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One thing that female travelers must think about that our male counterparts never do is dealing with “that time of the month” when traveling. It’s certainly annoying to have to consider our periods when planning a trip, but it shouldn’t keep you from traveling. After all, women have been on their periods since the beginning of time. Even female explorers and travelers like Amelia Earhart and Jane Goodall had to hit the road during their monthly cycle.
Women all over the world deal with their periods, so if you make preparations in advance, you can get through it. Don’t spend all day in bed when you’ve been saving for this trip for months! We’ll show you how. Do you have additional tips to share? Leave them below!
How to Prepare in Advance
Plan Your Trip and Travel Activities Around Your Period
This may seem pretty self-explanatory, but it’s not always something in the forefront of your mind when you’re planning an extended trip, or trying to cram as much activity as possible into a short time-frame. Maybe you only get a specific week or two off work/school, or perhaps you’re traveling with a group and need to choose an itinerary that works for all involved.
In any case, knowing in advance the dates you’ll be on your period can help you plan (or at least make recommendations) for activities and travel dates in general. If your group has the option of doing that Inca Trail trek, for example, during a period week and non-period week, then suggest the non-period week!
Consider Skipping Your Period When You Travel
Also consider skipping your period altogether or moving it around for your trip via birth control pills. While this isn’t a solution for long-term travel, it is possible to temporarily skip your period by either not taking the placebo pills if you’re on traditional pills or by going ahead and putting in a new NuvaRing if you use that system.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s safe to do unless your doctor says otherwise, but you may still experience spotting. With that in mind, it’s probably best to test this method before actually on your trip- you might find it more annoying to have spotting for a couple of weeks to deal with.
If you have an IUD, an implanted device in your cervix, you may no longer experience a period at all. I use this method and haven’t had a period since, which is great for travel.
Research Product Options Before You Travel
Also look into what your destination has in terms of options for periods. In many countries, namely in Australia and parts of Europe, you may find tampons but they usually don’t have applicators. It can be a bit of a shock if you’re not used to it. In other parts of the world, like Asia, you won’t find tampons apart from at a few Western stores. In some locations, you may have to ask for tampons at the pharmacy.
Useful Packing List for Traveling On Your Period
As we mentioned earlier, pack items that will help make your period easier. Here are a few to consider:
Sanitary Materials to Pack
1. Traditional Tampons and Pads
If you use traditional tampons or pads, you might want to bring your chosen brand with you, depending on the length of your trip. If you’re gone for less than a month, don’t worry too much about bringing multiple boxes. But if you’re going on a long-term trip, you might want to consider other options instead of taking up unnecessary space in your luggage.
2. Reusable Pads and Panty Liners
More environmentally friendly options include reusable pads, which come in maxi and mini sizes. GladRags and Lunapads are just a few of the brands you can try. Simply wear and wash as needed. The all-natural cotton pads don’t have the nasty chemicals you’ll find in standard pads, and the highly-absorbent material lasts 5 years.
Here’s what some women in our HPLWorld community had to say about using reusable pads on the road:
Clair: “I’ve been using cotton pads for a couple of years now – including the last 8 months on the road – and much prefer them to normal disposable towels (have never used tampons though, personal preference). I soak mine in a double bagged ziploc which I’ve managed to keep hidden in hostels etc, then just wash them in my regular wash. Never had any problems or any embarrassment! Ironically mine are dark fabric but have become discoloured from the bleach in some detergent I’ve used – but no one sees them so I don’t really mind.”
Abigail: “I often use Glad Rags, but while travelling, just wouldn’t have been practical… problems like, where to store them until they can be washed, and explaining them to anyone who happens to notice that I’m putting them in the washing machine… uh, no.”
Other options include sea sponges, a natural and reusable material, and menstrual cups, like our favorite Diva Cup.
3. Diva Cups for Travelers
Menstrual cups, like the Diva Cup, are a great option for long-term travel because they’re good for several years. Simply insert, use for up to 12 hours, empty, wash and re-insert. I do, however, recommend that you test it out well before your trip, as you might not like one brand or another.
We have a whole guide on diva cups for travelers that even help with how to wash and clean when outdoors or at music festivals.
4. Period Underwear
You might also want to try period panties, underwear designed to wear alone, without the aid of tampons, and then washed. Thinx is one of the brands that makes multiple pairs, one for each type of flow. Most women tend to wear them as a backup to tampons, or on lighter days, but you might be able to get by with just the underwear and nothing else! As with everything, test in normal life before hitting the road.
Medications to Pack
Add extra medication to your medical kit in preparation for that time of the month. This might include Midol, ibuprofen/paracetamol, or painkillers, which you might need a prescription for. You also should consider natural remedies like chamomile tea, an anti-inflammatory.
While exercise helps eliminate cramps, it’s not always possible to go for a run while you’re on your period. If you’re flying on your cycle days, pack a heating pad, which will help eliminate some of the pain you’re experiencing in your back and abdomen.
