How to Prevent a Headache on Vacation

Many of us crave that annual vacation when we can relax, spend time with loved ones, and be free of the stress of work and daily life. But if you are prone to headaches, vacation time can be an unfortunate headache trigger. The good news is that if you are proactive in your headache health, you can likely ward off any distracting head pain.

Here are some tips to make your vacation headache-free.

Family on vacation taking photo
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Drink Water

Water deprivation is a known headache trigger — and it's easy to forget to drink water when you are racing to the airport, sleeping during a long flight, and then basking in the delightful sun of a sandy beach. But, going from a cool climate to a warm, tropical climate makes it even more important that you drink plenty of water.

A "dehydration headache" has been described in different ways — sometimes being localized to one part of the head and other times more generalized, like a tension-type headache. Fortunately, within a half-an-hour, water can usually soothe your head pain.

Get Your Zzzz's

Sleep deprivation is a common headache trigger, especially for migraines. So, while it may be tempting to stay up late packing for your exciting beachfront vacation or expedition through the mountains of Peru, please plan ahead, pack early, and get your sleep instead. Also, it's a good idea to maintain a regular sleep schedule during your vacation.

Watch the Alcohol

Many people drink more alcohol while on vacation, and this can be headache-triggering. While alcohol is a common precipitant of migraines and cluster headaches, it can also cause what is known as an alcohol-induced headache — and there are two types: a cocktail headache and a hangover headache.

So be wary of your alcohol consumption. If alcohol is a headache trigger for you, then please think before you drink.

Keep Your Caffeine Intake the Same

Caffeine in headache management is a tricky topic. On one end, caffeine can help alleviate migraines and tension-type headaches. On the other end, daily caffeine is associated with both chronic migraines and rebound headaches. And then, skipping your morning cup of joe can lead to a caffeine withdrawal headache.

What should you do? Stick to your typical caffeine intake during vacation as you would during a regular week. This will likely minimize a caffeine-related headache.

Plan Ahead

Stress can be a headache trigger, and vacations have their own stresses. So try to limit stress by being calm and prepared. Consider taking off a day or two prior to and after your vacation. This will provide ample time for physical tasks, like packing or unpacking, as well as mental tasks, like preparing to go back to work or adjusting to a time change.

Other tidbits to minimize stress include:

  • Creating an itinerary
  • Arriving early for your flight
  • Packing snacks for your hotel room so you can munch on something in between meals or during day excursions
  • See your healthcare provider prior to your trip. Be sure if you are on prescription headache medication that you have an appropriate supply.

A Word From Verywell

Most importantly, go on vacation with a positive attitude — smile, laugh, and savor this time. Be good to yourself, and even if you do get a headache despite being careful, try not to fret. It happens, and you can still move past it and enjoy your deserving vacation.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Colleen Doherty, MD
 Colleen Doherty, MD, is a board-certified internist living with multiple sclerosis.