How I travel with a chronic migraine (+ Packing List!)

Cures for Chronic Migraines

: I’m not sponsored by any of the brands I’m naming here.

Please keep in mind - I'm not a medical professional. If you are experiencing
migraines or chronic pain, consult your doctor.

Traveling can be stressful even under the best circumstances. When you add chronic pain to the mix, things can get even messier.
I’ve been suffering from chronic migraines since 2012 with a frequency of 2-4 attacks every month, each attack spanning between 5 and 50 hours. It’s a huge disruption to my work and daily life and usually requires me to take my medication and try to sleep it off. My migraine is triggered by many things, including my period, stress, changing weather, emotional distress and bad sleep. Considering this wide range of triggers, I can’t exactly “put off” my attacks – and sometimes they even hit me when I travel.
This can be especially troublesome: I went on vacation to have fun, damnit! I can’t spend my time in a darkened room and sleep the day away! I want to explore!
While I can’t do anything about my illness, I can try to make the best of it. This is is my list of things I bring with me when I travel to improve my condition and make attacks a little bit more bearable.

1. Medication

Migraine Medication
Medication is a necessary evil of chronic pain. And chronic pain sadly doesn’t care how excited you are for your trip. Be prepared and have your medication with you at all times. Since all my medication is in pill form, I’ve never had any issues getting it through security. But if your medication is in liquid form and larger than 100ml, call ahead to the airport and ask what to do about your situation. In most cases, this shouldn’t be a problem. Alternatively, you can put your liquid medication in a travel size container usually meant for cremes and lotions.

2. Water bottle

Nalgene Water BottleThe danger of dehydration is much bigger when you travel. First, you don’t get to take liquids above 100ml through security. If you don’t want to pay 4 EUR for a single 500ml bottle of Evian at the airport kiosk, take a reusable water bottle with you. A little warning: If it’s empty, they really can’t take the bottle away from you at security, but sometimes, they still will. Consider buying a collapsible water bottle that you can just shove in your backpack. That one is foolproof.

3. Bluetooth headband

Bluetooth Eye MaskThis is a gadget I got for myself only recently and I’m kinda flabbergasted that something like this exists.
Shout out to all my anxious sleepers! I have to have something on while falling asleep or my nervous thoughts will run me so ragged that I have no chance of falling asleep. I usually put on a podcast episode I’ve heard before. It soothes me and I’m usually off to dreamland within 10 minutes.
The problem is that I don’t sleep alone at home and that I rarely have a room all to myself when I travel either. You can’t just sleep in a hostel room with 5 other girls and put on a podcast for as long as your battery will allow. And sleeping with headphones is hella uncomfortable.
This is a beautiful alternative! You can just put it on and listen to your podcasts, music or audiobooks without bothering anyone or strangling yourself with your earphone cords – with the additional perk of having a solid eye mask. It’s ideal for sleeping in hostels or flying. When I get my migraine, I need my surroundings to be dark and either completely quiet or at least have auditory consistency. I usually try to sleep when I get sick, but when I just can’t seem to fall asleep, I put on familiar YouTube videos that mostly consist of talking. That soothes me emotionally and I know that there’ll be no sudden loud sounds to upset my head.

4. Snacks

Healthy snacks
I get pretty hangry when traveling. Getting to the airport, waiting at the gate, the actual flight and finally getting to your hotel or hostel – It can take a long time. Why not make it all ok with some great snacks? I suggest bringing something that is easy to eat and won’t get your hands dirty. Musli-, chocolate- and fruit bars, bananas, apples, rice crackers…all great choices. I tend to feel nauseous when I get my migraine, so having something neutral with me that will settle my stomach is really helpful. And, you know – if a situation is garbage, the very least you can do for yourself is eating something yummy.

5. Relaxing eye mask

Lavender eye mask
Sometimes, I can’t fall asleep from pain when I get my migraines. There’s not really much I can do until my medication starts working, so I like to put on this eye mask. It’s not only really fluffy and comfortable but also smells like lavender, which is my favorite scent in the world! It won’t cure anything, but it will at the very least make you feel more relaxed.

6. “The Ritual of Dao” aroma roll-on

"The Ritual of Dao" aroma roll-on (Rituals)I’ve been in the market for an aroma roll-on for a while. I found my personal holy grail at Rituals:
“The Ritual of Dao” promises that it will “bring peace and tranquility into your life” and while I can’t say that my anxious self has suddenly turned all zen, I’ve used this roll-on time and time again when my anxiety flares up or I just need a mood boost. The roll-on smells beautifully like Chinese mint and contains a cooling agent. I like to apply it to the stress point between my eyebrows, my forehead and my wrists.
While it doesn’t cure my migraine, the cooling effect is helpful and since I tense up a lot when I’m in pain, I try to make myself relax so it doesn’t get worse.

7. Cooling headband

Cooling HeadbandThis is a tool for when you arrive at your hotel or hostel. I put the pack in the freezer for 30 minutes and place it on my head like a headband. I use this in combination with a warming pack in my neck because, while my head responds to cold, my back and neck is usually soothed by heat.

8. Warming pack

Hot Water BottleLast but not least – the warming pack. My migraine usually announced itself with stiff muscles, particularly around my shoulder blades and neck. If I have a warming pack handy, I can immediately stop at least part of my pain, take my medication and more often than not, my migraine will be much less painful and lengthy. I press the pack against the tense spot or lodge it in my back so that I can lay down and relax. If you travel somewhere with a kitchen, I would suggest a cherry-pit-cushion. It will form around your neck more easily and give you a nice smell to enjoy. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take this on the airplane, but you can safely pack it into your checked baggage.

I hope this list was helpful to you! Do you have any foolproof migraine and or chronic pain remedies for traveling? Leave them in the comments! xx