What’s In Your Carry-On for Migraine?

Written by Kelly Amspacher and Lizzie Propati | August 2, 2023

Anytime you travel, anxiety and stress follow. Will I have a migraine attack? Will I have the meds I need to treat my attack? What else should I pack in my carry-on? What’s my migraine travel plan?

Creating a migraine treatment plan for traveling will decrease your anxiety and help you pack the necessary medications and supplies. If your healthcare provider is open to discussion, you can ask about a migraine travel plan. The plan generally starts 1 – 2 days prior to your trip, continues for the duration of your trip and 1 – 2 days once you have returned home, sometimes even longer depending on how much recovery time you will need. Your plan should include how to manage an attack, which abortive medications to use and any rescue medications in case your abortives don’t work. It’s important to have a migraine attack plan for while you’re away, because travel, especially by plane, can trigger or worsen a migraine attack. It’s also important to make sure that you have all your medications with you in your carry-on if you are flying. This is not only in case you need to treat an attack on the plane, but also in case your luggage is delayed or missing. 

Older woman with white hair being pushed in wheelchair in an airport by a man wearing a button down shirt and pantsWhen it comes to traveling with disabilities and medical conditions, you can start by getting a TSA notification card (TSA.gov) or other medical documentation to describe your condition. If you have questions or concerns about traveling with  a disability, you can contact TSA’s passenger support via TSA.gov. A wheelchair may be requested at the time of flight confirmation. You will be given options as to where you need transport to and from. If you have wheelchair service to and from the gate, generally you will also be allowed to board first, which can be helpful for people with health conditions. 

TSA has regulations that make packing and the screening process less stressful. Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening. Know what you can pack in your carry-on before arriving at the airport!

Examples include:


  • Recommended that all medications, including unused syringes, be clearly labeled.
  • Inform the TSA officer that you have medically necessary liquids and/or medications. Separate them from other belongings before screening.
  • Declare accessories associated with your medication such as freezer packs. Ice packs, freezer packs, gel packs are to be presented at the security checkpoint in a frozen or partially frozen state.

External Medical Devices

Inform the TSA officer if you have a neurostimulator, port, or other medical device attached to your body. Share with them where the device is located before screening begins.

Devices containing lithium metal or lithium ion batteries must be packed in your carry-on bag.

The TSA list is comprehensive and detailed. Please use it as a checklist when you are packing for your trip. That way, you will decrease the stress and anxiety and look forward to traveling.

What You Don’t Leave Home Without 

Many people find it helpful to have a checklist before traveling to make sure they don’t forget anything. Here is a sample migraine checklist you can use for your travels:

  • A LIST OF MEDICATIONS & Supplements 
  • Pack ALL MEDICATIONS in your carry on bag
  • Medical Devices
  • ID/medical insurance card
  • Your itinerary 
  • A good pair of noise canceling headphones 
  • Earplugs
  • An eye mask 
  • Healthy snacks 
  • Comfy clothes
  • Neck pillow & blanket
  • Water/hydration
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Migraine glasses
  • Aroma guard/face mask
  • Gum/chewy candy 
  • Ice pack 
  • Download music, podcasts, meditation apps, movies

Keep Your Medications Close to You

Keep all medications close to you however you are traveling; car, train, plane, hiking, etc. The last thing you need is not to have your medications handy when you need them. You should have your ID and health insurance card close at hand as well as your itinerary. No need to add stress by not being able to locate them when your head is filled with pain and brain fog!!

Manage Triggers Like Noise and Light

Earplugs and headphones are a necessity especially if noise will trigger a migraine. You never know when abrupt sounds could happen, so be prepared. Downloading soft music or binaural beats may help to calm you down if you get anxious. If light is an issue for you then an eye mask and tinted lenses for fluorescent lights will really help. Polarized sunglasses are needed for sunny days while you’re out and about and maybe a hat, too. If smells trigger attacks for you, then try packing a high quality facemask or a peppermint oil rollon to use to help. Since cabin pressure or heights can set off our equilibrium, bring gum or chewy candy to help, and perhaps an antihistamine also. 

(Always check with your doctor beforehand about your medications.) 

More Tips for Traveling with Migraine

  • Ice Pack: I love a good ice pack for my migraine days. Depending on how you are traveling, there are multiple types: soft wrap around ice bags, instant ice bags, ice hats, etc. Check to make sure what you are packing is allowed to go with you.
  • Keeping Meds Cool: Some medications also need to be kept cold so be prepared. 
  • Refrigerator: Make sure your accommodations have a refrigerator to take care of your needs when you arrive at your destination as well.
  • Hydration: Don’t forget water or something to keep you hydrated while you travel.
  • Movement: If you can stretch or move periodically while traveling that will be helpful.
  • Snacks: Pack healthy snacks like: nuts, oat or protein bars, popcorn, crackers, fruit and veggies.  

Most importantly… try to rest before you go on vacation. Don’t over stress about going or having migraine when you go. Know your migraine plan so you are prepared with all medications and medical devices you may need. Be prepared with your checklist and have a good time! 

Remember to Breathe

If you are feeling anxious, remember to breathe… take a few minutes to relax, breathe deeply in and out from your diaphragm. If you do this about 3 times you’ll feel your heart rate slow down and it can help you to focus on what you need to do so you can have an amazing time away! Don’t let migraine get the best of you! Enjoy your vacation because you deserve it! Relax, pack efficiently and go have some fun, and… don’t forget to take plenty of photos to help create treasured memories! 


Let Us Know… what are you best tips for traveling with migraine? What has worked for you, what have you learned, and what do you wish you knew before you went?!

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