Plug-in heating pads aren’t always realistic, as you’ll need an outlet, but you can try different versions of the hand warmers you might pack for a cold weather trip. Simply rub it between your hands and it will start to heat up. There are also reusable packs which you can freeze for muscle pain or put in boiling water for warmth. Check out these ThermaCare wraps or menstrual pain.
Period clothing is very similar to plane outfits. Dress for comfort and plan for bloating. Yoga pants, loose fitting tops and maxi dresses are a good idea, paired with comfortable shoes.
Finding Feminine Hygiene Products Overseas
In many parts of Europe, you can find tampons and pads at the grocery store, and often some of the same brands you’re used to at home. However, as mentioned before, in other parts of the world you might have a hard time finding tampons because of lack of resources or because of cultural and religious reasons. In Kyrgyzstan, for example, women can source tampons at the pharmacies, behind the counter. You may need to look up the local word for them, too, when making your request.
Should I Pack 6 Months of Tampons?
So with that in mind, should you stockpile tampons before you head out on your round-the-world trip? Hmm… this is a hard one to answer as it all depends on the type of person you are.
You see, there are some females that are very particular about their brand of tampon. While you will probably be able to find a brand of tampon in most countries (at least in bigger cities), it might not be your preferred brand. To girls that worry about issues like this, you might want to pack some extra tampons.
If the thought of having to go without tampons scares you, then you also might benefit from packing extras. Some countries, or more rural cities, may not have tampons, but only pads, readily available in the shops.
Or, you could simply look into trying a reusable menstrual cup, like the diva cup.
Extra Tips for Traveling on Your Period
Can Traveling Affect Your Period?
Travel can throw off your normal cycle, especially when you’re dealing with time zones. If you’re not on the pill, which regulates your cycle, then it’s best to have some products as a backup in your handbag or daypack at all times. This post has lots of good information on why this may occur.
How to Manage Your Period on Long Plane and Train Journeys
Is there anything worse than being on your period on a long-haul flight, train or car ride? It’s difficult to get comfortable and all you want to do is curl up in a ball. If you’re flying, try to walk around every few hours to keep the blood flowing. Don’t sleep for too long or forget you’re wearing a tampon. Set an alarm if you need to so that you don’t get Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Bring disposal essentials with you on the journey, including plastic bags, tissues or toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. A black plastic bag might be best, just in case the bathroom doesn’t have a trash can and you have to hold onto your used sanitary items until you find the proper place to toss them.
Our recommended method would be to use the Diva Cup, which can be worn for up to 12 hours without the risk of TSS or leaking in most cases. While it is possible to change in public restrooms, it is often easier to wait until in the convenience of your accommodation when at all possible.
Period Pain Management Methods
When it comes to managing pain and other period symptoms, there are a handful of ways you can treat it apart from medications. Exercise is a surprising way to relieve cramps, which may sound like the last thing you want to do. But rather than curling up in bed in your hotel room, opt for walking around your destination, which allows you to both sightsee and feel better.
Vitamin D also helps. Be sure to drink plenty of water, keeping yourself hydrated and feeling good. And while you might crave salty and fried foods, this is an important time to eat well. Eat fresh veggies or grab a smoothie.
Hot water bottles or heating pads and patches, as mentioned earlier, can also help with pain without medication.
Disposing of Feminine Hygiene Products
Also consider what periods are like for women all over the world. You can’t flush sanitary items in most countries of the world. Consider whether or not you’ll be able to find a receptacle, especially if you’re going camping, and pack extra disposal bags or ziplocs accordingly.
Superstitious Beliefs About Periods
Some countries have superstitious beliefs when it comes to women and their periods. Some mosques and temples don’t allow women to enter while they’re menstruating. In fact, menstrual cycles have been the reason for why women can’t hold certain jobs, including in Japan. Menstruating women are isolated for the week in rural Nepal. In parts of Africa and South America, talking about periods is a taboo. Read this article on Huffington Post for more about period-related beliefs overseas.
I highly recommend the diva cup. It’s been great in southeast Asia. In addiction, most of the toilets here have a “bum gun” – a hose to wash with – which I use to rinse out the cup and clean up down there. It’s much easier to deal with than back home!
I’d make sure to pack plenty of pads and tampons and ibuprophen and those stick on heating pads. I’m sure you can buy more in the pharmacies.
Years ago (about 15 now) when I went on a 30 day trek through the Himalayas of Nepal my doctor put me on continuous birth control. Since then I have continued to take the pills continuously and only get a period a couple times a year, if I want to. Having your period is not necessary unless you are actively trying to get pregnant, which I never wanted.
You need to discuss this option with your doctor as not everyone will be a good candidate and they will need to prescribe more refills than the usual 12 month supply. I don’t have any family history of “female problems” and have never had so much as a yeast infection, so I was a perfect candidate.
Options. It’s nice to have options 🙂
I’m glad to see taking birth control pills continuously isn’t the devil! My doctor too told me to take them continuously for other reasons, the problem is when I travel or get too stress (the days before) I tend to take it late in the day or the day after and then I spot almost always when I travel or take a vacation… it can be just a couple of days but is still very annoying especially when going to the caraibes! Do you have this kind of problem? I should fix a timer every day hihi. Other then that I love not having my periods anymore !!!
