Avoid Migraine While Traveling: Tips to Avoid Triggers and Packing List

How to Avoid Migraine Attacks While Traveling

How do I avoid migraine while travelling? I love to travel but inevitably get a migraine attack before, during, and after. I have been lucky enough to travel all around the world and unlucky sufficient to have migraine attacks in most of those places. These experiences taught me many lessons and ways to pack and avoid triggers. In this post, I will tell you about migraine travelling triggers and give you my migraine tips for travelling and my packing list.

I’ll tell you a bit about how I do it. I’m not always successful, but with preparation and experience, I have learned how to deal with it better. There is no vacation from chronic migraine. But that doesn’t stop me from travelling. It’s part of My Migraine Life. Travelling with chronic illness is very difficult, but I try not to let it hold me back.

Recently, I took a trip, and it was a doozy. I want to share my travelling experience with you and some tips on managing migraines and living with a chronic illness. I don’t have a cure or something that works for me every time, but I have some ideas that may help.

Links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning if you purchase from my link, I am rewarded for my recommendation. Thank you! It helps fund my blog.

Plan Ahead

migraine while traveling

To avoid migraine attacks while travelling, I need to be prepared! I saw 3 doctors the week before I left. I was on a 20-day antibiotic and was taking sinus medication. With that, I had acupuncture, got a massage, made trips to the pharmacy, and made a follow-up doctor’s appointment the week I returned home. Preventative Treatment care is crucial! I was able to make it until day 4 before my migraine spiked. Typically, I get a migraine attack on day 2, which was good for me.

Migraine Travel Preparation

packing list

  • Appointments with doctors and therapists
  • Refill medication
  • Good sleep routine
  • Controlling my diet
  • Exercising Regularly
  • Managing Stress
  • Making Lists
  • Giving time to pack
  • Make Copies of travel documents, insurance, and doctor’s note

How Do You Prevent Migraine While Traveling?

I had a suitcase and carry-on filled with natural products that I use. I didn’t take a picture but check out my migraine reviews, which will give you a good idea of some things in my purse.

migraine travel kit

Pack a Migraine Bag

Avoid Migraine Triggers While Traveling

I had a few days of migraine symptoms, but only my evenings were consumed with pain. I was able to stop a level of 7/8 from going to a 10 and enjoy the next day at a reasonable level with varying symptoms. These are all victories for me!! I battle many triggers while travelling.

traveling migraine triggers

Traveling Migraine Triggers

  • Travel anxiety and Stress
  • Jet Lag
  • Loud Noises
  • Ear Pressure
  • Lack of Movement/Too Much Movement
  • Strong Odors
  • Dehydration
  • Diet
  • Weather
  • Alcohol

Travel Anxiety

Today, I woke up at 5 am to embark on a trip to meet my husband for a weekend away without our kids. The first trigger I couldn’t control was sleep. My mother-in-law and mom are sharing child care for my children for the weekend. My mother-in-law was kind enough to travel for the weekend and arrived last night. By the time I got the kids to bed and we chatted a bit, I got to bed at about 11:30 pm. At 2:00 am, my daughter woke up with leg cramps, and by the time I comforted her and fell back asleep, I had gotten about an hour of sleep. I wasn’t anticipating getting much sleep with the anxiety of leaving my kids for the weekend anyway, so oh well.

Stress

I was fortunate to avoid many stressful things that travelling often brings (I got my luggage, and my flights arrived as scheduled, yeah!). But when I did feel stressed, I meditated and breathed through it.

Jet lag and Sleep

I often lose Sleep the night before a trip. Then I travel and have an altered sleep schedule. Not having a consistent sleep schedule can be very triggering, so I try to minimize jet lag by keeping my regular sleep schedule even in different time zones.

Pressure Headache

On the way to the airport, I chugged a big bottle of water and took an allergy pill. I never realized how much my sinuses contributed to my head pain until about 3 years ago. I saw an ENT, and he told me I had had a sinus infection, from his guess, for months. Since then, I have had sinus surgery and have tried to be more aware of how congestion triggers my migraine attacks.

Caffeine

Not too much, not too little, but just right. I grabbed a cup of coffee and boarded the plane. Caffeine helps some people and triggers others. I am one that it helps.

Exercise

I didn’t work out, but I made sure to take a few laps around the concourse to get my endorphins slightly raised and blood flowing. Travelling can make a day of moving too much or too little. It’s all about balance, and I try to be consistent with the amount of movement I’d have on a typical day.

Noise

I am hugely sensitive to noise. The white noise of a plane can trigger me. I use headphones or earplugs to help navigate my migraine noise trigger while travelling.

Airplane Smells

The woman sitting next to me had taken a bath in perfume before boarding the plane. I put up my wall of defence by putting my hoodie up and over my nose as I politely looked out the window. Hoodies act as my armor. I wear them because they are not only comfy, but when the hood is up, it helps shield peripheral light and sound. It, combined with my vast sunglasses, is practically a uniform for me. I often carry a scarf with me for the same reasons. The perfume lady went to the bathroom twice, came back, and lotioned her hands with more perfume-laced lotion.

