5 tips for a budget traveler’s makeover

I travel on the cheap, which means that instead of waking up refreshed and well-rested after a night in first class, I often wake up with dried drool on my chin and crazy hair from trying to get comfortable on an all-night bus or hard-seat train ride. Though I’ve certainly spent my fair share of mornings stumbling around a new city without bothering to wipe the drool or put my contact lenses in, lately, as a travel writer, I’ve tried to step things up a bit so that I’m at least marginally presentable. Here are my backpacker secrets to looking (a bit more) rested and not like you spent half the night in a smoky bus with a Chinese soap opera blaring on the TV.

1. Wash your face. I carry baby wipes in my bag, and these do double duty as face wash and hand sanitizer (and they work well as their intended use, toilet paper). It always feels so good to wipe the road grit and cigarette smoke off of my neck and face, and if I do nothing else to make myself feel and look better, this act can be enough. It’s pretty satisfying, though a little frightening, to see the color of the wipe after I’ve run it over my face.

2. Run a comb through it or cover it up. My hair is too short to pull back in a ponytail, and it’s often pretty kinky in the morning. If you have long hair, brush it out and pull it back – the brushing makes a huge difference. If it’s short, brush it out and put a bandanna on. Sometimes I can get away with using the bandanna as a headband, but often I just need to full-on cover my whole head up. If you’ve run out of baby wipes, the bandanna can also be used as a washcloth – wet it with your water bottle and wipe your face down.

3. Rub a little cream on. Eye cream is fantastic: it comes in tiny little bottles that you can stuff in your bag, and the right stuff will instantly brighten your face. This is something I splurge on; it’s not cheap but I find it a useful investment. I’ve tried, and like, Naturopathica’s Vitamin K Brightening Eye Serum, and Prescriptives’ Vibrant C Skin Brightening Eye Cream. Depending on the product I’m using, I’ll dab it on my forehead and cheeks as well.

4. Use gum or a breath mint. You may not have the opportunity to brush your teeth before going to sleep or after waking up, so pop something minty in there before making conversations. It may seem obvious, but I don’t normally chew gum so don’t usually carry it in my bag. Still, I put it on my travel checklist for the occasions when I need to get close to someone.

5. Drink water. You’re likely dehydrated after traveling long distance. I know I often don’t drink water just so I can avoid having to use the bathroom on an all-night ride. But when you’re about to arrive you can drink away. Downing a small bottle of water will not only make your skin look more refreshed, but it will make you feel better, too. I always travel with Emergen-C, which also helps revive me.

Any other tips for looking and feeling refreshed on the road? Share with us in the comments section.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user stevendepolo]