If you’ve ever read a teen magazine, you’ve probably read a hilarious story about an unexpected period. From leaking through your white dress in front of your crush to making your date’s bedroom look like a murder scene after period sex, periods can seriously mess up your plans (though they usually make for a good story later on). Menstruation is normal and nothing to be ashamed about — pretty much everyone who gets periods has had to tie a sweater around their waist to hide a bloodstain at least once in their lives. But at the same time, we totally get wanting to avoid ending up with a Traumarama!-worthy story. So if you have a big vacation coming up, take a few minutes to plan ahead to manage your period.
Vacation period prepping involves a bit more than throwing a handful of tampons in your carry-on bag. Your exact plans will depend on where you’re going for your vacation, and what you'll be doing there. If you’re visiting a city — or you’re visiting a small town and have access to a car — it will be easy to stop at a store and pick up anything you forgot. If you’re spending weeks hiking the Pacific Crest Trail like Cheryl Strayed in Wild, that’s another story.
Will I Get My Period On Vacation?
If you’re not already tracking your period, download a period tracker app like Clue and start noting the beginning and end of your period — plus the days when you have PMS. This way, you’ll know when your period will likely arrive.
However, keep in mind that your period is more likely to be early or late on vacation. "Travel and stress can affect your cycle," Bell notes. So if your period tracker shows that your period will start two days after your vacation ends, plan for it anyway, just in case.
Can I Delay Getting My Period On Vacation?
If you use hormonal birth control such as the pill, the patch, or the ring, you can plan in advance to skip your period. If you’re on the pill, “skip the last week of the pill pack if you have a 28-day pack, or start a new pack immediately if you have a seven-day pack,” Ball says. Similarly, for the patch or ring, you can apply or insert a new one immediately after finishing the old one in order to skip your period.
“Medical studies have found that there are no significant negative health effects to skipping your period using hormonal birth control,” they add. “However, you might have some unpredictable breakthrough bleeding, so packing panty liners is a good idea.”
You're Getting Your Period. Here's What To Pack.
Bring enough of your preferred period product (like tampons, pads, or a menstrual cup) to last throughout your period, considering both how easy it is to use and how much luggage space it takes up. And think about all aspects of your period, not just the blood. If you usually get cramps, bring some over-the-counter pain relief. If your libido usually increases, you might want to pack a small vibrator. You can even pack some chocolate, if you like. “If you get specific food cravings at certain times of your cycle, why not bring some snacks?” Ball asks.
As for clothes, you don't need to change anything other than packing some extra underwear. “Whether you’re hiking in the backcountry or partying on the playa, there’s no need to let your period dictate your wardrobe choices,” says Ball. However, if you’re worried about leakage, you can avoid bringing white or light bottoms — we’ve all heard a leaking-through-white-jeans period story.
Getting Your Period While Swimming
If you’re concerned about leakage, you can opt for dark-colored swimsuit bottoms. Throw some extra tampons (if you use them) in your beach bag, bring some pain relief if you get cramps, note where the bathrooms are located, and you should be all set.
Getting Your Period On A Road Trip
If you’re going on a road trip and don’t want to make frequent bathroom stops, consider an period product that you can wear for a long time without changing. You can leave a menstrual cup in for up to 12 hours. Absorbent period underwear can be worn all day, either solo or as a backup for a tampon, depending on the type of underwear and your flow. “If in doubt, you can always mix and match various products,” says Ball.
Getting Your Period While Camping
Getting your period while camping or hiking can be tricky because you might have limited access to plumbing — and you might be carrying all your stuff in a backpack. If you won’t have easy access to soap and water, bring along hand sanitizer to use before and after changing your tampon or cup. “If there’s nowhere to wash your hands, you could wear nitrile or latex medical gloves — they’re handy to have in your first aid kit anyway, but this does mean extra waste,” Ball says. If you use a menstrual cup, you can wash it with drinking water or simply wipe it off with toilet paper, and sterilize it in boiling water when you're able to later.