10 simple travel tools to remedy airplane vertigo
Travel doesn’t have to be a dizzying experience.
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I’m a longtime traveler, and I am also a longtime sufferer of severe dizziness and vertigo. I’ve had these attacks since I was a very young child, and, after years of tests, visiting multiple neurologists, and trying different medications with no official diagnosis, it’s something I’ve had to learn to live with and manage as it comes.
I travel a lot, because if I didn’t, I’d let my disability control me. As attacks are unpredictable, it can sometimes create the perfect storm for causing a terrible episode of severe seizure-like spinning sensation that can sometimes take more than two weeks to pass.
From the anxiety in the airport, to the long plane rides, lack of sleep, jetlag, different climates, and unfamiliar surroundings in which doctors often think I’m just a hungover tourist, some might wonder why I even travel at all.
But, living a freer lifestyle helps reduce some of the generalized anxiety that impacts this medical condition. That being said, I still need to be prepared.
Let it be known that any suggestions I’m about to list aren’t a way to treat vertigo in a medical sense, but these basic remedies may alleviate certain types of vertigo at certain times. When I start to feel dizzy, this is what helps me live, so I hope it helps you.
My travel vertigo management toolkit
When I travel, I have a system (that I normally would do at home) to help me in the event I get vertigo on the road. It may not prevent it, but it helps me leave with a bit more peace of mind, which naturally can help keep it at bay. And, if you suffer from photophobia and migraines, these might help you, too!
1. Eye mask
My vertigo is triggered and worsened by photophobia. Sleeping with an eye mask helps keep the bright sunlight out of my eyes when I’m sleeping and waking up—both on planes and other modes of transportation, and in my accommodation.
Due to the sensory overload and need to have a relaxing night of sleep, I need an eye mask that sits comfortably on my face and isn’t a lot to fuss with. That means it has to be soft, easily adjustable, and not too heavy on my face.
- MZOO Sleep Eye Mask
- PMD Silversilk Sleep Mask
- NEWGO Cooling Eye Mask Gel: (Perfect for sleep and soothing)
2. A washcloth/rag
Both a cause and a symptom of vertigo is an increase in body temperature, which can make me feel more faint. Therefore, it’s important to have a way to immediately cool myself down, especially if I’m staying in a hot room or I’m in a warmer country.
Having a washcloth, rag, or something I can soak in cold water and lay on my forehead, neck, or back is essential. This is also a great non-medical vertigo remedy if I don’t have an eye mask with me—and, good news is, most hotels have washcloths in the bathroom.
3. Blackout curtains
In addition to using an eye mask to block out the light, it’s sometimes necessary for me to block all light coming into a room. And, unless I’m staying in a hotel with room-darkening shades (not typically in my travel budget), I need to get creative. Sometimes, towels from my bag or a beach wrap/blanket will do the trick, or you can try this cool portable blackout curtain by Amazon Basics.
4. Soft lighting
If I'm having a travel vertigo episode or feel one coming on, I need to be able to transition to regular light after getting up from sleep. So, even with blackout curtains up, it's helpful to have a soft nightlight or ambient light to help me with the transition to room light and sunlight upon waking up. A small light can sometimes be the metaphorical dizziness travel insurance I need to start the day off right.
I wear glasses, and I always bring two pairs with me when I travel in case I lose one, as not having them could be triggering. They also have blue-light filters to help with my time on the screen, as I’m a freelance writer and often am on the computer while traveling.
You’d think headphones would be great for me, but adding music or sound to my ears when I’m already overloaded by the sounds and smells and chaos in an airport (or, some busy cities I’ve traveled to) is just too much. Earplugs do wonders to alleviate my airplane vertigo, so I like to always have them on hand.
Earplugs may acerbate any hearing loss associated with your vertigo, though, so decide what works for you.
7. Easy-to-maneuver luggage
There’s nothing that makes traveling more stressful and anxiety-inducing than being weighed down by luggage that’s not easy to carry. For me, it’s important to take the weight off my shoulders and back (literally and figuratively) and move as hands free as possible through the airport. The Herschel Fifteen Hip Pack and TravelPro Carry-On with Spinner have been very helpful in my travels.
8. Baseball cap
Because I’m sensitive to heat, sunlight, and movement in my peripheral vision, a hat/cap can check off many boxes; not just for helping with the vertigo, but when traveling in general.
9. Phone Apps
Though I normally opt out of headphones when on the move, having white noise before, during, or after a long trip can be very calming. You don’t need a fancy machine either. A playlist on Spotify or YouTube works well enough while you save money for other trip amenities.
I also utilize Google Translate to help me if I need to be able to explain my condition to someone. Of course, also having a blue-light filter on my computer and my phone helps ease the brightness.
10. Trip booking strategies
Last but not least are specific trip booking strategies/sites I use to help me do what I can to make the transition to traveling easier. First and foremost, I always try to find a flight option that allows me to get the sleep I need.
This doesn’t necessarily mean no layovers, but I do try to plan when I leave and when I arrive strategically. And, even though I’m all for “roughing it” when I travel, in the first night or two after arriving somewhere new, I always have a plan to stay in a comfortable accommodation until I recover from the journey.
While planning might help some people with medical conditions and disabilities, personally I find that the more open and flexible my trip is, the more I can lower my expectations and the stress level of making sure I’m getting to do what I planned. Instead, I make sure I feel OK first, then I plan around that.
Here are some travel tips for reducing stress and keeping your airplane vertigo in check.
TSA-Precheck/CLEAR: Skip the stressful security lines. Also, for me, it’s helpful to check in on my phone the day before and to always get to the airport super early.
Priority Pass: Having lounge access while traveling helps me relax before a flight, without the chaos of the regular terminal. Note that not all lounges take Priority Pass, but it is one of the more affordable options compared to other credit card/mileage programs.
Booking.com: I can book hotel rooms at the last minute in case the one I’m staying at is not suitable for the sleep conditions necessary for preventing vertigo.
Ride-sharing apps: If I’m not up for taking public transportation after landing, a local ride-sharing app or taxi can help reduce stress.
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