Aww, you’re so lucky! I’m with you in the never wanting to get pregnant boat and I have difficult, extremely painful periods so I really want to stop them with medication but I’m diabetic and quite paranoid so I’m too scared to do it. 😕
I tried the Diva cup and it didn’t fit me well. Now I use the meluna cup and I cannot recommend it enough. There are lots of different brands and I would recommend reading reviews to help you choose the one that will fit you best.
I recently traveled to Russia, and had planned for my period to arrive on time, at the end of my trip. Instead it decided to show up in the middle…right before a 5 day hike in the southern Urals. :O I panicked a little, but actually it wasn’t so bad. A diva cup might have been useful, except that it would have been hard to wash and sterilize discreetly. As it was, pads and extra tissues worked well enough. And at least now I know that such a situation really is completely survivable for me, and didn’t get in the way of having a wonderful time.
I would exercise EXTREME CAUTION and do your research before altering your cycle hormonally in any way! It can really mess up your body’s natural rhythms and balance. I got very depressed and gained a lot of weight when I took birth control, and it’s taken years to figure out how to nourish and rebalance my body’s damaged rhythm. I certainly would not recommend messing with your cycle purely for the sake of travel convenience.
I’d definitely suggest giving yourself 3-6 months to try new products or birth control before travelling. This sounds like a lot of time, especially to last-minute kind of travellers, but its really only a few days a month that you get to try out a new product. A lot of women reviewing reusable period products (cloth pads, menstrual cups, etc.) noted that when switching off of tampons, their cycle changed a bit. So you want to make sure you give your body time to adjust as well as not rushing yourself to become pro at a new system. Menstrual cups especially are something you don’t want to rush. I had minor frustrations with the Diva Cup for almost four years before realizing there were different cups with different sizes and shapes available, and have been extremely satisfied since switching to Sckoon cup which is a little shorter.
I have used both cloth pads and menstrual cups for the past eight years or so and have found a few tricks to help deal with them in public restrooms. 1) always have a backup. if I’m using my cup, I’ll always have a little bag with a couple of cloth panty liners. Most cloth pad makers also sell dual-pocket travel bags, one zipper for clean stuff and a second pocket lined with water-resistant material for dirties. 2) take a water bottle to the bathroom. even if it is empty, fill it at the bathroom sink and take it in the stall with you for rinsing your cup or hands into the toilet. 3) remember that EVERYONE has to deal with periods to some extent. Neighbouring male traveller in a hostel ask what that cloth thing is that you’re stuffing into your bag? Cloth pad for my period, man. It’s his choice to be uncomfortable, not yours.
Alice Teacake says
I’m really digging menstrual cups right now. They are eco-friendly, they save you money in the long run, they’re healthy and as a woman, I feel they really connect you to your body and flow. Tampons and pads are creating way too much waste – investing in a product which is reusable is so much better.
Calamity Sue says
Got caught out with an extra heavy period starting suddenly while on a speedboat with my husband in the mangroves of Mexico. Had no way of changing and tampon fell out so I threw it in the water. Next thing our tour guide pulled up beside us and asked if everything was okay. I have wondered since if there was suddenly a shark following our boat! Then I still had to cope with being helped out of the boat by the tour guide at the other end and the blood being obvious as I was wearing light coloured shorts. Be prepared ladies!
So glad I came across your site! My husband and I will be traveling to Thailand at the end of the month which means that (unfortunately) I’ll be on my period during most of the trip. I was so bummed that I wouldn’t be able to wear light colored clothing or thin fabrics because I usually wear pads and would dread to have the outline of it be visible. Anyway, I’ve never considered menstrual cups until now. Hopefully it goes well and won’t fail on me during our water activities.
I think I’m gonna give in and get those period panties. I’m scared of tampons, grossed out by cloth pads and cups and always end up leaking with traditional pads. I hope they’ll work for me, though, they’re so expensive!
Annoyed with my Cycle says
I swear, my period is the bane of my existence. I have been planning a trip to Maine with my mom for a year and a half (we were supposed to go last September, but, you know, COVID) and I had been keeping track of my period. When the time came closer to book hotels and all that good stuff, my mom was going to go for the second week of June, but I told her I preferred the first week. Because, by my account I should be getting my period by June 14 and if we went on our trip from June 3rd-11th, I wouldn’t have to deal with my period at all!
Well….that was back in April when reservations were made and wouldn’t you know, TWO WEEKS after my April period…I get my period again (on May 3rd) .which wasn’t supposed to start until the third week of May. I try not to panic because I count the days of my regular cycle and I should get my next period by the last Friday and Saturday of May, so I should be able to just miss having it on my period….well, those days have passed and still no period! Now I’m just feeling sup[er anxious about having a period on a trip I was looking forward to for so long and made sure I wouldn’t have it! Ugh!
Anyway, I liked your article and probably should have read it way earlier….but I didn’t think I’d be having my period on my trip!