Mirena’s, Moon Cups, Multi-Purpose Make-up and More: Travel Hacks for Women

To all my male readers, you may want to give this post a miss – this week I am writing a piece dedicated to making the lives of all my fellow female travellers just a little bit easier.

IUD Contraception

A common problem for female travellers spending extended periods of time on the road is working out when and where you can obtain birth control. Things such as getting a new prescription for the oral contraceptive pill or finding a place to give you a new depo shot may be easy back home, but can prove unbelievably difficult while abroad.

So what to do?

Get yourself a Mirena!

A Mirena is a form of intrauterine contraception that lasts a whopping five years – so unless you are travelling for longer than that, having one can eliminate any hassle associated with obtaining birth control in foreign lands.

There are numerous types of IUDs – the most common being the Skyla, the Mirena and the Paragard (also known as the copper coil) – so you will have to work out which one is best for you, but the Mirena is easily the most popular.

The Mirena itself is a small t-shaped device which is inserted through the cervix into the uterus and works by releasing very small amounts of progestin (a synthetic version of progesterone) which thickens cervical mucous and blocks sperm for up to five years. IUDs are incredibly effective – even more effective than getting your tubes tied! Plus, removal is easy, so if you decide after a few years that you do in fact want a tiny human inhabiting your uterus, it won’t be a big hassle. Another bonus – 1 in 3 women who use the Mirena for over 12 months will stop having periods altogether.

The copper coil (Paragard) lasts for 10-12 years but can make periods heavier and more uncomfortable, so may not be the best choice for travelling women. The Skyla lasts for up to three years and works very much like the Mirena, but it does have a slightly smaller size, which supposedly makes insertion more comfortable. However, there is no need to be scared of IUD insertion.

Before I got my IUD, I made the mistake of asking Doctor Google what I could expect and after reading nothing but horror stories I was absolutely terrified. So terrified that I burst into tears before I had even put my legs up into stirrups! However, after I calmed down and relaxed, insertion was easy. I would say 4/10 discomfort at the absolute most. It just felt like a medium level period cramp, and in exchange I now have a wonderfully uninhabitable uterus!

Expect a fair bit of spotting after insertion, and be aware that you may have weird periods for a few months. Research shows that satisfaction levels of women who have had the Mirena for less than 4 months are fairly low, but satisfaction levels of women who have had it for over 12 months are incredibly high. If you choose to get an IUD, be prepared to go through a few weird months while your uterus adjusts and plan to get it inserted a few months before any long term trip begins.

Like everything, IUD contraception may not suit everyone, but should definitely be considered, as it is both incredibly convenient and incredibly cost effective. I love my IUD!

 

Image via mirena-us.com

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups (also known as moon cups) are an alternative to pads or tampons during the ever dreaded Shark Week. The concept of using a menstrual cup may seem gross or odd at first, but once you try one, you will kick yourself that you didn’t do so earlier!

Made of medical grade silicone, moon cups are bell shaped devices that sit inside the vagina (kinda like a tampon) and catch up to 30mls of menstrual blood. You can leave the cup in for up to 12 hours, it is easy to clean and reuse, there is no risk of toxic shock syndrome and with most menstrual cups retailing for around $45-$55, they are much cheaper to use than pads and tampons.

So how is this going to make your life on the road easier?

Firstly, you will save money. Secondly, it’s tiny and will free up more space in your backpack. Thirdly, you can leave the cup in for longer than a pad or tampon, so you won’t need to do frequent tampon changes during the day. Furthermore, in many conservative and/or developing countries, buying sanitary items can be expensive or even borderline impossible, so instead of having to carry months and months worth of pads or tampons, all you need is one small cup. Lastly, unlike with pads and tampons – the ‘smell’ factor is totally non-existent – a bonus if you are travelling in hotter climates.

I personally use a Diva Cup, but there are numerous other brands on the market (Lunette, Juju, Keeper, Eva, Iris, MeLuna) so do some research, pick one (they are all FDA approved) and give it a go!

Image via alittleadrift.com

Multi-Purpose Beauty Products

When travelling, whether it be for 7 days or 7 months, the less stuff in your backpack, the happier you will be. But cutting down your belongings can be tough! I used to find packing light absolutely impossible, especially when it comes to cosmetics and beauty products. I bloody love my make-up! So up until about a year ago I would always pack way more than I needed, and never use half of the items in my make-up bag. Cosmetic items may be small, but when you carry like 30 of them, they really do weigh up.

soneva-kiri-kohkood-thailand

These days, I consider myself a carry-on champion and packing light is now second nature. Something that really helped with this was finding products that serve more than one purpose.

