Travel was so easy in the halcyon days before the menopause years. But travelling during the menopause can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride!
The taboo of talking openly about menopause been only recently been broken. and October is now designated World Menopause Month, to raise awareness of this natural, but unsettling stage in every woman’s life. It’s a long-overdue development.
Thankfully, there is more information and more help available than ever before for women, with plenty of information online and offline about the symptoms of menopause.
Some women do not experience any symptoms, but the majority of women will, and this can really impact on both physical and mental aspects of your life, including relationships, work, and activities.Dr Shilpa McQuillan
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What Does Menopause Mean For Women Who Love To Travel?
If you Google “travelling during the menopause”, you won’t find many answers to the questions you want to ask. Questions like:
- How will I cope with hot flushes on the plane?
- Will tiredness stop me from doing everything on my schedule?
- What will group travel be like if I have mood swings?
- Do I need to rethink how I travel?
- How will I deal with flooding when I’m away from home?
This post shares the real nitty-gritty about how your menopause symptoms could affect your enjoyment of your travels. You’ll also find coping strategies to help with your travel planning too.
This post does not constitute medical advice. You should talk to your own medical caregiver about your specific situation.
Things No One Told Me About Travelling During The Menopause
The only advice my doctor gave me about managing the symptoms of menopause was to talk to my mum – apparently, most women have a similar menopause experience to their mothers. As I lost my mum when I was 21, this was not helpful, so I changed my doctor and got some solid advice.
Do you ever reach the end of the day with uncomfortably tight clothes, especially around your tummy? It can sometimes feel like you’ve gained two dress sizes during the day!
Changes in your hormone levels, particularly during perimenopause, can lead to higher levels of oestrogen, a hormone that can cause your body to retain water – causing uncomfortable bloating. When you combine higher oestrogen levels with pressurised cabins on planes which tend to cause bloating too, you’ll probably feel quite uncomfortable.
Here’s how to cope with menopausal bloating
- Keep moving – get up and walk around as much as possible.
- Stay hydrated – always have water with you.
- Snack on fruit and veggies, and avoid foods that make you feel “gassy”.
- Limit your consumption of alcohol, carbonated drinks and salty snacks.
- Pack loose-fitting clothes that won’t restrict your waistline
2. Horrible Hot Flushes (Flashes)
Even if you’ve not had hot flushes at home, hot places can bring them on, making summer trips to hot countries like Egypt hard to cope with. High humidity can be equally challenging to deal with.
Exercise may help you to have fewer hot flashes, because exercise raises endorphins (happy hormones) and feel better about ourselves.
Here’s how to cope with hot flushes
- Book a room with aircon and check it works as soon as you arrive!
- Stay somewhere with a pool, so you can dip in and cool down as often as you need.
- Carry a mini-fan in your day bag.
- Pack a chilled bamboo pillow with a shredded latex/memory foam. filling (far more comfortable than cooling gel pads that sit just beneath the pillowcase).
- As soon as you board your flight, check out the air vent above your seat – if it’s not working, ask to be moved!
- Pack a pashmina or jacket/cardigan in your day pack, as you may get chilly once the hot flush has passed.
- Go for a walk.
- Get some fresh air.
3. Nightmarish Night Sweats
Even if you don’t get hot flushes during the day, you could suffer from night sweats, and that’s likely to play havoc with the quality of your sleep.
Here’s how to cope with those night sweats
- Pack cool, comfortable, moisture-wicking natural fabrics including bamboo and lightweight kinds of cotton.
- Double up on nightwear, so you’ll always have a fresh set to change onto if you do wake up drenched in the middle of the night.
- Check whether your hotel offers a laundry service.
- If you’re travelling with a carry on bag only, try Sea to Summit Trek and Travel Pocket Laundry Wash, as it’s very lightweight and super-efficient.
For more advice on what to wear when travelling during the menopause, here’s a useful article.
4. Leave The Triggers Alone
Some food, drinks and stress can trigger hot flushes, so try to relax while you’re away from home. If you have a travel companion, let them know that you might need some alone time or extra rest time.
How to deal with the things that trigger you
- Avoid food and drinks that you know can trigger a hot flush (caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods). Drink alcohol in moderation.
- Don’t drink alcohol on the plane – a hot flush when you’re confined a plane seat can feel 10 times worse than usual.
5. Manage Your Sleep
Sleep can be elusive for women during the menopause – both getting to sleep and staying asleep, and this insomnia can feel much worse when you’re away from home.
The crushing tiredness that follows a wretched night of tossing and turning can make your travels much less enjoyable.
How to cope with menopausal insomnia
- Switch off any tech at least one hour before you plan to go to bed, and don’t use tech once you’re in bed.
- Wear a sleep mask to help keep your room dark.
- Turn the aircon down, so your room is cool.
- Pack earplugs too, to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep.
If you already suffer from insomnia, ask your doctor for advice about how to manage this before you travel.
6. Brain Fog Is Real
Lack of concentration and memory problems are a reality for many women going through the menopause. Some women find they make mistakes at work or miss important appointments. Others worry that their deteriorating memory means they have dementia
While this can be bewildering in your daily life, it can be more worrying when you’re travelling, making you feel quite vulnerable.
Brain fog is a very common symptom of the menopause and women have told me that their brains feel like “cotton wool” and they find it very difficult to absorb information
How to deal with brain fog
- Talk to your doctor about your menopause symptoms and ask about HRT, to see whether this could help you, as it will help you to feel in control.
- Write all the important stuff down.
- Fully document your travel plans, and leave a copy of these with someone you trust.
- Carry a photocopy of your passport and other key travel documents.
- Consider taking a group tour in your destination(s), rather than exploring solo.
Recommended reading: How to keep your travel money and important documents safe when you’re travelling.
7. Changes To Your Periods
Often, the first sign of the approach of menopause will be when the pattern and/or frequency of your periods changes. These may become unusually light or very heavy. You’ll probably need to change your sanitary products to cope with these changes.
I remember the horror of sitting on the tarmac, due to a delayed flight departure, hoping I wasn’t going to have a flooding problem…
You may start to have periods every 2 or 3 weeks, or you may not have them for months at a time. Eventually, you’ll stop having periods altogether.
How to cope with changes to your periods in the lead up to menopause
- Pack plenty of sanitary products (whether you’re expecting to be on your period or not). In more far-flung countries, you may not be able to buy your preferred products.
- For a sustainable alternative that will save space in your luggage, opt for washable pads.
- Carry disposable wipes.
- Pack dark coloured trousers/leggings, to avoid embarrassment if you do have an “accident”.
8. Herbal Remedies Work For Some
Doctors may scoff, but for some women, natural and herbal remedies provide blessed relief from their menopause symptoms. Before you rush out and stock up, here are a few tips for using herbal remedies when travelling:
- Try any meds before you head off on your trip, but consult your doctor first, as there may be a medical reason for you not to use them!
- Keep all medications in the original packaging, in case you have to answer any questions about “what are these pills”? While the TSA doesn’t require it, it may be helpful to bring a doctor’s note explaining how you will be using your medications.
- Travelling to international destinations with natural and herbal remedies can be tricky. Some countries might ban or restrict the import or use of these remedies. Check on their embassy website.
Final Thoughts About Travelling During The Menopause
For many women, menopause symptoms last about 4 years, but around 10% of women experience symptoms for up to 12 years, so it’s important to know how to cope. With good planning and preparation, you’ll be able to enjoy all of your travels, despite your menopause symptoms.