Traveling is a metaphor for life, an opportunity to connect with other people. Traveling also affords you the opportunity to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You can both connect with people of another culture, and go deeper into their daily lived experience. And when you packed light and mentally/emotionally prepared in advance, you don’t have to worry as much about “that stuff.” Instead, you can go live in the moment and not worry about it.
As Muslims, traveling to foreign lands is also often an opportunity to meet with people who wouldn’t see Muslims otherwise. A way to spread a bit if the message of Islam, or at the very least, show a different side of Islam that directly contradicts most mass-media representations.
Preparing to travel
Much of the work that needs to be done in order to travel and experience other parts of the world is done outside of mundane preparation tasks. It’s not completed while getting passport photos taken, booking tickets online, or while preparing whatever items we need to take with us on our trip!
Travel preparation starts with a bit of soul searching. It means pinpointing our travel purpose and making a strong intention to fully engage and be present in our travel experience. This mindset training involves getting ready to soak up the new environment, preparing to learn what we can from the culture, steeling ourselves for the inevitable challenges and changes of plans, and learning to let go to bask in the “moment.”
However, in order to have the time and mental energy to focus on the travel experience, the basics should be squared away. This means that other preparations: like ensuring all documents are in order and bags are packed efficiently, can mean the difference between a fun life-changing trip, and an utter disaster.
There are many things to remember when traveling while Muslim: most importantly, setting our intention and having the right mindset for our upcoming adventure. Being prepared, in all ways, can make a huge difference when traveling in foreign lands.
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What to pack?
If you’re a Muslim, hijabi traveler, it can be hard to find checklists of packing items geared towards your lifestyle. I mean, let’s be honest, how many non-Muslims know what a portable istinja bottle is, or a portable prayer rug is for that matter.
The good news is that with some consideration and careful planning, most of the items you need to bring with you on a vacation can fit in a single backpack. I’ve traveled out of my trusty bag to 14 countries (and counting!) and I’m never without it. It’s always filled to the brim with carefully curated and versatile clothing and other must-have items.
Avoid long luggage lines and travel light! Keep reading for my tried and tested list of all the things you’ll want to take with you on your next trip.
First of all, no packing list is complete without a printed copy of my free PDF checklist. Get this printed first (times two!) so you can make sure you get everything on the list to enjoy your destination and bring everything back with you as well!
Start with one gallon-sized freezer bag along with another zipped bag. I use these for lots of different things but usually end up throwing my dirty laundry inside for the ride home, or for packing up other wet toiletries. Having a few clean bags on-hand is just smart: they weigh next to nothing and take up very little space when unused. It’s really a no-brainer!
- Travel laundry detergent
- Tissues + Antibacterial wipes
- Dry shampoo (SO FREAKING IMPORTANT)
- Travel sized hairbrush, extra hair bands/ties
- Contact solution/contact lens holder + Glasses case
- Medicine and medications (pain killer, bandages, meds/vitamins)
- Makeup/Skincare (Limit to mascara, lip gloss, sunscreen/moisturizer)
Travel prayer mat
In my travels, I’ve found that Qibla apps can be challenging to use (and the internet in some countries can difficult to access or be unreliable at best). Fortunately the pouch for my portable pocket prayer mat has a compass with Qibla finder which makes it easy to find my prayer direction in an unfamiliar place.
Each corner is also slightly weighted to help avoid the wind blowing your mat around while you’re trying to focus and it’s made of a waterproof polyester or nylon fabric which makes it lightweight and easy to clean. This travel prayer mat is basically full size to any other stitched and tufted fabric mats, but it conveniently folds down into a postcard size zippered carrying case.
I avoid stick pins while traveling and opt for the safer and more sensible oval variety.
To be on the even safer side, I always throw a few hijab-color matching hijab pins into my toiletries bag as well for wardrobe malfunction emergencies. You might be surprised how many ways you can use a few safety pins in a pinch (or loan them to a friend or travel partner as well!)
For the istinja bottle, you can either purchase a portable bidet bottle or get a bit crafty (and save some space) by putting together an istinja bottle yourself using a collapsible water bottle and a special gardening topper (available on Amazon). The extra tops can also fit most plastic soda and water bottles in a pinch!
- Battery pack
- Journal + two pens or pencils
- Phone + Phone charger
- Laptop + Laptop charger
- Kindle + Kindle charger
- Electric adapter (if needed)
- Small portable electric fan
Remember, keep any electronics you need to use during the immediate journey (and not when you get to your destination) in the more personal zipper bag.
- 2 Scarves
- 2 Different Colored Cardigans
- 1 Leggings (or stretchy exercise pants)
- 2 Short Dresses
- 1 Denim Pants
- 2 Abaya/Jilbab
- 1 Dress in Soft Stretch Fabric
- Underwear (# days traveling +1)
- Socks (# days traveling +2)
- 2 bras (1 regular + 1 sport)
- Swimsuit (Burkini) and/or Swimsuit (Regular)
- Large Brimmed Hat (best with a chin strap/tie)
I have this large Kipling Experience Backpack in Raspberry. It’s big enough to fit and organize everything, but it’s super light and doesn’t add extra weight. It also comes in a variety of colors.
It has a canvas top handle and adjustable padded backpack straps. The main compartment has a double buckle closure as well as an inner drawstring closure.It can also get wet without an issue and has a side pocket I can put things in I need to grab quickly (such as umbrella, fan, etc.)
I also keep a personal bag that contains things like:
- Wallet, keys, ID (passport, driver’s license) credit cards
- Journal + 2 pens (or pencils)
Packing doesn’t have to be stressful or a chore, and paring down your travel items to the bare essentials, and fitting them all into one bag, will save you heaps of stress and time.
Once you get your bags all packed, all that’s left to do is work on your mindset and travel intention, put together your traveling dua’a list, and countdown the days until your next adventure.
To learn more about how to prepare for your journey, check out my article – Things to Remember When Traveling While Muslim – for Islamic Horizons magazine.