Help on Holiday

By 29 May 2024June 7th, 2024MAI News

Help on Holiday!

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes. The information is not intended nor suited to be a replacement or substitute for professional medical treatment or for professional medical advice relative to a specific medical question or condition.

Those of us with migraine can need a little extra help on holiday.

It’s that time of year once again when the exodus to more sunnier climes begins. For those of us living with migraine however, in whatever form, sunnier climes do not a perfect holiday make, in fact, although we need a break as much as anyone, sometimes the change of routine, among other factors can be detrimental to us.

If you are braving the holiday experience, be it at home or abroad, here are a few tips that we hope will help you.

Before you Travel

  • If possible, take some time off before your actual holiday to relax and prepare yourself mentally and make sure you have a couple of days of rest when you come back from your holiday.
    • Speak to your local Gardaí to let them know you’re going away, especially if the house will be vacant for a while; they don’t mind sending a car by just to double check things and they have this really handy PDF with lots of helpful tips.
    • Arrange travel to and from airports or ferry ports well in advance so you won’t have to worry about it closer to the time.
    • If going by car, check journey times, best routes, road works, etc, as well as where to break your journey for a rest.
    • Arrange travel insurance and your European Health Insurance Card early to get them out of the way
    • Make arrangements for any pets while you’re away so you won’t be worried about them.
    • Make copies of your itinerary and keep them on you so you’ll have them to hand should you need them.
    • Make a checklist of everything you need and tick it off as you pack so you know you’ve forgotten nothing.
    • Check the availability of childminding services in case you need them while away, e.g. if one person is off shopping or golfing and a migraine hits the one left behind…
    • Look up the word for migraine in the language of the country you are travelling to!
    • Speak to your doctor about any concerns you have and your plan for managing migraine during your trip.

Things to consider when travelling with medication

  • Discuss your treatment plan with your doctor and make sure you have all your medication, if needed ready to bring with you .
    • Ask the doctor for a short note explaining your need for your medication. It will help if you need added medication, to see a GP abroad or for customs.
    • Consider how long you are planning on travelling for and discuss with your pharmacist whether your prescription will cover the time frame”
    • Ask your pharmacist for a copy of your prescription in case you need it. Some countries might require a copy if you have certain types of medications with you.
    • If you’re bringing extra medication, don’t keep it all in one bag in case one gets accidentally sent to a more exotic location.

Travelling Abroad

    • If you are going to a foreign country, it’s a good idea to check out where the local health/medical centre/GP is and if anyone there speaks your language.
    • Check to see if that country has a national migraine organisation which might give you information on where to go for help.
    • Keep a Migraine Identity Card on you that you can hand to a person should a severe attack occur, and you can’t communicate – we can supply you with one of our new ID card which comes with a pouch and lanyard, and is part of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower
    • Most airline or passenger ship companies have a ‘special assistance’ section on their websites.  – I’ve used it, it’s a great facility!!
    • Contact your airline if you require portable oxygen during travel.
    • Talk to your doctor beforehand if you are concerned about triggers such as motion sickness and make a plan.
    • Discuss with your pharmacist how you need to store your medication.

At the Airport

  • Many airports have a quiet area, prayer room or chapel, which are normally darker than the rest of the airport and much quieter. All ban the use of mobile phones.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the airport police or staff if you need it.
    • If you’re worried about being searched and the hassle of taking off your shoes and opening out your bags, be ready.
    • Wear shoes or sandals that can be easily slipped off and on
    • Only put essentials in your hand luggage and keep your pockets free if possible.
    • Keep jewellery and accessories to a minimum so you won’t have too much to take off going through security!
    • Check all the hand luggage security requirements online before going to the airport to make sure you’re not carrying anything that might cause you to be stopped and searched
    • For information on facilities at your destination or returning airport, see their individual airport websites.

