How I Manage Migraines on the Road

Disclosure: I have partnered with both YMC and 1in8HaveIt and have received compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.

Do you get migraines? I do. I’m one of the unlucky ones who suffer from migraines and I know I’m not alone. 1 in 8 people around the world get them regularly.

The simple fact is, migraines are awful and as bad as they are at home, I think they’re even worse when you travel. At least at home I can minimize my exposure to the world and retreat to the comfort and safety of my room. Out on the road, my surroundings are harder to control and sometimes it takes a little work to find solace.

In hindsight, I’ve spent more mornings than I like to admit lying in a hotel room, with the shades drawn, suffering through a migraine instead of having fun on vacation with the family.

Imagine this: It’s our fist night in Madrid. We arrive in Spain just after supper, haul our far too heavy suitcases up the three sets of stairs to our rented apartment, and collapse into bed as we make plans for breakfast and a full day of sightseeing the next day.

Then, boom. The next morning I wake up with a terrible migraine. No freshly baked croissants, no morning walks along charming cobblestone streets in the Centro, and no delicious churros con chocolate with the family. Instead, I’m holed up in our rented bedroom apartment with the shades drawn tightly.

If I try to sit up, I feel nauseous and light headed, and there’s an ice pick poking at my sinuses.

Maestro Churrero in Madrid
mmm… churros con chocolate in Madrid

Unfortunately, this happens more than I wish. Even more unfortunately, I’m not alone in suffering through migraines. It’s estimated that nearly 2.7 million Canadians report living with migraines. Due to the use of over-the-counter medications, many people never seek help for their symptoms so, in all likelihood, this number is likely even higher.

My migraine story in Madrid ended happily though. Charles and the kids ran out, grabbed me bottles of fruit juice and sports drinks, and after a few hours of rest, I was still shaky, but ready to explore the city.

I was lucky that day. Migraines aren’t always so easy to get rid of. I’ve had plenty of travel days ruined by a bad migraine that wouldn’t go away.

Want to see if your headaches might be a migraine? Take the quiz at and share your results with a medical professional.

I’ve had migraines for years now, but luckily they’ve usually been pretty manageable, with a few ugly exceptions. Not everyone’s so lucky. If you suffer from them regularly, don’t suffer through it alone. Seek help, there might be an underlying cause to them or at least a plan to manage them better.

Maligne Lake in Jasper Alberta in winter
A wonderful, migraine free travel day in Jasper, Alberta.

How I manage migraines on the road

Over the years, I’ve figured out a few things that help me manage migraines on the road or while at home. The most important one being the second a migraine hits me, I load up on liquids. For me, staying hydrated helps a ton and that alone can sometimes prevent a full blown migraine from hitting me.

Unfortunately, standard over the counter medications aren’t much help. I may as well be taking candy for all the good they seem do when a full blown migraine hits me. At best, they take the edge off a little, but I can’t rely on them to get me back on my feet and exploring the world again.

I also avoid triggers like red wine, too little food and lack of sleep when I feel a migraine might be at hand. The sleep portion can sometimes be hard when we’re on the road and I feel a migraine coming, but we slow down our pace and that, coupled with tons of liquids, seems to help.

I also find a quiet, dark area to hide in free from all outside stimuli. That means putting down my phone, tablet or computer and turning the TV off. It might seem like non-productive time, but the sooner the migraine passes, the more quality time I can spend with the family seeing the sights while we travel or getting work done when we’re at home.

It seems the more I can block out the outside world, the faster my migraine goes away, but that’s just what works for me. It seems like everyone’s migraines are a bit different in how it hits them, what triggers them and how they cope with migraines while traveling.

Help from fellow migraine sufferers

A little while ago I felt a migraine coming on, and asked our Twitter community what works best for them. There were some great answers, including lavender scent, sports drinks, and getting the right medication.

But what happens when sports drinks, over the counter medications, and avoiding triggers just isn’t enough to kill a migraine? Every case is so different that seeking out the help of your doctor is crucial.

Take the test at and learn more about migraines including common migraine triggers, early migraine warning signs and overall migraine awareness.

fun in New Hampshire

how to travel with migraines