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How To Cope When Menopause Starts to Make Travel Miserable

How To Cope When Menopause Starts to Make Travel Miserable

The taboo of talking openly about menopause has only recently been broken and there’s more information and help available than ever before for women, with plenty of information online and offline about the symptoms of menopause, including hot flushes (hot flashes), brain fog and night sweats. It’s a very overdue development.

One area that’s not often discussed is that when menopause starts travel can become a bit of a rollercoaster ride! Confident women who travel for business or leisure suddenly have a whole host of new challenges to deal with – sometimes just to get out of the front door, let alone to a new country.

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

Related Posts

When Menopause Starts What Does It Mean For Women Who Travel?

Search for “how do you know when menopause starts”, there’s an increasing amount of information available but look for “travel during menopause” or “travel during perimenopause” and you’ll find scarce answers to the questions you really want to ask. Questions like:

  • How will I cope with hot flashes on the plane? Will other people notice?
  • 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?
  • I’m going somewhere warm – how will I cope with sweating, chafing and the night sweats?

This post talks about how your menopause symptoms could affect how you travel and shares some ideas for how to plan your travels when menopause starts to dim your sparkle.

This post does not constitute medical advice. You should talk to your own medical caregiver about your specific situation.

Things to Prepare for When Menopause Starts

It’s useful to talk to your physician about your menopause and to discuss a plan for manging any symptoms of menopause that you’re experiencing

1. Bloating

Do you ever reach the end of the day with uncomfortably tight clothes, especially around your tummy? It can 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 and cause uncomfortable bloating. Combining higher oestrogen levels with pressurised cabins on planes – which tend to cause bloating too – can be quite uncomfortable.

How to cope with menopausal bloating when you’re travelling

  • 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. Hot Flashes

Even if you’ve not had hot flashes 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 yourself.  

How to cope with hot flashes

  • 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 flash has passed. 
  • Go for a walk to get some fresh air. 

3. Night Sweats

Even if you don’t get hot flashes during the day, you could suffer from night sweats, and that’s likely to play havoc with the quality of your sleep.

The best way to cope with night sweats

  • Pack cool, comfortable, moisture-wicking natural fabrics including bamboo and lightweight kinds of cotton. 
  • Double up on comfortable and cooling bamboo 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, pack Pocket Laundry Wash, as it’s very lightweight and super-efficient. 

For more advice on what to wear when you’re travelling during menopause, here’s a useful article. You may also find a cooling pad useful to sleep on.

4. Understand and Avoid The Triggers

Some food, drinks and stress can trigger hot flashes, 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 triggers when travelling during menopause

  • Avoid food and drinks that you know can trigger a hot flash (caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods).
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. 
  • Don’t drink alcohol on the plane – hot flashes when you’re confined to a plane seat can feel 10 times worse than usual.

5. Manage Your Sleep

Sleep can be elusive for menopausal age women – 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

Lack of concentration and memory problems are a reality for many women during menopause. Some 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

Dr Louise R Newson. GP and Menopause Specialist

How to deal with brain fog

  • Talk to your doctor and ask about HRT, to see whether this could help you, as it may 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 – they 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”.

Consider Herbal Remedies

Some women find that natural and herbal remedies provide blessed relief from their menopause symptoms. Before you rush out and stock up, 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 them. 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 Travel During Menopause

It’s impossible to predict how long menopause will last for you. 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 your travel during perimenopause and menopause, despite your menopause symptoms.

Further Resources

Is it menopause or is it life?

How to talk to your doctor about menopause.

Swollen ankles, fluid retention and why a long-haul flight needs managing in menopause.

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