Here are just a few of my favourite multi-purpose make-up products:

Nars Blush in Orgasm

This stunningly peachy blush is a cult-fave for good reason. It looks good on just about everyone, goes on smoothly and has the perfect amount of shimmer to give you a natural looking dewy flush. However, as well as being a pretty much perfect blush, when used sparingly this can also be a beautiful eyeshadow for a subtle but polished make-up look. Retailing for $44 AUD, you can purchase this blush here.

Benefit Benetint Lip & Cheek Stain

The name of this product says it all! It doubles as an easy to use liquid blush and a stunning lip stain. When I first tried this product I really thought I would hate it (cream/liquid blushes aren’t usually my thing) but Benetint is so easy to apply and wears so well (it lasts for ages) that it is the perfect addition to my travel bag. Buy it here for $55 AUD.

Joey Healy Clear Brow Gel

Want groomed brows and long lashes without the risk of mascara and brow pencil dripping down your face on a hot summer vacation? Clear brow gel is the answer! With more staying power than a clear mascara, a brow gel will hold bushy brows in place and make your lashes pop all at once. I love the Joey Healy Brow Structure ($45 AUD) but most brow gels will get the job done.

Lucas’ Pawpaw Ointment

What Australian females did before this product I truly do not know! If you think all pawpaw products were created equal, then you have probably never tried Lucas’ Pawpaw Ointment. This ointment has more uses than I could ever list here, but I have personally used it as a lipbalm, a highlighter, to soothe the skin around my nose when I have had a cold, to soothe burns, to stop insect bites itching and even to treat sunburn! This stuff is amazing, and for around $8 a tube, it is a true blue Aussie bargain.

High Waisted Swimmers

You know those travel pouch things people wear under their clothes? The ones that are meant to be discreet but seem to always be noticeable?

I have used them before and find them bulky and uncomfortable to wear. I hate them. However, I like the function they serve, and sometimes do find myself travelling in places where I feel more at risk of being pick-pocketed. So what is a good alternative?

High waisted swimmers!

Instead of wearing a travel pouch, I wear high waisted bathers and put my passport, cards and a small amount of cash into a little ziploc baggy, which I then sit against my tummy inside the bathers! Bather material is fairly firm, so my valuables never budge from where I have placed them, and the firm effect of the material smooths everything out, making my secret stash of possessions totally invisible to the naked eye.

I like bathers by Tigerlily Swimwear, but as long as they are a good quality firm fabric, any brand will do.

Creative Places to Hide Emergency Cashola

Everyone needs a few little places where they feel safe stashing emergency dollarydoos. Lockers are too obvious, shoes have been done for years and pockets are just silly. So what other places can you stash your cash?

Empty lip balm tubes are super subtle, no man will look inside sanitary pads and you know that part of your bikini tops that is open on the inside to allow you to remove or insert padding? Yep – nobody would think to look there, it is the perfect place to keep emergency money.

Solid Shampoo and Conditioner

Now, these are true game changers.

If you are like me and have a lot of hair and/or hair that requires frequent washing, then you may also loathe carting around big bottles of shampoo and even bigger bottles of conditioner. So when I discovered Lush Cosmetics solid shampoo and conditioner bars, my world was changed.

Image via beautyontrial.co.uk

Each of these bars can fit in the palm of your hand and last like 50-60 washes!

So how do they work?

Firstly, you have to totally saturate your hair, it really needs to be absolutely sopping wet. Then, wet the bar, but don’t rub it in your hands to try and get it to lather! – it won’t lather in your hands and you will just waste precious product. Swipe the bar across your hair 2-3 times and lather into your hair like you would a normal shampoo. Though the bar won’t lather up in your hands, it does in your hair.

I was skeptical that a bar could really work as well as an ordinary shampoo, but it really does get my hair smelling great and squeaky clean. Plus they take up barely any space! My personal favourite is the Godiva Bar, which you can buy here for $14.95.

Now go forth and travel the world more prepared and with a lighter backpack than ever!

Posted by

20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

62 thoughts on “Mirena’s, Moon Cups, Multi-Purpose Make-up and More: Travel Hacks for Women

  1. LUSH is truly god’s gift. There deodorant powders are great dry substitutes (I mean, they don’t stop sweating, but I sweat in the summer heat with antiperspirant anyway), and they also have these toothpaste pills that foam when they come into contact with saliva! So many great goodies to cut down on your travel liquids.

    1. I totally agree. I personally don’t love the deoderants – they just don’t seem to work for me, but I too love the toothy tabs! They are so convenient and so good for travelling! I love Lush ❤

  2. Great and very informative post.
    Regarding the contraception topic, I can also recommend Gynefix, it’s also copper based, slightly more expensive, but it’s copper pearls along a flexible string, so it’s even smaller and works out fine. Keeps for 5 Years.
    I totally agree with the solid shampoo…:)

  3. This is such a great post! So much great information to help us girls out. I use lush all the time at home and somehow I never thought to take their solid shampoo travelling – it will save so much room and I wont have to worry about the bottles getting squished going over everything. Genius!