While Travelling

  • Keep hydrated: bring water with you everywhere.
    • Pack a selection of snacks and bring them with you if possible
    • Let plenty of air into your car if travelling the country, even if it’s not that warm.
    • Give yourself plenty of time to get there so you’re not rushing, so that even being stuck in traffic won’t be too stressful.
    • Break your journey, even if it’s not too long a drive, stop at a town or rest stop, get out, stretch your legs, have a bite to eat and relax for a while.
    • If travelling on a long-haul flight or train journey, don’t be afraid to get up, stretch a bit and walk about the place if possible.
    • Ask for an aisle seat so that you don’t have to climb across sleeping passengers to get out of your seat or to get access to the toilet.
    • Tell the cabin staff that you suffer from migraine and may require their help during the journey, they will more than likely be happy to help you.
    • Consider trying some travel aids: some can help with nausea and others reduce the noise and help with air pressure.
    • Try using a neck pillow for comfort.
    • Bring a cold or hot pack depending on which helps you more.
    • Bring a sleep mask/cooling eye mask.
    • Bring polarised or precision tinted glasses to protect from glare of clouds and sunshine as well as cabin lights.
    • Use ear plugs to drown out the noise.
    • Use nose plugs or a dab of Vicks to mask odours.
    • Bring earphones with you to supply you with relaxing music or an audiobook or anti-stress meditation.

Travelling with Children

If your child suffers from migraine, discuss with your doctor any concerns you have about travelling and how to care for them during the holiday.

While on Holiday

  • Consider your routine and triggers on holiday as much as possible and plan and make decisions for them.
    • If going abroad bring an extra watch and leave it on Irish time to help you figure out when to do things, or use your mobile phone clock
    • Keep an eye on the weather forecast for the area you’re travelling to and prepare yourself appropriately e.g. Hot and sunny day followed by a humid and thundery evening – download an app which can give a migraine weather forecast.
    • Stay hydrated, especially in the sun, look for places to get the best of all worlds, a sunny spot near shade and a bar or cafe, either of which you can retreat to if necessary.
    • When out and about in the sunshine, consider wearing your sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.


  • Consider potential food triggers and try to check the ingredients on menus, especially if it’s not the kind of food you would normally eat.
    • Don’t be afraid to experiment and try the local cuisine but keep an eye on other potential triggers.
    • Be mindful of your threshold of triggers, for example a late night followed by a hot day, or a busy activity followed by a night out – consider how you are feeling and listen to your body.
    • Tell your hotel, tour operator, airline etc., in advance if you think that may help you.
    • Drink plenty of water and make sure you have access to water, especially in a hot climate.
    • Try to relax as much as possible. Whether you’re in Spain, Italy or here in Ireland, take a ‘siesta’ in the afternoon if you feel the need.
    • You’re on holiday, it’s your time, and so make sure you factor in some ‘me time’.


Discuss this with family and friends before you go so that it can be planned for so that they can support you. Activities

  • If you’re an active person and plan on skiing, walking, hiking, or surfing, make sure to plan to look after yourself.
    • Wind down slowly.
    • Wear protective sunglasses. Polarised lenses reduce the glare and wrap-around shades block the sun from sneaking in the corners of your eyes.
    • Make a packing checklist for days out, for example – hat, sunglasses, sun cream, water, acute treatments as disscussed with your doctor , ID Card, money, and emergency contact phone numbers. Keep everything you need ready in a bag.

Returning home

  • Like all good things, holidays have to come to an end. Be mindful and plan for a wind-down attack.
    • Remember Jet Lag is a potential trigger – talk to your doctor to see if they can give you anything to help with it.
    • The weather at home (if you’re coming back to Ireland) will probably not be as nice as the weather on holiday so prepare for this in advance by checking your weather app.
    • Again, wind down slowly after you get home and slowly try to get back into your usual routineBe patient, and kind to yourself

Finally, have a fantastic holiday wherever you go, we hope it will be filled with happiness and free from migraine for you.