Longest Flight. Heaviest Period.

When day blurs into night and you don’t know what time zone you’re in and you’re a continent away from a hot bath but your uterus doesn’t care and unleashes its lining with the force of a firehose into the small space of your vagina and you’re confident that when the plane finally lands you will be little more than a tearful, period-soaked puddle of a human, wary of wobbling off the plane out of fear of what may have happened down there during the longest flight of your life, breathe … it’s almost over. Just a customs checkpoint, baggage pick-up, and rush hour Lyft ride to go.

A black and white photo of a person staring out an airplane window.
photo via Unsplash

Get Comfy

International travel is rough enough — adventure sandwiched by airport angst. Add menstrual management to long bathroom lines and impassable airplane aisles, and home begins to feel like a castle on the other side of a disappearing horizon. Such was my experience recently on a long journey home north from the most southerly of hemispheres. I won’t sugarcoat it: I was crampy. I was super grouchy pants. I felt like my body odor was cranked up to otherworldly levels and I was going to catch the curiosity of the sniffing guard dogs. I was on the first day of what seemed like the heaviest period since postpartum over a decade ago, and I was literally a half a world away from home. But rather than whine about the temporary inconvenience of my marvelous menstruating body, I want to celebrate and share what made my heaviest period more comfortable in the close confines of the center seat on a long intercontinental flight.

A pair of folded yoga pants with a passport on a travel trunk next to a polka dot carry bag and a cloth pad and menstrual cup.

What To Wear

I always aim to be the most comfortable person on the plane. That means waistbands that don’t pinch, shoes that come off easily, and layers that are simple to peel off without inadvertently punching my seat neighbors. The general recipe is usually the same for me, but specifically, here’s what really worked out well on this long menstruadventure:

  • These leggings from prAna with the side pockets, perfect for passports, boarding passes, and contraband chocolate.
  • Z-Trail sandals from Xero mean easy on and off for security, plus they’re comfy enough to keep on for the whole flight, and light enough to wedge against the shoddy makeshift footrest of the seat pocket in front of me.
  • Multiple top layers for easy shedding and re-applying during in-flight hot flashes (oh hi, perimenopause).
  • Puffy jacket to supplement the flat pillow provided by the friendly flight staff.
  • Beanie to pull down over my eyes when pretend sleep is better than no sleep.
  • A 12-hour capacity XO Flo menstrual cup backed up by a pantyliner-plus (and another on standby in the carry-on in a GladRags Carry Bag).
A puffy jacket, beanie, yoga pants, passport, and reusable period products.

What To Watch

I found the best position for bingeing in-flight entertainment was knees closely curled to chest with a hand-warmer tucked up against my crampy abdomen in the waistband of my leggings. I’m sure the headrest watch menu has since been updated, but no doubt you’ll still find plenty of Liam Neeson looking super serious if that’s your thing. Or, if laugh out loud funny is more your thing when trying not to think about your period situation, then scroll until you find 1. “Booksmart” 2. “Family” and 3. “The Sword Of Trust” and you’ll find yourself chuckling in the face of the overhead fan that is almost certainly blowing too much or not enough while you’re too cold or too hot.

What Else?

The peace of mind that comes from a 12-hour capacity menstrual cup is a beautiful thing. But that doesn’t mean doubt won’t leak into your mind and make you want to climb out from under your seat neighbors to go double-check. Do it! Do it for the leg stretching opportunity. Do it for the chance to get to know your fellow passengers (not just the backs of their heads). But mostly do it for the opportunity to empty a menstrual cup into a toilet that’s 30,000′ in the sky. Modern marvels, right??? Despite the doubt that my cup may have overfloweth, it didn’t. Not even a little bit. I had put my faith into a period product combo that proved perfect for travel. XO Flo + my GladRags pantyliner. No garbage. No chafing. No leaking. No Liam Neeson movies. Win, win, win, win.

photo via Unsplash