Living Well: Travel and Migraines

I used to dread flying. Not because I was scared of the flight itself, but because without fail, I’d get a migraine midair and have to suffer through it and try not to throw up. Travel and migraines went hand-in-hand. I know many of you can relate.

Thanks to Dr. Turknett’s approach, travel is no longer a problem for me. I have tools to work with. If you’re new to this blog, I’m talking about the Migraine Miracle. Don’t let the name scare you off. It’s not some miracle in a bottle. The miracle is what happens when you follow his path to migraine freedom. You have to work for it (drop all sugar and wheat and eat low carb/high fat amongst other things)… BUT IT DOES WORK. You can find my story HERE. Or listen to me on Dr. Ts Podcast HERE. Or read my two-year anniversary HERE.

So back to travel and migraines…

I just returned from fourteen days in Prague (amazing!) and made it through two international flights without provoking the beast… at least not during the flight. More on that in a sec.

I think it’s hard for some to comprehend how the migraines they associate with lighting or smells or in-flight cabin pressure can be fixed by changing food, but it’s true. It’s all about switching the way your body reacts by reducing inflammation. Get the inflammation down and your head won’t freak out at every little change.

Before Travel

So here’s the trick. Before hopping on a plane, you need to get super low on the threshold. My strategy is to cycle into ketosis about a week or so before the trip by dropping the carbs way down, eating lots of fat, and exercising. Turn your body into a lean mean fat-burning machine full of inflammation-fighting ketones.

Eat lots of eggs. Eggs are magic—and this coming from a girl who hated eggs pre-MM—I mean, run from the room kind of hate. Now I adore them because of the way they make me feel.

Travel and Migraines eat eggs to lower threshold.

I also made jerky to carry with me on the plane. By making it yourself, you can control the seasonings. No sugar. No MSG. No junk. I marinated this batch in olive oil, Dijon mustard, and lots of salt and pepper, then cooked it in my air fryer for 6 hours.

During Travel

The most important tool to get you through travel is to FAST. Fasting is key, both in the air and on the ground. Not only will it keep your head happy, it will also keep your wallet happy. Bonus!

Fasting is especially important pre-flight.


Seriously. Even if it’s an afternoon flight. Fasting has made all the difference for me in regards to flying. For domestic flights, I wait to eat until landing. For this eleven-hour international flight (which turned into close to 24 hours thanks to flight delays), I waited until about midway through and then ate my homemade jerky and some walnuts.

Travel and Migraines homemade jerky

Plus, HYDRATE. I know it’s a pain to get up and use the plane loo every few minutes, but water is so important. Add a little salt to make it even more effective. And of course, no alcohol, as Terri pointed out on Facebook. I quit drinking more than ten years ago because of migraines, so it isn’t even in my realm of thinking.

While On Vacation

I know eating is a huge part of vacation, but try to eat just one restaurant meal a day, and when you do, go for meat. Prague was easy since they’re heavy meat eaters. We ordered this mixed grill for two with beef, chicken, pork, two kinds of sauerkraut, roast potatoes in sour cream, salad with raspberry dressing, and gherkins. Don’t judge, but hubby and I ate this entire platter.

Travel and Migraines Mixed Grill in Prague

Sometimes, I didn’t get to choose my meal, like the gala we attended at the Zofin Palace with a pre-fixed menu. Luckily the food was mostly compliant, scallops with strawberry and avocado. Veal with asparagus and potato. But then there was the banana ice cream with chocolate drizzle. Even though I have avoided sugar like the plague over the last two years, I have to admit, I ate every bite of this gorgeous meal. Luckily, the sweet portion was very small.

At another pre-fixed meal, they gave a choice for dessert and offered a cheese plate—a great alternative so you don’t feel left out when everyone is enjoying a treat.

If your hotel has a breakfast buffet like the first place we stayed, walk past all those pastries and make selections that will help you feel good. Remember, this is vacation. Food isn’t worth ruining your trip.

And speaking of pastries, they’re everywhere in Europe, beautiful flakey pastries. Instead of falling victim to them, we went to a market and picked up plain yogurt and walnuts and apples for our “treat.” We also picked up things like cheese and ham and tomatoes as an alternative to eating in a restaurant.

Anytime a meal isn’t ideal, I counter balance with fasting. As I’ve said in the past, restaurant food is always a risk since you don’t know what’s in it, so the ideal travel technique is to eat just once a day. That works best for me, although I didn’t quite follow that this trip and often ate twice. We did TONS of walking, so I found I was hungrier than I usually am.

And you know what? I felt GREAT the entire trip.


The last two days, I let go. I made a conscious choice to eat some of the things I wanted to try, knowing I’d likely get a headache. I tried a small portion of the bread dumplings served everywhere in Prague. Ate some of the bread with butter and a tiny bit of jam at the lovely Cafe Savoy.

Had the most delicious goat cheese and tomato quiche and shared an apple/berry/walnut strudel with my hubby.

And guess what? Yep. Got a headache the morning of our flight home. But I couldn’t get mad because I made that choice and I enjoyed the food. I did it thoughtfully.

To combat the pain, I drank a ton of water, iced my head, went for a brisk walk, and of course FASTED. By the time we boarded the flight, the headache was gone and didn’t come back until late that night, after we’d landed.

So was it worth it?

For the most part, yes. (See amendment at the end) By behaving the first part of the trip—and going into it with a low threshold—I felt great the bulk of the time, and in the end splurged a little. And really… it was a little. But it still led to a headache that (thankfully) never went full-bore migraine. (Until a couple of days later… see amendment)

I do, however, regret eating the airplane food on the flight home. Since I was out of my jerky and had been fasting since the night before, I was starving at around the twenty-four hour mark and succumbed to the sauced-up chicken, fake potatoes, and mango mousse served in flight. It wasn’t good and surely contributed to the headache that visited me again that night.

Follow Up

In the more than two years since I started this way of eating, this is the looseset I’ve been with food. Frankly, I don’t like the way I feel right now, which only reinforces how right this is for the body. I want to get back to feeling amazing ASAP.

So just as I did before the trip, I will once again eat Keto to reset my body and get my digestive system feeling right again. First day back, I made myself a nice butter steak and kale salad. Man did that hit the spot!

So there it is. My tips for helping with the issue of travel and migraines and how to be pain free. If you want to read about our trip, click this link.

And as always…


UPDATE ONE WEEK LATER: In my continuing quest to fully understand this migraine brain, I like to analyze my body’s reaction. It took seven days for me to recover from a two day cheat. SEVEN. Before I started MM, I woke with a headache every single day. That went away after MM. Over the last week, that old pattern came back. I woke with a headache every day and my digestive system felt terrible. Crazy how much this impacted me!

Two points to take away from this:

  1. Back to the question of “Was it worth it?” I’m inclined now to say no. Yes, I enjoyed the food, but I really hated feeling lousy for a week when I’m so used to always feeling good now. It gave me a reminder of what my life used to be.
  2. If you’ve been “mostly” following the plan, but have a cheat here and there, that could very well be why the plan isn’t working for you. If eating a bit of gluten and sugar impacted me that much after being so strict for two and half years, think of how regular cheats will keep your body from reaching its optimal point of health.

The basic takeaway is this: It’s a personal choice. You have to decide if a moment of pleasure is worth a week of pain.

Scroll to Top