending on the type of vacation, you may prefer one over the other. Bring a small amount of your favorite hair gel for weddings or big occasions.

"Hair gel is versatile for kinks, curls, and processed hair. For short hair, brush it into the edges and pat it onto the top of the hair to make curls and to control flyaways. If the hair is processed, you can rake oil into the hair and then rake in gel for a wet look," says Abdullah. Gel is a secret weapon for parents hoping their kids' style stays in place for a long day of photos and videos. Parents should expect hair to get frequent washes if your vacay involves multiple outdoor activities. In that case, the gel is out and the leave-in conditioner is in. Pack a travel-sized bottle to rub or spray in right after a shower wash. This will lock in moisture and prevent breakage.

Pack a cap.

If your kids aren't going to sit still long enough to get their hair done every day, then you've got to make sure that whatever you do lasts. Bring protective caps—satin sleeping cap, shower cap, and swimming cap—to keep salt water, chlorine, and cotton pillowcases away from your baby's tresses. If you go swimming, go for a Swimma or Soul Cap to ensure that your child's braids, locs, and long hair can fully tuck into the body of the cap.

Don't be afraid to try local stylists.

While you might think you've got your kids' hair figured out, you also deserve a vacation from haircare duties. If your children are old enough to go to a local salon or barber shop, it's ok to take a chance on finding a reputable one in your destination. It would be a great opportunity to learn about local looks while picking up important words like "comb," "edges," and "braids" in the local language.

If you're heading to Africa or the Caribbean, finding a hair braider, loctician, or hairstylist will be a fun day trip that can help your kids understand how Black people in those places manage their own hair. Search social media if you're on the lookout and coming up short. In places where there are fewer Black people, you might find social media pages of local stylists who will come to your hotel or rental to get your kiddo (and maybe you too) in style. Remember, most hairstyles are easily reversible, so enjoy the adventure. Tell the stylist if you don't want them to use chemical straighteners or cut hair.

Keep calm.

Last but certainly not least, Smith says, "don't forget to pack a little extra patience! Vacation can be stressful, and managing kids' hair can be challenging. But with a bit of planning and preparation, you can make it a breeze."

If your kid has been playing so hard that their hair is in knots, consider it proof they had a great trip. Don't beat yourself up for taking a few days off from immaculate grooming.

Letting your hair down sometimes means taking your kid's hair care needs off your to-do list, so you can make new and unforgettable memories.

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