Hydration

One of my biggest migraine tips for travelling is to stay hydrated! There are many migraine travelling triggers I can’t avoid, but this one, I can.

I grabbed a glass of water every time the flight attendant walked by. No ice; it grosses me out on airplanes. At my layover, I got lunch and another vast water. It was $5.00 but worth keeping me hydrated. Plus, I saved it to reuse for my trip. (Not that I didn’t already have one packed in my suitcase too.)

Food

I packed healthy non-trigger snacks, and my stress was low beyond that. I chose a burrito with no trigger foods and packed healthy snacks. No Chinese for me with the possibility of msg!

Climate and Weather

I had a long layover, but by the time I ate lunch, talked to my best friend, texted another, checked on the kids, shopped, and walked around a bit, I was ready to board again. This time it was a small plane for a short ride. As we boarded, my stress level began to rise with the increase in temperature. The ground air was not working for the plane, and it was what felt like 100 degrees or so. My head was immediately filled with throbbing pain. I took off my hoodie, closed my eyes, and started calmly taking slow breaths.

Migraine Tips for Traveling

migraine tips for traveling

Coping Strategy

Staying calm about the rising pain is essential to keep in control. When I panic, it comes on faster and more intensely. Of course, our plane had to wait in line, and we sat in our sweltering seats for about 20 minutes. I was so glad I had drunk so much water and praised myself for controlling the triggers that I could know there were many I couldn’t. Not to get too graphic, but as we ascended, the man behind me had gas and forced us to boil in his stench. I wished for the perfume lady to come back. Once we got in the air and the smell dissipated, it was a quick flight, but my head was starting to give way to the building triggers.

Medication

I often wait too long to take meds because I hate taking many pills. I was proactive in taking my Sudafed and reactive in taking my pain pill.

Migraine after Flying

As I exited the plane, I braced myself for the change in weather. As you can imagine, the temperature and barometric pressure are slightly different from Cleveland to California. Here came another trigger. I got my luggage and sat outside, breathing the fresh air I needed all day. I then took my medication, took a deep breath, and arrived at the hotel. A success, I made it! Not to say that wouldn’t trigger a migraine by that night or the next day, but I did my travel for the day. Oh, the joys of travelling.

Adjust to Returning Home

I usually plan a day after I get home to recover. Unfortunately, that’s not always an option, and sometimes that’s not long enough. Remembering to get back into my self-care routine and back to normalcy is essential.

I have now had migraine attacks for 12 days straight with no relief. My pain fluctuates between 4 and 7 most days but is constant primarily, with never-ending full-body fatigue and heightened stimulus sensitivity with brain pains. My cravings have been out of control, and I’ve been packing on the weight that makes me even more uncomfortable.

Travelling with Chronic Illness

It’s hard to describe to someone who has not lived like this. It is tough mentally as much as physically when I am in a cycle that isn’t being broken at all. For me, it’s like this wet blanket over me that I only feel in my downtime. Priorities of my spoons are the best way I can describe it. I had to cancel plans this week. This weekend, I was like a rag doll and felt crappy since I’d been home.

Travelling is a huge cost for me but one I’m willing to pay. It seems wrong when I live with a migraine daily, travelling and spiking, but I’d get a few days of glory rather than a week missed in my hole.

Migraine Travel Feelings

I always get a range of emotions after I travel. Gratitude for the ability and opportunity to go. Anger at how I felt and continue to feel after. Joy from the experiences I got to live. It all is emotional and exhausting!

What are your migraine tips for traveling?

What are your migraine traveling triggers?

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Sarah Rathsack

I tell stories of My Migraine Life. Living life through Migraine consists of advocacy, treatment, prevention, and searching for health and happiness in a positive honest way. My kids, husband, dog, family and friends motivate me to make a difference in the Migraine World.
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6 Comments

  1. Sally Harrold on July 18, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    You use many of the same tools I use to deal with my chronic pain which includes, but is not limited to migraines. Deep, controlled breathing, exercise, limiting stress wherever possible, watching out for triggers, meditation. One other tool that works for me when the pain begins or even when I’m in a lot of pain is guided imagery. There are many CD’s available that can talk you through or get you started. I can usually deal with it on my own but I’ve had a lot of practice, like meditation,



  2. leapingtracks on July 19, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Well done you on all of this. Travelling can be a complete nightmare, can’t it and makes one feel like avoiding it altogether. My last job had masses of travel with it and it was a constant worry about how I would be on the road. In fact I tended to be ok while away then save up my migraines to merrily have once I got home, meaning I was in bed weekends instead of spending time with my long-supporting husband. I am interested to hear about the success of your deep breathing techniques – will def give that a try. 🙂



  3. Wendy Schaetzke on July 20, 2014 at 4:40 am

    Sooo relate to travel issues. I’m anticipating an airplane, having to be the sole driver in a very, very long car ride and little sleep next month. ANXIETY RISING!!!



  4. mymigrainelife on October 12, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Reblogged this on My Migraine Life and commented:

    I’m getting ready to go on vacation and just re read my post on traveling. Check back later with my updates on how I traveled, prepared and faired while traveling. Any more suggestions I need to bring or do?



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