A Woman's Guide to Staying Healthy on the Road

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As female travelers, we wear our independent label loud and proud - packing light, breaking stereotypes, and overcoming patriarchal obstacles in new countries. We squish our clothes into carry-on bags and bravely set out on new adventures.  But gals, whether we’re backpacking through a rural area or galavanting in a luxurious city, we can’t go minimal when it comes to lady’s toiletries. From periods and birth control to infections and hormones, we’ve got to be prepared.

Let’s not be shy. It’s just us girls reading this.

Periods

If we dread getting our period when surrounded by the comforts of home, traveling can exacerbates this. But if you’re prepared, you can let your body do what it naturally does… without missing out on exciting, adventure-packed days. While you can find sanitary items abroad, why risk feeling unwell and uncomfortable? Grab yourself these items, pre-flight.

Pads: By far the most accessible feminine product anywhere in the world. But travel with a small supply, unless you’re sure you can find them where you’re traveling. In small towns, you might have a harder time locating them.

Tampons: Tampons are trickier to find, especially in Asia and Latin America. They can take up valuable space in your bag, so calculate how many days you’re abroad and stock up. Bring a few extra for your girlfriends who’ll inevitably forget theirs.

Menstrual Cup: This is the most economical, eco-friendly, and lightweight option for travelers.  It’s a reusable cup that can be worn for hours on end - perfect for long bus rides. It’s easy to remove and clean. Long-term adventurers, this is your jam.

Periods are natural and a beautiful part of being a woman (truly). While on the road (or in the air), plan for period emergencies. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a fellow gal for help, supplies, and chats. Every other woman is in the same boat as you are.

Birth Control

Again, there are various options for birth control that you can switch between. Talk to your doctor about what’s best, based on your trip length and location. I’m not a professional, so take these tips with a grain of salt. Use this as the basis of your research, then create a tailored plan with your GP and gynecologist.

The Pill: I currently take birth control pills and, from one woman to another, it’s totally not convenient. It’s expensive to bring months’ worth with me. Oh, and I often miss a day because I’m moving around so much.

On the other hand, I know my birth control pills work for my body and that it won’t give me issues while traveling; it provides the consistency that my body needs..

Visit your GP to arrange a prescription for the entire trip. Be as organized as possible. Pick the option that will work best for you.

Check the country’s regulations for bringing in medication, too.

Intra Uterine Device (IUD):  Another great birth control option is an IUD.  It’s a small device inserted into the uterus and it can last anywhere from three to seven years. It sounds scary, but it’s convenient. There’s no need to carry all those tablets around.

Many of my friends raved about IUDs and experienced little to no pain from the insertion.  Other women, however, found it painful and didn’t enjoy the less regulated period. Talk to your GP to see if this is a viable option for you.

Condoms: Ladies, don’t leave this to the guys. You never know when you’ll find romance on the road, so keep your own stash of condoms in your backpack. Meeting a gorgeous French man is all part of the experience, but be safe in lust.

Infections

Infections are more common than we like to admit, particularly UTIs and yeast infections. I’ve had my fair share of both of them (in different countries might I add) and they aren’t pleasant. Feeling like I constantly need the bathroom while teaching a classroom of Vietnamese children is embarrassing, but luckily, manageable.  

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Long bus rides, holding in that morning coffee? This is how UTIs happen. Make sure you encourage the driver to take regular breaks. And on the topic of holiday romance, you can get them if you don’t use the bathroom after sex.

If you feel you may have contracted a UTI, visit a local doctor or pharmacy immediately. Don’t wait. Take a preventative approach, like staying hydrated and taking cranberry supplement, but know when to see a medical specialist.

Yeast Infections:  Another unpleasant situation to deal with. Yeast infections can cause a lot of itchiness and discomfort. They often appear if your immune system is weakened, which is more likely when you’re traveling. If you’re on antibiotics, or if you spend time spending time in moist climates, yeast infections can easily occur.

To help prevent this, consider taking probiotics to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your body and wear loose fitting clothing. Just like UTI’s, if you spot a yucky yeast infection,  visit a local doctor.

What to Pack for Your Trip

You don’t need to go overboard with your lady’s bag. Keep it simple, but be conscious about the risks. I recommend traveling with the following items to make your time of the month (and any unforeseen complications) a little less stressful.

For the bag:

  • Pain medication (for periods and infections)

  • Cranberry pills (for UTI’s)

  • Coconut oil (for everything) - It can help with vaginal infections and it’s the universal lotion for your skin and hair.

  • Probiotics (for yeast infections and general gut health)

  • Panty liners (for peace of mind if you’re using tampons or a menstrual cup for long stretches of time).

Respect your body, be kind to it during these few days, and don’t be afraid to communicate how you feel with fellow travelers.

Then, go with the flow.