As you probably already know, one of my goals with The Blonde Abroad is to talk about the not-so-nice side of travel. This isn’t just about showing the glam side of globetrotting.
I’m here to share it all!
I recently talked to you guys about why solo female travel isn’t safe and there’s another important topic I want to dig into… periods. While they are just a minor inconvenience at home, things can be more complicated when you are abroad.
For example, did you know that tampons are not readily available around the world?
In fact, period supplies can be a downright nightmare to get your hands on in certain countries. To prevent drugstore shock and ease some of the pain, it’s best to know a few basics before you jet off.
Here are a few tips and tricks to traveling while on your period!
Planning to Have Your Period While Traveling
Hiking the Inca Trail, sailing on The Yacht Week, or going on safari…on your period?!
You name it. I’ve bled there.
Knowing you’re about to get your period before a dream trip can put a huge damper on the excitement. But it doesn’t have to ruin a trip. In reality, there are few limitations that your period puts on vacation.
Believe me, my flow has tested me in some not-so-ideal situations and yet I survived.
Places Having Your Period Sucks: Out of all my travels, there are only two places I wouldn’t be allowed to visit while on my period: Komodo Island and various sacred sites in Bali. Luckily, I wasn’t on my period during those visits, but I was so surprised it wasn’t better published. Obviously, you don’t want to be mauled by a Komodo Dragon, so best to respect the rules and sit that one out if need be.
Situations Having Your Period Sucks: From my experience, the most intense situations have been while traveling in more remote destinations and places with no Western toilets.
- I was lucky enough to get my period just before hiking the Inca Trail. Think 4 am wakeups, sleeping in tents and 12+ hours of hiking per day. No toilets. And you have to carry out ALL of your trash. What comes out…must go in my little Ziploc bag and carried with me for 4 days 🙂
Nice visual, hey?
- Squatty potties, usually found in parts of the Middle East and Asia (where there’s no porcelain throne to rest your hiney), are probably my least favorite things ever. I might have the thigh strength to squat down and handle my business, but believe me, they have tested me mentally and physically.
- I’d also say that pretty much any tropical/beachy sailing trip I’ve done isn’t so nice on my period. It’s doable. But some have ended in UTIs. If you aren’t changing your tampon EVERY time you get out of the water and regularly changing into dry bikinis, it’s like Coachella for bacteria in your nether-regions.
Situations You THINK Having Your Period Would Suck, But Doesn’t Suck So Bad: On Safari. Will I be eaten? Do bears really smell the menstruation?! You’ll be fine. Don’t worry. I’ve already asked.
Finding Feminine Hygiene Products Abroad
If you are from North America, you’ll probably be a bit surprised by the tampon selection of other parts of the world. While you can easily find tampons in Australia and Europe, they are probably a bit different from what you are used to—
Americans are used to “plastic applicators” and some places only have “cardboard applicators,” or none at all.
In most places around the world, you will find that tampons with applicators are rare. If you’ve never used a non-applicator tampon, plan ahead or be prepared to use one.
In Asia and the Middle East, tampons can be hard to come by. The aisles will mainly, if not exclusively, be filled with pads. Depending on the region, you can ask at the pharmacy for tampons and they might have some behind the counter, but there are no guarantees.
If you can’t deal with pads, I’d recommend always packing an ample supply of tampons for every trip.
TIP: Be sure to stash some in your carry-on in case your luggage is lost or you’ve got a connecting flight.
Useful Items to Pack for Your Period
Menstrual cups are a game-changer in the world of female travelers. These cool little cups can be reused for years and you just need one to be covered for your entire period.
If you’ve never used one, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy and clean they are. Just insert it then empty as needed. You can wear it up to 12 hours at a time. They are easy to clean and get ready for instant reuse.
Tip: While I’d highly recommend menstrual cups, try them before you go. Luna Cup, OrganiCup, and Saalt are some of the most popular brands. However, there is a range of options out there and you might find that one type is better than another for you!
Period panties are another must-try! Thinx is a really cool concept that can replace tampons or liners. Each pair of panties can hold up to four tampons’ worth. And don’t worry—it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing a diaper.
From my personal experience with Thinx, I always travel with at least 3 pairs (so I always have a clean pair) and some handwashing soap. I’ll bring a used panty in with me when I shower (after sleeping or at the end of the day) and wash them, then leave them to dry. While one pair is drying, I always have a clean pair ready to put it.
They’re super easy to use, zero waste, and the most comfortable option if you’re not a fan of traditional menstrual products.
Pain Management Options
TENS Unit + Heat
To avoid popping pain pills, I love options like the Livia Tens Unit Pain Reliever. This TENS machine sends tingling, massage-like sensations to the spot where the pads are applied to help relieve pain. It’s totally travel-friendly and easy to use anywhere, anytime.
Old school hot water bottles and heating packs are a dream as well when you’re dealing with period pain. While I love to cozy up with a hot water bottle at home, disposable heating patches are super handy on the road.
Herbal Remedy Option
Another one of my go-to fixes for period pain is Cramp Bark. I always recommend it to my lady friends on the go and get so much positive feedback.
I take the liquid extract, which works by adding 30 to 40 drops in water or juice. Just take it every 15 minutes until the cramps disappear (I usually find I need two to five doses in a day). If you prefer, there are tablet supplements available too.
Beware of period jet lag! Long-distance travel came completely throw your cycle out of whack. If you are changing times, your period can come at any time so it’s best to always be prepared.
Alright, ladies, now share your tricks! How do you deal when your time of the month comes around?