Migraine robs us of a great many things, but travel and vacations don’t have to be among those things. We may need to make different choices about travel and vacations, but with appropriate planning and precautions, they’re still possible for most of us.
For far too long, I allowed my migraines to limit my travel more than necessary. Finally, an invitation from a friend to go on a cruise made me take a good, hard look at my migraines and come to some startlingly - but pleasant - realizations.
Below are some tips to help you come to your own pleasant realizations and plan travel that you can truly enjoy.
Don’t let “Can’t” Stop You.
This is the trap I fell into. I got into a bad habit of saying, “I can’t,” when people invited me to do things. Fortunately, someone finally challenged me on this, and I realized I was missing out on things that I really was able to do. For more on this issue, take a look at Migraines and Saying “Can’t” - Holding Ourselves Back?
Dump the Guilt.
Do you ever feel guilty about travel and vacations because you feel as if you’re holding others back? That guilt is counterproductive, so dump it. Sit down and talk with your family or other travel companions about what all of you want from your travels. Look for the common ground, then be honest with each other about your plans and expectations.
Be Both Hopeful and Realistic.
We don’t want to be negative and set ourselves up for failure. On the other hand, we need to be realistic about what we’re able to do. When we balance the two, we’re at our best.
Accommodate Your Needs and Triggers.
Stop and take a logical approach to travel planning. Consider issues such as:
- If being outside in high temperatures is a trigger for you, stop and consider destinations. Maybe there are some you’ll want to avoid. On the other hand, maybe those destinations wouldn’t be a problem if you avoid the warmest times of year. That can be a plus in other ways too. Some of the best vacation destinations are less expensive during the “off season.” For example: Heat can be a terrible trigger for me, but I still went on a cruise to the Bahamas - in September. The warmest season was over, and the temperatures were very comfortable. Since it wasn’t the biggest tourist season, places were less crowded, and the trip was less expensive.
- If you tend to have more migraines when you travel and haven’t already done so, try to identify what triggers you encounter when traveling. Are any of them avoidable? For example: I know more than a few of us who were limiting our fluid intake when traveling because of difficulties with airplane restrooms or not wanting to make extra “pit stops” when traveling by car. Then, we realized that a big percentage of our travel migraines were being triggered by dehydration from limiting our fluid intake.
- Pushing too hard and getting too tired can stress our bodies and make us more susceptible to our triggers, so try to plan so you’re not rushed. When traveling to an event, it can be truly helpful to get there the day before so you can be sure to be well rested.
Make Lists and Plan Ahead.
We can’t go wrong with lists. Whether you want to print them and check things off or use them from your phone or tablet, lists help us ensure that things get done. Make multiple lists - a list of things to be done, complete with due dates; lists of what goes in which piece of luggage; and so on. Make reservations in advance and be sure to have either printed copies of confirmations or electronic copies on your phone or tablet. It you have a tendency to leave electronics charging until the last minute, then forget to pack the cords, consider buying extra cords that can be kept in your luggage.
Don’t Forget Your Migraine Attack Pack.
A small backpack or tote bag with all of our migraine necessities is a must. A dedicated migraine attack pack puts everything we need all in one place so there’s no need to search through everything we take with us to have what we need right at our fingertips. It’s also especially helpful if we’re hit so hard that we need someone else to get us what we need. For help building you pack, take a look at Building Your Migraine Attack Pack.
Ask Your Doctor If You Need Help.
If there are issues your doctor can help you with, don’t hesitate to ask. I have terrible issues with motion sickness, so before I went on my cruise I discussed with my doctor rather than rely on over-the-counter remedies because I was concerned about possible interactions with my medications. He prescribed scopolamine patches and told me the best way to use them. Not only was I spared any seasickness, when I got a migraine on the ship, I didn’t get the nausea that usually goes with my migraines.
Remember That Nothing Is Perfect.
No matter how well we plan, something is bound to come up. We forget to pack something. We lose something. A reservation gets messed up. When these things happen, all we can do is handle them as best we can and move on. Beating ourselves up over them or continually worrying about what else could go wrong won’t change anything, so it’s pointless. All it can do is detract from our enjoyment and relaxation.
Wrapping It Up.
It took me too long to learn that migraine wasn’t robbing me of as many things as I thought. During the time when my migraines were at their worst, and I truly couldn’t do much because I had almost daily migraines that didn’t respond to treatment, I fell into a habit of thinking, “I can’t.” Now I realize that I was also robbing myself.
Are travel and vacations easy for me? No, but they’re not nearly as difficult as I was making them out to be in my mind. With good planning and working around issues such as high summer temperatures, I’ve been able to have some really great vacations over the past few years. Last year, I even went swimming with dolphins in the Bahamas - something I’d dreamed of doing since I was a child. I realize that type of activity isn’t possible for everyone, but I hope each of you will give some thought to the tips above and plan some travel and vacation time customized to you and what you’re able to do. Think about what you CAN do instead of what you CAN’T do. Hopefully, you’ll find that you can do more than you might have thought you could.
Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society. Teri can be found on her website, and blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.