Travel Horror Story The Migraine

Travel Horror Story: The Migraine

Migraines run in my family. I guess they are genetic. My dad gets them, my grandmother did, my children get them…and I do. And they are absolutely debilitating. Especially when you are business travel.

 WebMD notes the following symptoms of migraines:

  • “Moderate to severe pain (often described as pounding, throbbing pain) that can affect the whole head, or can shift from one side of the head to the other
  • Sensitivity to light, noise or odors
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea or vomitingstomach upset, abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sensations of being very warm or cold
  • Paleness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Fever (rare)
  • Bright flashing dots or lights, blind spots, wavy or jagged lines (aura)”

And I can tell you that I’ve personally experienced all of these (except fever).


When you travel for work as much as I do you are bound to get a headache on a trip. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed in that I don’t get them all that often and I know my triggers. For me the combination of dehydration, lack of caffeine and mistiming food can trigger a nasty one.

Usually if I catch it in time I can make it out ok.

But a few years back, I didn’t. It was a flight to Florida (maybe the sheer terror of a Florida airport in the summer triggered it…haha). It was an early flight so I was tired. As I usually do I tend to dehydrate myself before I fly (I hate having to go to the bathroom multiple times when I am on an airplane so I drink water the night before…then not much on the plane or in the morning before the flight).

I woke up late and as a result didn’t get my coffee. Strike two.

I did scarf a small meal down before I jumped on the plane and a swig of coffee, but things were already in motion. Because my ATL layover was tight I did not have enough time to get a proper lunch or refuel on coffee. So on my flight to Tampa it hit me. Blinding pain, blurry vision and a wave of nausea.

The flight was bumpy so I couldn’t get up to get my magic elixir: Aleve. But I did wash down a quick coffee from the service.

I was in agony. By the time I got off the plane I was ready to die. But I had a customer meeting that night which I had to bail on. By this time the window to catch the migraine was gone. I was going to ride this one out.

The pain was so intense I couldn’t sleep, but I knew I needed food. I ordered room service and ate what I could (promptly vomiting it back up). An unhealthy cocktail of water, Aleve and Tylenol PM finally did the trick. And by trick I mean knocked me out (not get rid of the headache).

I must have got 3 hours of sleep max.

But the headache was gone in the AM and like a trooper I made my event, gave my speech (although not my best one) and got back on the plane.

A migraine is brutal under any circumstances, but on a plane? Forget about it. When you travel for work like I do you are bound to have some rotten things happen to you (see all of the articles in this travel horror story series for more lovely tales). But this one was darn close to the worst ever.

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3 comments on “Travel Horror Story: The Migraine

  1. K@countingpenniesandsheep

    I get daily migraines without the headache!
    My whole left side goes numb and my left I feels like it is closed when it is not. Brought on by High stress!

    My daughter gets the full on pain, confusion and nausea.
    Hugs to anyone who has to deal with this!


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