Barring an "OMG, my period is late!" freak-out, is there really any good time to start getting those tell-tale uterine twitches and profuse bleeding? Well, no, not really. However, "when you're traveling" surely has to be up there as one of the worst times. Especially if you're constantly on the go or in a remote destination where toilets and sanitary products are trickier to come by. With that in mind, here are the best tips for dealing with your period while traveling.
1. Have your period product(s) of choice on hand at all times
This might actually be something you always do back home, but if you're constantly swapping between bags or just plain prone to leaving the house with everything you own shoved in your pockets, you might want to start carrying a period stash. Shove a few tampons or pads in each bag you have with you and even one or two in your coat pockets for good measure.
2. Carry an emergency kit featuring wet wipes and plastic bags
As anyone who's ever had a period knows, period paranoia is real. (Can everyone see my pad? Have I leaked? Can everyone smell that?) Long story short, periods can leave you feeling just plain gross, so carrying wet wipes to freshen up with (or use instead of toilet paper) will leave you feeling much more relaxed. And the plastic bags? Well, they'll give you somewhere to throw your used products or stained pants if there's no bin in sight. On that note, carry some spare underwear too.
3. Plan ahead
Maybe you're a fan of pads and find that swimming is off limits when it's that time of the month, or maybe your cramps leave adventure activities at the bottom of your to-do list. Whatever your period tolerance and preference, planning ahead (if possible) can let you prepare accordingly and do everything you want while on vacation. (Then again, periods aren't as limiting as some tampon ads would have you believe, so take this advice with a grain of salt.)
4. Consider investing in a menstrual cup
Some people already fall firmly into Camp Menstrual Cup when it comes to period products, whereas others just can't get the hang of the damn things. However, it's worth giving one a go when traveling, given that they can be left in place far longer than tampons and, if inserted correctly, leakage potential is low. Plus, you'll save a ton of money in the long run and never have to worry about being stuck bleeding in the middle of a tampon wasteland. Still not sold on the idea? Try one of the reusable pad brands instead or pick up some period-proof underwear.
5. Or learn to (at least temporarily) embrace pads
Maybe pads aren't your period product of choice (or maybe they are!), but given that tampons aren't the norm everywhere, chances are they might be your only option at one point or another during your travels. Learn to love them, even just for a day or two, before you can stock up on your tampon of choice in a supermarket.
6. Don't forget about painkillers
Bleeding isn't the only unpleasant side effect of your period, and cramps can leave you crippled. So instead of curling up in bed all day and doing very little else, pack some pain-relief products (like a travel-size hot water bottle and ibuprofen) to see off the aches and lethargy.
7. Do a little presightseeing exercise
Alternatively, light exercise is known to help cut cramps and ease period pains, so give 15 minutes of yoga a try, go for a jog to help see off the cramps before they take hold, or just power through and get out and about. After all, all that on-foot sightseeing you're probably about to do is likely to take your mind off the cramps and help ease them in one fell swoop. Score.
8. Don't freak out if your timings and flow go haywire
Some flight attendants claim that their flow is lighter in the air before returning with a vengeance when they step back on terra firma. And anyone who travels regularly probably knows that your regular period routine can vanish at the slight hint of a long-distance flight or some pretravel stress. Basically, try and keep track of your period, but don't freak out if it comes late.
9. Maybe skip the skinny jeans
Obviously, this is entirely personal preference, but a period combined with tight jeans and (possible) hot and sweaty weather equals a higher chance of developing an annoying case of a yeast infection due to moisture down there. No one wants one on a good day, never mind while traveling and on your period. Therefore, steer clear of the skinnies and maybe swap to looser trousers for your heaviest days (this can also help you avoid bleeding right through every layer you're wearing too).
10. Give yourself a break
You're on holiday, or you've been traveling for some time, and your period strikes, but no matter what steps you take to power through, you feel like utter sh*t. If this is the case, don't beat yourself up about it. Take a guilt-free day to lounge around your hostel (or hotel, tent, whatever) and let yourself rest. You'll maybe have some residual guilt about "wasting" a day, but you'll thank yourself for it in the long run. Plus, everyone knows sleep cures everything.
11. Or just DON'T travel on your period
I'm not saying you should lock yourself away like a Victorian housewife while you're dealing with your downstairs disaster zone, but, if you're on the pill, you could skip the whole "traveling on your period" debacle completely. Yes, moving straight onto your next pack of pills is a legitimate option for dealing with monthly bleeding while you travel, but it's probably best to get the go-ahead from your doctor first.