Traveling on your period can cause more than just cramps — it’s downright stressful! These tips from Samantha Weiss will help you prepare for anything so you can confidently travel the world (whenever we’re able to safely do so).
One of my favorite experiences while traveling is being forced out of my comfort zone, thus learning new ways of living.
Whether that is learning how native Chinese people use and — even more importantly — don’t use chopsticks, navigating grocery shopping in a Moroccan souk, or experiencing Icelandic bar culture, each of these experiences reminded me of the size of the world and vast ways of existing in it.
But it wasn’t always an exciting feeling for me. On my first trip out of the country, I was at once paralyzed with fear of doing something wrong and in awe of how differently we do the “same things.”
However, one of the realities that I hadn’t considered was how to deal with traveling on my period.
Having never traveled outside the US before, I didn’t even think to question the norms of period culture outside its borders. As it turns out, they vary widely and that meant several difficult situations for me.
It took me about eight state-side vacations and six international trips to become better prepared for dealing with my period while traveling.
In that spirit, I hope these tips help make traveling while female less uncomfortable and more exciting for all of you, without the learning curve!
Related: Using a menstrual cup as a fat and/or queer person
Tips for Traveling on Your Period
Know cultural period beliefs
Despite being a universal process, menstruation has intense cultural realities. It is important to be aware of cultural beliefs and standards so that you do not overstep cultural bounds or put yourself in a negative situation.
You needn’t be an expert, but you do need to feel comfortable talking about periods, should you need support.
Do your research before you travel so you can avoid situations that make you uncomfortable or leave you unable to care for your body.
Read next: Access to feminine hygiene products around the world
Some examples I’ve personally encountered while traveling on my period:
In Morocco, pads are readily available. However, the people selling them are typically men, who are rarely going to engage in a conversation about periods, should you have a question.
Note: Tampons are not common in North Africa and the Middle East, so if you prefer to use those, bringing them is always easier.
Meanwhile, in Iceland, it is easy to get pads or tampons at any grocery store and most people are willing and capable of answering your questions.
Despite access to these products in some countries, there are countries in which period shaming and other more harmful practices are still common.
If you are traveling in these nations and might get your period, be prepared to avoid the topic and deal with your symptoms quietly.
My advice: If you have to ask a question, always ask a local woman!
In keeping with this theme, know where to buy pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and medicine should you need to purchase them.
Before traveling on your period: Download a tracker
These apps are a godsend at home and abroad.
You can track pre-menstrual syndrome symptoms, period symptoms, sexual activity, medications, and doctor visits, among other period statistics.
After a few weeks of inputting information, the apps learn patterns and notice deviations from healthy menstruation.
They also often provide important information about the menstrual cycle and debunk period myths!
I use the Clue app and love what it has been able to do for me. This app has four main features: a period calendar, cycle predictions, manageable features, and cycle analysis.
On the calendar, you can input information about several features of your period, including, but not limited to bleeding, pain, and emotions.
This app allows you to personalize the features that you measure, based on what you need. The cycle analysis section shows what your cycle looks like, based on the data that you have provided and gives you information about healthy menstruation.
There are dozens of free menstrual trackers and each has specific features that may make it more effective for you.
It’s important to try out a few and decide which is best for you! At the very least, these apps can help you be prepared to get your period, and at the best, it can provide important health suggestions for you, a partner, and a physician.
Traveling on your period can be less stressful if you have the data to help you feel prepared.
Pack preferred products
Pack the brand of pads, tampons, and/or medicines you would need if you were to get your period while traveling, even if you aren’t expecting it.
Should your cycle be abnormal – which can happen when traveling – you should be able to get through a few days before needing to go buy anything.
Remember that brands are different all over the world. You may not have access to a preferred brand outside of your area, so having what you need on hand alleviates the stress of shopping on a time table and buying unfamiliar products.
As someone who can use exactly one brand because of a skin allergy, this has always been a problem for me.
Regardless of the likelihood of getting my period, I make a point to pack about three to four days’ worth of pads and medicine in my carry-on, so I always have them available.
Even if you don’t plan to be traveling during your period, it can’t hurt to be extra prepared!
Bring personal toilet tissue
Carry baby wipes or tissue packets with you everywhere!
For US-based travelers, toilet paper is not a universal concept. I learned this the hard way and I will never travel without tissue packs on my person again!
Having a pack of baby wipes or toilet paper can help you avoid a difficult and messy situation if you find that you have none and your period has made its appearance.
Additionally, non-flushing toilets are still used in some areas of the world – which surprised me. But this means that you need to be more careful when cleaning your body as waste can be sitting in the water (similar to a portapotty at a concert).
Most importantly, always pack pads, tampons, medicines, and wipes/tissues in your carry-on luggage. It is less likely to be lost and more readily accessible while en route to your destination.
Pack menstrual cups warily
Menstrual cups are becoming more popular because they are more sustainable and offer more flexibility than their older alternatives. But they can cause issues while traveling.
First, do not plan to use a cup for the first time when you are traveling. Just like learning to use tampons or inserting a NuvaRing, there is a learning curve that might impact your trip.
Second, it is important to note that you should only plan to use a menstrual cup if you know you will have reliable access to clean, hot, running water.
Cleaning these products daily is essential for your health and clean, hot, running water is necessary for proper cleaning.
Finally, as these products are relatively new, they are also not available for purchase in many countries. Should you need a new one for any reason, you may not have the ability to purchase them.
If you feel comfortable with it and do plan to use a menstrual cup, make sure you have some pads or tampons, just in case!
Read next: How not to manage your period in a developing country
Take the day off!
I seem to get my period every time I travel to a new place. Inevitably, I choose to “deal with it” and enjoy my day, only to not enjoy my day, because I have serious cramps, am worried about leaking, and feeling extremely nauseous every time I so much as smell food.
After doing this several times, I learned my lesson. Now, if I feel terrible, I don’t need to force myself to go out simply because I am traveling.
If you have to miss something you planned, but you will feel better the next day, take time off.
Feeling miserable or getting sick at a tourist attraction doesn’t sound like the way you want to remember your vacation, so don’t force it.
Find something that comforts you, be it food or a hot shower and enjoy that while you aren’t feeling well.
Period symptoms can drain you, even on the lightest days, so don’t feel guilty for indulging your needs at those times.
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Are these tips for traveling on your period helpful? Do you have any others that work for you? Let us know!