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Managing family vacations with migraine

Family of four taking luggage out of the the house
Getty Images / Halfpoint

Migraine can put a crimp in travel plans. With planning and a positive outlook, it's still possible to create lifelong memories.

Vacations can be stressful when you live with migraine. Unlike many other things, you don’t get to leave your chronic health condition at home, so you might have to balance having fun with feeling ill at times.

Sometimes unavoidable things can also happen when you travel, so it’s best to try and plan ahead so you can make the most of your trip.

If you live with migraine, like me, here are a few tips that should help you prepare for your next vacation:

1. Pack for migraine

Plan ahead to ensure you’ve brought everything you need. It’s a good idea to pack your migraine essentials a week prior to the trip. Be sure to include:

Medications. Fill your prescriptions at the pharmacy if you’re running low. Pack them in your carry-on, in their original packaging with paperwork. Syringes and other medical devices are subject to search. Keep everything organized and easily accessible.

Medical information. Include emergency phone numbers and the number for the nearest hospital. Calling ahead is important if you need urgent care.

Tools to combat symptoms or triggers. Carry both indoor and outdoor glasses to help with harsh light. Ear plugs and headphones also help to block out noise. Wearing multiple layers of clothing will help with cold sweats and heat flushes.

Anything that keeps you comfortable. That might include essential oils or a neck pillow.

Healthy snacks and drinks. Delays often happen when you’re traveling. Having snacks on hand helps you to avoid trigger foods. Also, don’t forget a water bottle!

2. Avoid migraine triggers

I’ve found that the stress of travel can be one of my biggest migraine triggers. Here are a few tips to avoid migraine triggers:

Arrive at the airport early. That way you won’t feel stressed for time if your bags get searched or if your flight is delayed.

Keep a positive and flexible attitude. Travel can be chaotic so try to control your emotions as best you can. Deep breathing, yoga, walks, simple stretches, and meditation may help with this.

Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is an overlooked trigger that’s easily avoided. So drink, drink, drink!

Check the weather. Is weather a trigger for your migraines? Storms, excessive heat, and changes in barometric pressure can lead to a migraine attack. Checking the weather before heading out could help prevent your migraine from growing.

3. Stick to a schedule

Vacations are for sleeping in, staying out late, and eating and drinking more than usual. I find that this does not react well with my migraine brain. You need sleep to renew the brain, so it makes sense that a change in schedule can trigger an attack.

Following a strict routine helps me to stick to a regular sleeping and eating pattern. It might not always sound like fun but it’s better than a migraine attack.

I also try to avoid activities that might trigger a migraine. So going on vacation might not be the best time to try a new sport if exercise usually triggers your migraine symptoms. The same goes for a glass of wine if alcohol is a trigger.

4. Don’t pretend to be OK if you’re not

Don’t ignore the signs of a migraine attack. Listen to whatever your body is telling you and make sure to pace yourself. If you push yourself one day, you may lose the next day to a migraine.

Be honest with your travel companions. Ask if you need help.

5. Set your expectations

Be prepared for your vacation to end up looking slightly different than what you had previously imagined. The greatest plans can quickly change if you have a migraine attack. An evening dinner date may turn into a night on the couch and you may have to spend hours or even days in bed.

I’d recommend to try and keep your expectations reasonable and enjoy even the smallest of moments. Also, sometimes a change of plan can result in something wonderful! If a day out in the sun isn’t possible, maybe a walk under the stars is.

6. Try to stay present and positive

Try and connect with nature. Walking in the sand, smelling the fresh air, and feeling fresh water on your skin can remind you of how big and incredible the world is.

It’s also often too easy to focus on the time you lose to migraine. So why not try to be grateful for the moments that you do get to enjoy. I often try to take pictures at these times because they help good memories last forever.

Stay present and enjoy your trip as much as you can. Finding peace and joy creates memories for years to come.

The takeaway

Sometimes I can be in a migraine fog but I’ll still continue my vacation. Looking back I’m reminded of how strong I was. I may not have felt 100 percent but I was still there. You might not be able to do everything or enjoy everything as you planned to do, but with a little bit of organisation and a positive outlook, you may be able to avoid some symptoms.

The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.

The individual(s) who have written and created the content in and whose images appear in this article have been paid by Teva Pharmaceuticals for their contributions. This content represents the opinions of the contributor and does not necessarily reflect those of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Similarly, Teva Pharmaceuticals does not review, control, influence or endorse any content related to the contributor's websites or social media networks. This content is intended for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Consult a qualified medical professional for diagnosis and before beginning or changing any treatment regimen. 

NPS-ALL-NP-01008 JUNE 2023

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