Getting Tattoos While Traveling: The Dos and Don’ts of Getting Inked on Your Travels

As someone with a lot of tattoos, I want to share something with you. Three things go into a beautiful tattoo: a great design, a great artist, and proper aftercare. Aftercare is generally pretty easy, but if you’re traveling, it can be a pain. Tattoos are most fragile in their first month, but for your skin to completely heal, it takes about 4-6 weeks. So here are some things to think about if you’re considering getting a tattoo on vacation.

What to Consider

Showering

If you’re in a country with questionable drinking water, that is a major thing to consider! When I was in Mexico, we were advised to not even shave in the shower in case we were to cut ourselves. If you can’t drink the water, don’t even think about showering in that water with a healing tattoo.

Placement

Imagine getting a splendid shoulder tattoo only to grapple with your heavy backpack, rubbing against it incessantly. Ouch! Friction is NOT good OR comfortable for a new tattoo. So consider the placement of your new tattoo.

Do Your Research

First off, consider if the tattoo you’re getting could be construed as cultural appropriation. That’s a big no-no. But if you decide it’s appropriate, make sure the symbol means what you think it means. And if it’s something in another language, triple—no, QUADRUPLE check—that it translates correctly. Don’t take the artists word for it. Show it to other people in the shop, and see if they can confirm it. Do a quick Google search. Be positive.

Get the Tattoo Closer to the END of your Trip

The best piece of advice I can give you is to get your tattoo towards the last couple days of your trip. This way, you don’t have to deal with aftercare during your getaway.

Bring Aftercare Supplies with You

To care for your tattoo, you will need unscented/undyed hand soap, and you will need unscented/undyed lotion. These can (surprisingly) be hard enough to find in your hometown, let alone somewhere where you may not speak the language. And almost impossible to find in travel size. So put together a little “aftercare kit” before you leave. You can thank me later.

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What to Avoid

When it comes to after-care, the first thing to remember is that your tattoo is an open wound—treat is as such.

Sun: The #1 most damaging thing for new tattoos. Nothing will make a tattoo fade faster than exposing it to direct sunlight. The sun can bleach out the colors, or make it dry out faster than usual, also leading to fading. Depending on where your new tattoo is, and where you are traveling, that creates a lot of restrictions. This should go without saying, but that means no tanning beds either!

Hot Tubs and Pools: Never EVER submerge your new tattoo under water. It will cause your tattoo to get pruney, and scabs to fall off, which will leave you with a blotchy tattoo. Scabs are supposed to fall off in their own time.  If that’s not enough to deter you (which, it definitely should), the chlorine and other chemicals that are in them will definitely affect your tattoo. It can even cause blood poisoning.

Kayaking/Swimming/Surfing: Avoid lakes, oceans, rivers, etc. at all costs, because they are swimming with bacteria. And the only thing that could potentially hurt your tattoo more than sun bleaching, is an infection.

Camping: Not only are you surrounded by dirt and germs, but a new tattoo also means no chemicals, therefore, no bug spray, no sunscreen. That makes camping a bit harder. The hardest part of camping with a new tattoo though, is cleaning it. It’s important to keep your new tattoo clean, and wash it a few times a day, and that is near impossible to do while camping.

✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦

Getting a tattoo on a getaway is one of my favorite souvenirs. And with these tips in mind, you are now ready to start collecting your own ink-based souvenirs. With these tips in hand, you’ll be in good shape.

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15 thoughts on “Getting Tattoos While Traveling: The Dos and Don’ts of Getting Inked on Your Travels

    1. Definitely wait! It always sounds great to have a new tattoo for vacation, but it seriously restricts what you can do.

  1. My husband and I are covered in ink, and I couldn’t agree with this more. If nothing else, the added care is just a hassle.

  2. No tattoos here, but I have cartilage piercings, and planned them all out before summer. Had a few piercings in the summer, and had to avoid everything you mentioned as well. Great post!

  3. I got my first tattoo when I was traveling back to Izmir, because it was the first foreign country I traveled to years ago. It was kinda tough since the tattoo artist didn’t speak English at all, but I managed to get one to honor my late cat. It was the best decision! 🙂

  4. this is such a cool blog post!! I was literally just on a trip with my friends and we almost all got tattoos but didn’t end up having enough time. I truly NEVER thought about the sun being a factor but I’m so glad I know now.

  5. You bring up so many excellent points to consider! I don’t have any tattoos, but if I did it would be awesome to get one while traveling!!

  6. I have no tattoos and do not plan to have them. It looks like you have plenty of useful information for those who plan to get their tattoos while traveling.

  7. I’m covered in ink but would only travel to a tattooer because I love their style instead of just randomly walking into a studio. Fully agree with your tips!

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