For the past 10 years or so, I’ve been struggling with what I thought were just “normal” periods. I experienced everything from irregular timing between periods to debilitating cramps that would force me to sit or lie down, even if I was at work or traveling.

During this time, I’ve managed to travel near and far, driving to theme parks, visiting Europe and the Caribbean on cruise ships, and flying to new countries, all with the sneaking suspicion of endometriosis from my doctor and myself.

According to Heather Jeffcoat, DPT, owner of Femina Physical Therapy in Los Angeles and president of the Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy, endometriosis is, “tissue that is similar to, but not the same as, the lining of the uterus. It responds in the same way to cyclic bleeding, except because this tissue is not in the uterus, it has nowhere to go, and instead creates inflammation and scar tissue in the area of the endometriosis.”

Traveling with endometriosis can present several challenges, from sharp pains running down the leg and back to persistent cramps, headaches, and bloating. The way we travel can cause flare-ups, Jeffcoat says.

“Traveling is stressful, and stress affects our nervous system,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be ‘bad stress’ that negatively affects us. Endometriosis is also often associated with bowel dysfunction due to lesions that originate from this area. Changes in diet when traveling and dehydration that occurs from flying or being in different environments and altitudes can also wreak havoc on your digestive tract.”

After countless appointments and years of signs and symptoms (including a family history of endometriosis), I discovered that I too am one of 190 million women who have the chronic disease. Later this month, I’ll undergo a laparoscopic surgery for my doctor to determine the level of endometriosis that I have, and to take out any tissue that’s attached itself to places it shouldn’t be.

While I’m not looking forward to the pre-op or post-op recovery, I am looking forward to being able to travel without pain, even if it’s just for a short time, because inevitably, the endometriosis will come back. Through trial and error, I’ve learned that packing the right essentials is crucial for making myself more comfortable when my symptoms flare up. Below, five items I use regularly, and recommend to other travelers with endometriosis.

My packing essentials for traveling with endometriosis:

TheraIce Headache Relief Cap

The number one item that I always travel with no matter what is the TheraIce Headache Relief Cap. One of my worst endometriosis symptoms is headaches, which are made worse by bright lights. The cooling gel hat slips over my head and face to block out any light from hotel rooms or plane rides. The added benefit, that it stays cold for about two hours, helps my headache go away faster. Once I get to my destination, I throw it in the mini-fridge so it’s always ready if a need arises. Even better is that it weighs just over a pound and takes up minimal room in a carry-on bag.

NewGo Cooling Eye Mask

In addition to the headache cap, I also like to bring a small gel eye mask to use on my face when headaches from endometriosis occur. These small eye masks are great for throwing into a beach cooler or a small hotel refrigerator to stay cold and grab as needed. While these don’t completely filter out light, they still work well in a pinch. Pro tip: Pack these in your checked luggage if you’re flying since they are filled with liquid. After putting the mask on, I’ve found that it stays cold for about 45 minutes.

Sunbeam Heating Pad

A heating pad comes in handy when painful cramps hit after a long day of walking around a new city. This lightweight heating pad can be rolled up tightly and fits into most carry-ons or backpacks. I love that there are three heat settings so I can choose how warm I want it to be depending on how bad my cramps are at any given time. The cover is also machine-washable, which is a bonus for me, since I stay in multiple hotel rooms a year and also use this at home.

Yeamon Portable Cordless Heating Pad

In spaces where a traditional heating pad that needs to be plugged in isn’t ideal, like on a train ride or at a restaurant, I turn to this portable, cordless heating pad. The device charges via USB, and has three different temperature settings and massage modes. While I rarely use the massage function (endometriosis cramps are not to be messed with), I love the heat that this emits to help soothe my muscles.

Alkamto Memory Foam Pillow

As an avid road tripper, I don’t have too many limitations on what I can pack to help keep me comfortable on the go. Because of that, I love bringing along a contoured memory foam pillow. Sometimes my cramps travel down my legs, making it feel like my lower legs are going to snap off—this lightweight pillow (just 1.5 lbs.) helps by keeping them elevated and in a different position so cramps don’t travel as far down. I love that it’s a heat-regulating pillow so I don’t get too hot, and it’s compressible, rolling into a small travel bag that fits neatly inside my suitcase when need be.

Condé Nast Traveler does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.


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