Traveling with migraine is like traveling with a small child. Both are unpredictable, have unreasonable needs, and require way too much stuff. They’re also both guaranteed to misbehave at least once during the trip.
Packing for migraine
It’s easy to use migraine as an excuse to stay home. After all, we can always count on our heads to misbehave. In our pre-migraine life, we may haven tossed a few sets of clothes and some toiletries in an overnight bag and called it good. Forgetting to pack for migraine is often usually a mistake, though. We’d be wise to consider the potential for attacks. We can prepare for the worst and hope for the best so we’re never surprised by anything except a pain-free day. Once we learn how to prepare for attacks away from home, traveling isn’t quite so intimidating. With a little planning, we can learn to say “Yes!” to vacations, family reunions, and business trips.
Air travel requires some additional planning. Airport security, luggage limits, and uncertain accommodations at our destination can put a dent in our preparations.
Here are a few tips to make the trip migraine-friendly:
- TSA Pre√ is worth the time and money if we travel on a regular basis.
- Always call the airline’s Special Assistance department several days in advance to request wheelchair assistance or notify them of any carry-on medical devices such as a CPAP, portable oxygen concentrators, medications requiring refrigeration, injectable medications, and even ice packs.
- Invest in medical device tags for any carry-on items needed due to health problem or disability.
- Rethink packing that carry-on bag. Pack an airline-compliant migraine kit instead. Include acute and preventive medications, medical devices, and any comfort measures you find helpful. Noise-cancelling headphones and a sleep mask almost always come in handy.
- Disruptions in sleep patterns commonly trigger Migraine attacks. Consider this when booking flights.
- Calculate the time you must wake up in order to arrive at least 2 hours before your flight departure time. An 8:00 am flight departure means a 6:00 am arrival time. If your commute is an hour or more, that puts your wake-up time well before 4:00 am—far earlier than most of us are accustomed to waking up.
- The same goes for late arrivals. A 10:00 pm landing time can push back bedtime to well past midnight. If you have an early meeting the next morning, a late arrival can set you up for a Migraine-filled trip.
- Time zones can also impact sleeping schedules!
Road trips allow us the luxury of more generous packing, so don’t skimp on the comfort items. Plan extra stops just in case you need a few hours to treat a migraine attack. If possible, recruit a travel companion to share the driving.
In the event of an uncooperative head, here are a few extras to consider:
- A power inverter provides electricity for heating pads and small fans.
- Stocking the glove box with emesis bags is never a bad idea.
- A cooler full of ice does more than keep water bottles cold. Store medications and fill ice bags, too.
- Travel pillows are a must, too.
It’s not something we often consider until it’s too late. Regardless of how we travel, it’s likely we’ll need a quiet place to recover during a migraine attack. Asking in advance helps us in several ways:
- Knowing what’s available helps us plan for all possibilities.
- Anxiety and stress go down when we’re prepared.
- Our host will know of our special needs in advance and have time to prepare.
- We have an opportunity to educate others about migraine.
- We’re more likely to get what we need.
Short-term migraine prevention
Travel can be full of potential Migraine triggers. The change in routine, alone, can lower our Migraine threshold, increasing our susceptibility to attacks. When planning travel, consider talking to your doctor about short-term strategies to protect against travel-induced Migraine attacks. Possible treatment options during travel may include:
- daily long-acting triptans
- daily short-term oral corticosteroids
- other temporary changes in preventive treatment