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How to Travel During the Holidays with Chronic Migraines


Holiday travel is stressful for anyone, but add the uncertainty of chronic migraines and any extended period of time in the car or in the air can be a daunting challenge.Between packing, making travel plans, battling traffic and dealing with unforeseeable hang-ups, the risk for developing a migraine attack is extremely elevated during the holidays. In an effort to help you reduce the risk, here’s some advice on how to travel with chronic migraines. 

Plan Ahead

Plan ahead and don’t wait until last minute to pull all the plans together. Make a packing list and slowly begin packing days in advance. Gain foresight into potential challenges like the weather by monitoring the forecast. Give yourself plenty of travel time in case you need to rest. By putting extra effort into the organization of your holiday travel plans, you may be able to keep your stress levels down to avert a chronic migraine attack. 

Ask for Help

If you are traveling with your family, don’t try to take on all the responsibility of packing and arranging travel plans alone. Ask for help. Delegate responsibilities to your kids. Challenge them to complete their own packing lists and make sure you let your spouse know what you need of him or her. Communication is key when organizing a trip during the holidays. 

Drink Water

Even if it means stopping every half hour for a restroom break, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Dehydration is a powerful migraine trigger that can be easily prevented with a bottle of water on hand at all times. 

You may also be interested in this article: Summertime Sadness: Dehydration Is A Migraine Trigger

Pack an Emergency Migraine Relief Kit

You should never leave home without an emergency migraine relief kit, especially during the hectic holiday travel season. Emergency kits can include travel-friendly medications like over-the-counter NSAIDs, supplements or anti-nausea medications that are safe to take while driving. Additionally, they should contain a light snack to eat with medications, cold or hot compresses to help with pain, soothing essential oils and any other comfort tool or device that you find helpful for your chronic migraines. 

Bring Extra Medication

The last thing you want is to find yourself at the bottom of your medication bottle mid-holiday when you’re away from your home and pharmacy. Account for the added stressors and pack extra medication, just in case. It is never recommended you take more than your prescribed dosage of any medication — the additional doses should only be used if you experience more attacks than usual. 

Avoid Triggers

Food and sleep are two major triggers for chronic migraines. Avoid too much caffeine, chocolate, processed meats like jerky and any other common travel food item that have been known to influence your attacks. Likewise, get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is a surefire way to welcome a migraine to your holiday travel plans. Make sure you’re well rested before you leave the house. If you’re driving a particularly long distance, take breaks to rest your eyes or break the trip into more than one day so you can stop and sleep. 


It is best if you do not travel alone. Long stints behind the wheel can strain your eyes and lead to a migraine attack. If you do feel the need to get off the road, having someone else that can take over is a much safer alternative to pulling over and hoping you can curb the pain. Carpool with family or friends and take the pressure of traveling alone off your shoulders. 

The most important thing to remember this holiday is to take care of yourself. It’s easy to forget about the routine you have in place to manage chronic migraines when the holiday sets in, but do your best not to deter from your diet, sleep and normal activity levels. If you are concerned about your ability to manage pain this holiday season, speak with your doctor about altering your preventative, abortive or rescue medication. They may be able to prescribe something that can help you have a happy, pain-free holiday. 

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Image Source: Ludovico Cera

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