You’ve packed your bags, made accommodation arrangements, and are ready for the trip of a lifetime. But a few days before you leave, you start feeling insecure. What if your brain fog, night sweats or hot flashes ruin your trip? The taboo of talking openly about menopause has only recently been broken, but one area that’s not often discussed is how the onset of menopause can affect travel in some ways.
Learning to manage the various menopausal symptoms- weight gain, hot flashes, joint pain, hormonal fluctuations, and more- can be a challenging time in your life. While it might not seem like it when you’re in the thick of uncomfortable symptoms, menopause can be freeing- don't let these symptoms keep you grounded and at home!
If traveling has always been a significant part of your life, this sudden internal change can leave you feeling like a stranger in your own body. Menopause can be uncomfortable and learning to cope with these symptoms can make traveling the world seem downright intimidating. To help you feel more confident, here are some tips for managing menopause symptoms while traveling.
Menopause bloat generally has two causes: excess air or excess water and sometimes both at once. Hormone levels change too during menopause, and can lead to higher levels of estrogen, which can cause your body to retain water and result in bloating. Combining higher estrogen levels with pressurized cabins on planes – which tend to cause bloating too – can be quite uncomfortable.
How to cope with menopausal bloating when you’re travelling
Exercise. One of the most natural menopause treatment options is exercise. Exercise can reduce stress and improve digestion.
Avoiding carbonated beverages. Fizzy drinks like sodas or carbonated water can increase the air in your gut.
Eating smaller meals. In between all the walking and sightseeing, you might not have time to stick to your regular eating schedule. As a result, you may be eating too much or too quickly. Smaller meals enjoyed at a reasonable pace will be easier for your digestive system and help make your gut happy!
Don’t chew gum. Women experiencing menopausal dry mouth or weight gain often start chewing more gum, but the artificial sweeteners in sugar-free gums can exacerbate these issue. To avoid this you can always drink water to keep yourself hydrated.
Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause and often feel like a sudden flare of heat, paired with sweating and flushed skin. Hot flashes can be triggered by your diet (spicy foods, caffeine, etc.), but it can also be prompted by heat. If you’re traveling to a hot or humid destination, the warm weather paired with random hot flashes is a recipe for discomfort.
How to pack for hot flashes
Wear layers. When those hot flashes hit, you don’t want to have a pullover hoodie ‘straightjacket’, while your body suddenly feels like you’ve stepped into your personal sauna and you’re strapped into a plane. Pack clothes made of breathable cotton and light fabrics – the cardigan or shrug will become your new best friend!
Carry water. Even better, carry an insulated bottle and fill it with ice cubes and water. Refill it after the security check if you’re traveling by plane. Sipping cold water might be just what you need to quench the sudden flames.
Bring lotion. If travel left your skin scaly before your hot flashes started, you’ll find yourself even flakier now. Lower levels of estrogen cause our bodies to produce less collagen—which results in less elasticity in our skin.
Spend time in the water. If you’re somewhere with a pool or close to a beach, pop into the water so you can cool down as often as you need.
Both getting to sleep and staying asleep can be difficult for menopausal women, and this insomnia can feel much worse when you’re away from home. A night of tossing and turning can leave you feeling unenergetic in the morning, which can make your travels much less enjoyable.
How to manage insomnia
Switch off electronics. Checking your phone before you try to fall asleep stimulates your brain and delays REM sleep. As best as possible, avoid using electronics for an hour or more before you plan to go to bed.
Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature. If your room stays the same temperature all day, your body will become accustomed to the temperature and not lower in your sleep. If your hotel room doesn’t have air conditioning or you’re unable to lower the room’s temperature, take a cold shower before going to bed.
How can I prepare when my body is so unpredictable?
You used to know everything about your menstrual cycle, but now menopause has you feeling like a stranger in your own body. You don’t know what you need or how to relieve discomfort. Symptoms vary among women, so you don’t even know how you’ll wake up each morning. That’s frustrating! How do you prepare to travel when you don’t know what symptoms will show up?
Whether it’s speaking to your doctor prior to your departure, or giving a second thought to your destinations and accommodation. For example, if hot flashes are causing you to melt down, consider a trip to a cooler location, pack a handheld fan, or book an oceanside cabana for a quick dip!
Similarly, you may have gone months without periods, but until your doctor has confirmed that you’re in menopause, don’t consider them over just yet. If your vacation takes place a few blocks from a big box store, you might be safe to pack a few back up menstruation products, but if you’re camping in the middle of nowhere, plan ahead, just in case.
Know your triggers
Most menopausal symptoms can be diminished by paying attention to your diet. Substances such as caffeine, spicy food, alcohol, and carbs can worsen your symptoms. These may be some of your favorite things, and you may feel inclined to indulge during your trip, but is it worth triggering symptoms and feeling uncomfortable?
While menopause introduces many new challanges to a woman’s life, it can also signal an opportunity to find new ways of redesciovering essential pleasures such as travel- in light of the physical changes your body endures.
It’s also a time for freedom. As your body changes, so does your lifestyle. The kids are grown up and off doing their own thing, and now you have the time to travel. As a bonus, travel can help ease menopausal symptoms as it’s an exciting and involved experience that can lift your mood, and distract you from what’s happening internally.
At Art Voyage, we run travel tours that are solely for women and take into consideration women’s health. Our experiences and activities are perfectly curated and planned to create meaningful encounters, that can help women overcome challenging things- like menopause! Meeting women from other cultures and learning from their wisdom, insight, and life experience can open up our own world to discover and explore other ways to cope.
Traveling in our intimate group settings can also foster relationships among fellow female travelers, and often lead to open and honest discussions about women’s health. On one of our last tours, we landed on the topic of menopause and found out a few of us had the same symptoms! It was liberating to know that we weren’t alone in how we were feeling.
Disclaimer: Any information on this site is intended as guidance only, not as a replacement for your own research or medical advice from your own doctor
Michelle Sitbon is an Art Travel Curator of travel experiences for philanthropically-minded women and organizations with a strong focus on women philanthropic projects, local experiences and art. We travel together and connect with local women who are doing amazing things for their families, communities, and the world as a whole.