Two pairs of pants, eight shirts, 168 birth control pills, 36 antibiotics, and 240 tampons. Those were the contents of my backpack for my round-the-world trip in 2011. Girls who travel have a lot of shit to consider when it comes to going abroad for an extended period of time! Even for less extensive travel, traveling on your period can cause all kinds of clutter in your backpack.
But, look. If women have been dealing with periods for all of human history, I suppose we can too. We’ve even gotten so lucky to live in an age where there are plenty of products that make traveling on your period not so bad at all. Want to learn how to handle your period more easily next time you travel? Here are some of my favorite period products and tips on how to manage traveling on your period better.
The Period Basics
The Old Standard Methods
Chances are that you’ve used pads and tampons before. They’re kind of the classics. Whether you’re going on a short vacation or an extended trip, you’ll probably want to pack enough for one period in case it starts unexpectedly or you can’t find what you need on short notice. Keep in mind that while you’ll find pads available almost anywhere in the world, tampons are much harder to come by (especially in Asia and Africa). Tip: Be sure to carry a couple of tampons in your carry on. If your period starts unexpectedly during your flight, you’ll regret that your whole stash is in your checked bag!
Recommendations: Cora Tampons
The Alternative Methods
There are a handful of clever period products that you may not have heard of. Some of these are particularly handy for travel if you want to be prepared without traveling with a heap of tampons. One of my favorite alternative period products is the menstrual cup. The menstrual cup is a reusable silicone cup that serves as an inexpensive, convenient, and ecological alternative to pads or tampons. Rather than absorbing like a conventional sanitary product, it collects throughout the day so you can later rinse it out and reuse.
Other women swear by period panties. Unlike regular underwear, they’re extra absorbent and anti-microbial so you can wear and wash every day. There are also other crazy sounding products like menstrual sponges and reusable tampons, though I can’t really vouch for them.
Birth Control Methods
Rather than reacting to your period, there are also several hormonal and non-hormonal birth control methods that can help you better predict or even avoid your period on vacation. Besides the actual birth control benefits, reversible contraception (IUDs or implants) will empower you with reliably-timed or reduced periods. Some birth control pills can help you have a lighter period or allow you to skip your period entirely. Going away for a while? Ask your doctor about the best method of birth control and how it might impact your period.
Recommendations: Mirena IUD
Managing Your Period
Knowledge is power. By keeping track of your period, you’ll know just what to expect and when to expect it. There are apps for everything, meaning there are apps specifically designed to help women track and monitor their period. Some even have features like mood and exercise tracking so you can better anticipate your needs as you’re planning to travel with your period!
Recommendations: Clue App
There’s no doubt you’ve got an arsenal of tricks to keep you comfortable during your period at home; adapting these can help ensure you’re comfy when you travel too. Women prone to cramps or bloating probably know to travel with ibuprofen, but there are a handful of other holistic ways you can cope with some of the worst period symptoms. Disposable heat wraps can be helpful if you’re experiencing cramps. There are also teas and essential oils that can help you naturally manage PMS and period symptoms. FEMNA makes oils that you can apply on your wrists, temples, and back to help with your mood and well being during your period. Their ginger & orange Loosen Up roll-on smells great and is a godsend on a crampy day.
Last but not least, going on vacation often means ditching your entire sleep, exercise, and eating schedule. Just don’t do it! These can be incredibly effective ways to manage period symptoms while traveling.
Long bus rides and hostel showers can make anyone feel pretty gross. Add in your period, and the experience can be particularly unpleasant. Make traveling on your period better by having wet wipes on hand and enough supplies so that you can change them out regularly. It can also be nice to have loose-fitting, cotton underwear and clothing. I recommend traveling with detergent sheets and a portable clothing line so you can handwash your underwear in the shower or sink wherever you’re staying.
Being Environmentally Conscious
On average, a woman will use 240 tampons in a year. As most period products aren’t biodegradable, that’s A LOT of waste. Make the switch to a menstrual cup if you’re looking for an easy yet low impact way to manage your period while traveling. You won’t have to worry about disposal, and will just need fresh water to rinse it off once or twice a day.
If you are loyal to traditional period products, you should at least be conscious of how you dispose of them. Much of the world has sensitive plumbing (not even suitable for toilet paper) and flushing a tampon could be catastrophic. When you’re out in the wild, you also should travel with plastic bags that you can use to pack out used products and protect your new ones from water damage.
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Hey, girl. Want more tips on female travel?
- A Taboo Talk for Adventurous Women
- How to Live Your Damn Life, Fearlessly
- How Traveling Alone Makes You A Badass