Patient Blogs | Migraine
Hitting the Road With Migraine
photo of woman packing a suitcase

I have loved to travel since I was a little girl. I enjoy all the prep -- shopping for cute outfits in advance, organizing the itinerary, and scouring hotels online. I even like the not-so-fun stuff like setting up my international cell phone plan or organizing my vitamins to take for each day. Someone showed me how to make a wish list on Amazon a few years back, and now I have one for each big trip (and sometimes the small ones)!

When migraine episodes entered my life, I didn’t think much about how they would impact my travel plans. One of my earliest memories of getting a migraine while traveling was right after college while attending a summer family reunion. I was in very, very hot Texas. All my family was together -- laughing, enjoying some 70s music and homemade BBQ.

Meanwhile, I was in another room with a raging migraine. The last thing I wanted to do while everyone else was having a great time was to be quarantined in a room by myself. Even though many of my aunts have struggled with migraines themselves, it just didn’t seem fair.

I've also been sidelined by migraines when I've traveled for work. These are incredibly inconvenient because unlike a family reunion or any type of pleasure trip, business travel normally means that you need to be productive. You need to be “on.” Cousin Sandy may be understanding if you need to sit a few activities out, but your boss may not be as forgiving.

It’s been 20 years since I was diagnosed with migraine. The kind I have aren’t likely to go away completely until I’m on the other side of menopause. Since those early days, I’ve been on countless trips -- from Paris to Philly. I’ve picked up a hack or two about how to make it a trip to remember (in a good way). Here are some things I always pack (whether for business or pleasure):

  • Sneakers: Many of my migraine episodes are triggered by stress, so if I can get in a workout or even a morning walk, I’ve seen a big difference in the number or severity of migraine attacks. Unless it’s wintertime and you’re packing boots, sneakers can be the heaviest pair of shoes in your wardrobe. I get around this by wearing my kicks on the plane or in the car for a road trip. It leaves a little extra room in my bag.
  • Migraine meds: I’ve been caught enough times now on a trip without my migraine meds to know better. It is the absolute worse feeling. I end up asking my hosts to poke around their medicine cabinet (awkward) or I’m trying to find the nearest drugstore to get something that will do the job. Now, I’m never without my prescription migraine medicine. I keep a few pills (which come in a sealed wrapper) in my wallet. I’m never without my wallet while traveling, so I’m never without my meds.
  • Essential oils: Like a lot of folks these days, I’m often on the hunt for natural remedies to complement (and sometimes replace) medications. I didn’t believe in any of it at first until I tried it. I now pack a small roll-on bottle of peppermint oil with me. At the first sign of a migraine, I’ll dab a bit on the side of my face (not too close to my eyes or where it could roll into my eyes) and have found immediate relief. I do have to keep applying it every 30 minutes or so, but it has helped me. My migraine medicine makes me a little sleepy, so if I don’t want to take it right away or I still need to function (like give a presentation), then I’ll try peppermint instead. I’ve also found relief in using a little lavender on my pillow before bed. It’s calming and often the perfect thing to end a busy day -- from the beach to the boardroom.
  • Flexibility: The most important thing I pack isn’t anything you can see in the TSA scanner. While I do have some common triggers, migraine episodes can still be hard to predict. In those cases, a healthy dose of flexibility goes a long way. I try to stay nimble and ask those around me to do the same. I’ve set up business travel with lots of buffer time between meetings. My family knows that sometimes I might have to skip out on an activity. “Y'all go down to the pool. I’ll be there later.” When I get there, let’s get this party started!

Migraines are party poopers and vacation busters, but I’m not going to let them stop me from living my best bon voyage life!


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Photo Credit: RichLegg / E+ via Getty Images

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Michele Jordan

Michele Jordan

Diagnosed since 1992

Michele Jordan, a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, was diagnosed with migraine in 1992. Her writing background includes magazine and online journalism, grant writing, and now screenwriting. She is passionate about both physical and mental health and is the author of the book, Thanking Your Way to Joy: Daily Gratitude Journal. When not writing, Michele enjoys traveling with her husband, trying new, healthy recipes, and cuddling beagles. Her latest passion includes exploring and discussing issues around equity in housing, health care, and the justice system.

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