As a hijabi who loves to travel, I often think of myself as a representative of Islam in foreign lands. This makes me strive to not just look great, but also be nice to others so that I can be a good example of what a true Muslim is like.
I believe that I’m blessed with the best – to be living in a warm and welcoming multicultural city like London with the most loving family and friends – but to be honest, I do feel even better whenever I get a chance to travel.
In the last ten years, I‘ve traveled to many different countries, both Muslim and non-Muslim. I feel that each of my traveling experience has given me tons of great knowledge, especially when it comes to living my life as a hijabi. I truly love sharing this knowledge with my Muslimah sisters.
To me, summers always bring the most exciting holiday spirit, and it is of course my favorite time of the year to travel. But sadly, along with this excitement comes the dreadful packing stress. In fact, when I first started traveling, I could never get to sleep the night before the trip because I would keep thinking of things I might have forgotten to pack!
I’ve often wondered — and actually still do, until now — how fun traveling would be if I didn’t have to worry about packing and unpacking, or perhaps if I had a fairy godmother who would just swoop in with her wand and do it all for me. Since that unfortunately is not the case, all I can do is try to master the art of packing light.
Here’s everything I’ve learned about packing over the years.
Don’t wait for the last day.
Packing can be as stressful for us hijabis as it can be for any other girl. So, one of my most important tips is to always keep track of time and start coordinating your outfits as soon as you plan your travel.
Many of us make the mistake of waiting for the last day to pack our stuff. The truth is that the sooner you do it, the better it is.
By starting your packing early-on, you can thoughtfully analyze your decisions and only keep things that you absolutely need, rather than stuffing your bag as you rush for the airport. If there is something that you absolutely need to take but it’s too bulky, my best suggestion is to wear it instead of packing it.
If you don’t relish the prospect of keeping a suitcase or backpack half-filled with things in your tiny room, start your packing by making a list of both cosmetics and clothes that you want to take with you.
Look for the right fabric.
Too often, we tend to get distracted by the outfits and hijabs we love and pack them without considering if the fabric is right for traveling. The ideal fabrics you should be looking for are neutral or semi-neutral ones, and those that don’t show stains easily.
They should also be washable, and should ideally be able to withstand being cramped in a tiny suitcase without getting too wrinkled, while also being suitable for the weather you’ll be experiencing. Most importantly, they shouldn’t take up much space.
When I’m trying to travel light and on a budget, I usually prefer to wash and iron most of my outfits, or at least the hijabs and undergarments in my room. I’ve realized that natural fibers are much easier to deal with in such scenarios.
In fact, if you hang such outfits neatly after you wash them, you don’t really even need to iron them. While I learned this the hard way (yes, after burning a couple of polyester shirts), I’m hoping that you won’t have to.
Always keep a cover-up.
There are many great options to choose from when it comes to cover-ups. You can go for a flowing maxi, a cool kimono, or an elegant sarong scarf.
There are a number of reasons to keep a cover-up, even if you’re not planning on visiting a beach. They can serve as a modest covering when you’re wearing a sheer top, for instance. Since weather can often be unpredictable, they are also a great option to help you stay warm and comfortable but also in style.
I have even ended up using a clean shawl as a prayer mat before, so you never know when these things can come in handy!
Look for something that’s warm or cool enough for your trip, but also small enough to easily fit in your handbag.
Know the hijabi essentials.
If you’re planning to travel for a week, pack at least three different hijabs for different occasions. One of these can be a nice printed hijab for statement-making street style, one can be a neutral or solid colored one for casual wear, and the third should be a more formal one for such occasions or spaces.
I always find it best to keep fewer hijabs and more inner caps, so I have fresh inners for every day, even if I don’t have time to wash my hijabs. Hijab caps are also much smaller in size, and thus easier to pack.
Choose your abayas and accessories.
If you wear an abaya, don’t pack more than two, since they take up so much space. You can easily get along a whole week with one daytime abaya and one nighttime abaya by using accessories like brooches or pairing with different outfits and hijabs to give them different looks.
When it comes to shoes, comfort is always key. For traveling light, look for shoes that can work in both casual and formal situations. A pair of stylish leather booties, for instance, can be used for anything from desert safaris to dinner in a five star restaurant.
I love wearing jewelry and I have a huge collection, since I end up buying lots of it on all my trips. Up till a few years back, I used to pack a big plastic bag with all my favorite pieces when I traveled. Then, when I’d come back from a trip, I’d realize that I didn’t even wear half of them.
Now, I always leave the jewelry packing for the end. This doesn’t mean that you need to leave your accessory plan for the last minute, rather that you should plan your outfits first and then select the accessories afterwards.
I always plan ahead the outfits that I’ll be wearing on each day of the trip, and then — once I’m done with that — I select the jewelry that goes with the looks. Using this system, I usually don’t end up packing anything that I don’t need.
It’s also always a good idea to invest in a nice travel jewelry case, as these can easily be placed in your carry-on. No one ever wants to lose their jewels!
Don’t freak out, enjoy it!
While it may seem overwhelming at first, once you understand the basics, it’s actually pretty simple to keep your baggage light and hassle-free. Getting over my own packing stress helped me enjoy my vacations in a much better way.
When I look back on my trips, I realize that once I stopped worrying about packing, I was able to have more fun and plan in a more organized way. I also discovered that I was able to inspire so many ladies with my modest style.
I hope that these suggestions will help you get the most out of your trip, and that you’ll get to experience what stress-free vacation packing feels like.
Happy travels, hijabi sisters!