Managing Expectations on Vacation

Managing Expectations on Vacation

This month’s engagement theme on migraine.com is travel. It’s July 1, and I’m sitting here taking a break from packing for our family vacation to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Last summer, due to financial constraints and my terrible health status, we did not take a vacation at all. This year, John planned the whole trip himself. We aren’t going too far and will basically be in the wilderness, perhaps without cell phone service or internet access. I am both nervous about this and hugely anticipating essentially being forced to relax.

I stocked up on medications and will be bringing all of my migraine comfort items, but I’ve chosen to write this article on something other than checklists of what to bring on the trip; or tips for car travel or motel stays.

Mentally preparing

I want to write about carefully managing expectations. Even for someone who has episodic migraine, it’s important to remember that an attack could strike, and is likely to, because of disrupted schedules and eating changes as well as the possibility of encountering many other unavoidable triggers.

I am chronic, with weeks when I am chronic daily and weeks when I may “only” have one or two separate attacks that are easily treated. Since June was a very rough month, I am planning for the need for an every-other-day activity schedule while we are up north. After the day of travel, resting the remainder of that day with an early bedtime that night is what I’m planning. It’s not a long drive and we hope to leave early, so if we get there at 2 pm, we can explore our room, unpack, check out the beach that is right outside, and that’s about it.

Knowing your body

Knowing that my body is going to demand rest and recovery anyway, incorporating that need into our planning will help stem disappointment and guilt. If the activity is a big one, requiring hours in the sun, travel to and from the destination, and physical activity (I’m thinking a day at an amusement park, an ocean beach, or a zoo), it makes sense to plan for the next day to be restful quiet time close to “home” or the place you’re staying.

In our case, we have reserved a modest room in a motel right on Lake Michigan. A day when I might have to spend much of it in bed would still be fun for the girls and John, who can go back and forth from our room to the beach virtually right outside. If the activity we have planned is only a short distance away, not in the sun and not too many hours, I would not necessarily think I would need a full day to recover from that. I think a fair expectation would be for the number of hours you are away and active each day, assume the same number of hours for recovery.

Dodging the guilt

By managing expectations, negative feelings like disappointment and guilt (“I’m ruining everyone’s vacation because I’m always sick”) can be diminished. If I end up doing really well, we can always add more activities in, which feels much better emotionally than having to cut plans that the whole family had agreed upon and become excited about. Adding to the positive emotional impact of this type of planning, there is also the likely effect of needing fewer medications during the week.

I just sent John a text explaining that I wanted to negotiate the week in that manner: equal numbers of hours spent in activity and then rest/recovery. He texted back “If we both feel like rockstars then we can add more in, but the expectation is what kills you.” By managing expectations and planning carefully, the activities you do undertake while traveling will be more enjoyable, providing lasting positive memories instead of disappointment.

How do you plan for vacations with migraine? Let us know in the comments!

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

Comments

View Comments (8)
  • Leslie Coutsouridis
    2 years ago

    The first thing I do before a vacation is to make sure that everyone going understands the seriousness of my limitations and needs..On 2 vacations we took, My 90 year old Dad and I took early afternoon naps while the others had “Happy Hour” on the deck each day with locally purchased cheeses etc.. But in general, we plan as we go according to how I feel, and stay aware of my pacing needs and avoiding triggers. The plans are made to revolve around how I might feel and also account for who is with me to have fun at the same time. I also plan and start packing early so I won’t be exhausted before we leave. ! I might miss some activities but thoroughly enjoy what I can.

  • Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel moderator author
    2 years ago

    Leslie, that sounds perfect! I also took catnaps on my recent trip. Good for you and take care! ❤️

  • Marijo
    2 years ago

    I am new to the world of migraines. So managing is a subject that I am interested in. Vacations are scary to me. I would rather visit sights nearby than travel to faraway states and crumble into the darkest room for relief ruining it for my travel partner. Thank you for posting this! I am planning a trip in a few months and am anxious over how to make it a success.

  • Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel moderator author
    2 years ago

    Marijo – what an evocative sentence “crumble into the darkest room for relief.” You’ve nailed it! And it can be so hard to find that quiet, dark space to retreat on a trip, too. This last time knowing that I had plenty of acute & rescue meds eased my mind, and planning time to recover really did help. I’m sorry you are experiencing migraine now but glad you found us. You can do this! ❤️

  • GinaD
    2 years ago

    My chronic migraines always worsen during travel. I try not to overschedule activities, leave room for downtime, stay hydrated, eat regular meals, and avoid alcohol (huge trigger for me). I sometimes also do a “burst” treatment with triptans.

  • Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Gina! I always seem to get increased attacks on trips as well. I’m glad you’ve found methods that work for you to manage that! I sometimes pre-treat, especially if the weather is conducive to migraine. “Burst therapy” sounds interesting and I can see how that would be helpful! Take care ❤️

  • Gracious
    2 years ago

    I agree on all accounts, though my guilt can be strong enough to eat at me when I know we are aiming so low with our plans. On our recent 5 week mega road trip, which I almost cancelled because of the week of daily migraine that preceded it, I actually found the road rhythm, new places, … to allow me to do pretty well. Maybe its because I had managed expectations. It certainly makes a case for a relatively strong role of one’s environment.

  • Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Gracious, thanks so much for your comment! I am so very glad you didn’t cancel your road trip despite your understandable temptation to do so. 5 weeks is amazing! Our vacation that I discussed in this article also went well. Last summer we didn’t travel at all and this was the first time I actively planned to be “down” some of the days. Actually, though, I got a full-on migraine only once, which lasted about a day due to storms and I didn’t even need my rescue meds. I didn’t miss any of the big plans we made which I’m pretty pleased about! Thanks again and take care <3

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