10 Tips for Traveling with Migraines

Migraines are like mosquitoes. They get you when you least expect, they are persistent, and they won’t just go away with any old thing. You need specific meds, natural treatments, and a semi-controlled lifestyle to help you manage them. I’ve suffered from migraines for over 25 years now; I should know. Traveling as often as I do, I’ve had to be very careful to stay on top of my migraines. This doesn’t mean I don’t have any fun, but it does mean I need to remember a few key factors when I’m on the road.

Avoid your triggers

Red wine is a major trigger for me. I recently met a wine maker who told me that UC Davis recently came out with a study that said microbials are more likely the trigger for migraine sufferers or anyone else who has an “allergic” reaction to red wine. It is not the tannins, and it is definitely not sulfites. It may be something even more devious. Chocolate and cheese are other triggers for migraine sufferers. This can be very hard to avoid when you travel, especially if you already have trouble avoiding them when you are home. Steer clear. That reaction at home could be 10 times worse when you travel.

Pack extra meds

Always, always have more medication than you think you will need on your trip. Ask your doctor to up your prescription amount before you leave so you will have extras on hand. If your insurance prohibits this, ask for an alternate medication to take if things get really bad.

Book a massage

Stress and tension can trigger migraines after a plane ride or sitting in the car for too long. Book a massage the day of your arrival or soon after to work out a few of the kinks and keep those muscles relaxed.


If yoga is offered at your destination, hop into a class to stretch your muscles and get everything moving again. If you can’t get into a yoga studio, do a few simple stretches or follow along in our 5 Simple Yoga Stretches for after a Flight video.

Stay active

Do not be a lump on a log. Don’t sit on the beach all day and don’t just sit in a conference room. Remember to get up, stretch, take a nice walk, get your muscles moving. You will feel mentally and physically better.


Keep water with you at all times. Dehydration can trigger migraines. You should be drinking at least ten 8-ounce glasses of water a day, if not more. Yes, you will have to run to the restroom a whole lot, but better that than being comatose in your bed with a migraine.


Eat on time and often when you travel. Make sure you are getting some protein, fruits and veggies. It is tempting to skip lunch and go for the sweets instead, but that sugar imbalance can put a stop to your fun and land you back in bed with a migraine if you aren’t careful. This isn’t to say you can’t indulge at all, just make sure you are getting the good stuff too.


It may sound like fun to stay out until the wee hours of the morning, but let’s get realistic. You probably aren’t 21 anymore and your body needs some rest. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning, even if that means that you go to bed at midnight and are up by 7am. You are not old. You are smart to take care of yourself so you can continue to have fun.


Yes, when you travel you may want to have a drink. I know I like a glass of white wine to take the edge off of a long travel day, but here’s the thing, alcohol can dehydrate you, which can lead to a migraine. Drink a glass of water for every glass of wine or cocktail. Most of all, know your limits. Don’t get drunk. It just comes to bite you back in the morning with a migraine.

Low caffeine

A long time ago a doctor told me to keep my caffeine levels low at all times so that when I got a migraine I could drink a caffeinated soda, cup of coffee or a strong cup of black tea to help kick my migraine out. Caffeine makes your blood move faster, which can get your medication into your system quicker.

This trick does work. I’ve been doing it for at least ten years. I drink a lot of decaf coffee and tea, but have no fear. My caffeine levels are so low that even decaf coffee, which still has traces of caffeine in it, can give me a little jumpstart in the morning if I’m dragging.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or any type of medical professional. I am just a long-time migraine sufferer who has learned a few tricks after years of travel. Everyone who suffers from migraines is different. Before you change anything in your routine talk to your personal physician and/or neurologist first. 


Image credit: Flickr/r. nial bradshaw

4 thoughts on “10 Tips for Traveling with Migraines”

  1. Kirsten

    You are so right on with all of these tips. I won’t drink red wine any more for fear of a migraine. I will never forget my worst travel migraine ever. After flying to Nice, it ruined our entire first day. I drink water constantly when I’m on the plane, and always have my medicine nearby. I like the yoga tips and the massage. Now I just have to convince my husband to take the kids so I can get a massage every time we travel! : )

    1. Keryn Means

      Oh man. My worst one was in Rome. Woke up the day after we arrived with so much pain I didn’t want to move ever again. Learned a lot that trip! Sorry to hear you get them too, but glad I’m not alone in trying to maintain some sort of healthy head and still travel a ton! I’m still working on the post flight massage too 😉

  2. Amanda Morris

    Great article and good reminders for me! I need to do a better job of remembering to stay hydrated. It’s so easy to forget when traveling. Also, your spot on with eating…it seems our eating schedule is always off and we end up having long spans between meals.

    On our last trip, I was able to take a short nap (after taking my medicine) on the hydrofoil between Sorrento and Naples. That 15 min. or so really helped!

    Another trigger for me is flourescent lights, which are often in hotel rooms. So plenty of daylight and trying not to rely on the lamps for light can also help me.

    1. Keryn Means

      100% agree with you on the fluorescent lights Amanda. I once got a migraine at the neurologists cause of her lights! My husband can’t understand why I don’t turn on every light in the house when I wake up. I much prefer daylight and to allow my eyes to adjust slowly. Back to drinking water. I fly again tomorrow!

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