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Five Tips for Traveling with Chronic Migraine

Summertime is traveling time for many of us. Unfortunately, travel and chronic migraine don’t often mix. Make the most of your trip with these five tips:

  1. Update your medications. Make sure you have plenty of medicines on hand for the length of your trip (plus a few extra days, just in case). Count your over-the-counter drugs. If you know you’re going to need refills on your prescriptions, put in your request at least a week in advance to allow for any unforeseen pharmacy delays. Also, consider asking for an extra or different form of medication for your trip, if necessary. For example, I have a prescription for Sprix (a ketorolac nasal spray that needs to be refrigerated). I didn’t want to deal with refrigeration issues on a week-long, cross-country trip, so I asked my doctor for a one-time prescription for the medicine in pill form. I know it won’t work as well for me (because my migraines generally come on very quickly), but it’s better than nothing. Additional preventatives may also be an option (if, for example, flying is a major trigger for you). Talk to your doctor to see what he or she recommends.
  2. Add a recovery day, if possible. If your schedule and pocketbook allow it, try to add in an extra day at the start of your trip for recovery. If you’re traveling for a special event, for example, schedule your arrival a full 24-hours early. That way, if a travel-triggered migraine hits, you have time to rest and recover before the big day.
  3. Plan around your triggers. If you’re going to stay with family members who always wear strong perfume and/or keep scented candles around the house, ask them in advance if they’d mind keeping the house (and themselves) smell free for the duration of your stay. If that isn’t an option, consider staying somewhere where you can have more control over your triggers. If you’re attending a conference or another big event that takes place somewhere you know will be laden with triggers (fluorescent lights, for example), try to build in plenty of rest time around your activities. You may also want to stay as close to the event as possible to maximize your ability to take a nap if you start to feel a migraine approaching.
  4. Keep to your schedule as much as possible. This is particularly tricky when traveling, but if skipping meals or altering your sleep schedule is a big problem for you, do your best to stay on track. (Make sure to take your medications on time too, if applicable. An alarm on your phone can help with this.) If sticking to your normal routine isn’t an option, try to build in some routine somewhere. Get up at the same time every day, even if it is a different time than you’d normally get up, and eat your meals at regular intervals. Even the smallest of routines can help.
  5. Carry a smaller, travel-friendly version of your migraine tool kit at all times. At the very minimum, this should include a full day’s worth of medication (abortive and rescue), dark sunglasses, and earplugs.

For more tips on traveling with migraine, be sure to scroll through our travel survival guide slideshow.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • BethBlue
    5 years ago

    As a group, we have to find a way to petition airlines and other travel providers about the need to provide fragrance-free cabins. It has become a real impediment to a migraineur like myself. I am in my 50s, with elderly parents who live a plane-ride away from me. It would be wonderful to see them more often, but flying is crippling for me: I become violently ill from the odors in enclosed plane cabins, and I arrive at my destination as a basket case! How can I care for my ill parents when I’m ill too? Is it necessary for everyone (men and women alike) to bathe themselves in cheap perfume? Or for everyone to drink burned coffee? I wish I could throw every bottle of “Axe” into every “Starbucks” and make them disappear! 😛

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago

    Smells are a big deal, especially in close quarters like an airplane cabin. I keep a roll-on stick of peppermint and lavender oil (smells I find comforting that don’t trigger a migraine) in my purse and roll it under my nose when the other smells get too bad. Maybe something like that would work for you?

  • Maureen
    5 years ago

    Before my migraines became chronic/intractable, I used a scopolamine patch for motion sickness when flying and it made me feel loopy and foggy. Using it with my intractable migraine actually made me feel better! My mind was clear and my pain was lessened. I actually felt “like myself,” which most of you will understand.
    Warning: Be sure to check with possible interactions with other medications you are taking. I was told not to take my regular medication for nausea within 24 hours of using the patch.

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago


    Thank you for sharing with us. I’ve never heard of that. I may have to check that out with my doctor before my next trip.

    Warm regards,


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