  4. How do you sanitize your menstral cup between uses on the road, Ellen?!?!? I use a menstral cup regularly, but had to stop using it when I lived in Thailand because I didn’t have a proper way to sanitize it. I love my mendtral cup and don’t ever plan on going back using disposables on a regular basis…but I’m so hesitant to use it while traveling now with my previous experience using it abroad.

    1. This may sound gross – but menstrual cups do not need to be sterilised between each use. It may have some ick-factor but you gotta remember that our veginas are not sterile environments, so (unless you have a history of something like pelvic inflammatory disease) sterilisation between uses really isn’t necessary. I wash mine with warm soapy water between uses and sterilise it in boiling water after each cycle.

  5. Love Lush products, their shampoos are perfect for my thin, straight hair. Even at small weekend trips around Europe with no check in luggage, they are perfect.

  6. Very interesting information about IUD Contraception. I never thought about using this method of contraception, but might consider it now)
    Did I understand right – some women stop having periods after using Mirena for some time? I know, it’s very convenient when you are constantly travelling, but is it actually healthy not to have periods?

    1. Yes, a good portion of women will stop having their periods with the Mirena (or have much lighter periods), because the IUD causes the uterine lining to thin out – this uterine lining is what comes out during our periods. As for the health factor – there is pretty much no evidence to say that IUDs have long term impacts on fertility and health outcomes 🙂

  7. Very interesting information about IUD Contraception. I never thought about using this method of contraception, but might consider it now)
    Did I understand right – some women stop having periods after using Mirena for some time? I know, it’s very convenient when you are constantly travelling, but is it actually healthy not to have periods?

  8. At 59 some of this is no longer pertinent to me. I did forward it to my solo traveller daughter to let her know she is not alone in the quest for one less stress when travelling.
    I do wish I had thought of Lush before leaving.

  9. Agreed on the IUD. I have Skyla, the smaller version of Mirena that lasts 3 years. You should try Ursa Major face wipes – fantastic on-the-go product!

  10. Oh, and have you heard of Sholdit? It’s this fabulous infinity scarf with a zipper pocket. Pickpockets don’t expect your valuables to be stowed away in your scarf! I think she’s on Instagram as @sholdit

  11. Great post! Most of these are planet friendly as well as travel friendly ideas which makes me smile. I have a copper coil and haven’t had any trouble with heavier periods, but I have to say it was the most painful thing I have ever experienced having it put in. (I don’t have children…) Having said that, it got less painful the more I made myself relax, and it was worth it in the long run, and I think your experience is more common. I don’t want to put anyone off!

    It’s so nice hearing about other people using a menstrual cup, they’re great, I wish I’d discovered them sooner.

    1. I was very lucky, my insertion was a breeze, it was really not too painful – but I know that I am a lucky girl in that respect. Out of curiosity – were you given a drug (misoprostal) to put inside your vagina a few hours before the procedure? I was and it is quite common practice in Australia but recent conversations would have me believe that in the US this rarely happens. It softens the cervix and makes insertion much easier and much less painful.

      1. No, from what I remember I think the procedure in the UK is to offer a topical anesthetic (is this a thing? I think this is what I remember) just before insertion. I said no… not really sure why, I guess I tend to avoid painkillers unless I can’t manage without, and I wasn’t really expecting it to be that painful. I got the impression it was opt in if you want anaesthetic rather than opt out if you don’t – they presented it as ‘you can have this if you want’.

      2. Topical anaesthetic is definitely not a thing here! I was encouraged to take some Voltaren (an anti-inflammatory) orally before the procedure, but the misoprostal was something different. Miso is not a drug to relieve pain, but instead helps the cervix ripen, soften and slightly dilate which makes insertion easier for both the person getting the IUD and the person putting it in. It is definitely something worth asking for next time.

  12. Awesome tips! I’ve been using the cup for about a year now, and I’ll never go back! I’ll have to check out those solid shampoo bars. Now, if I can just pare down my camera equipment……

  13. The advice on here is really good, I’d found most of these things before but the cosmetics and shampoo are new ideas for me! I would definitely recommend travelling with baby wipes, they’re great for washing pretty much anything. I’ve used them to clean marks off my shoes, as make up wipes, to get dust out of jeans, remove pen from a leather jacket etc and they always work. Plus you can have a little wash with them if you have several days where you can’t shower or take a bath and if you don’t have any hand sanitiser and can’t wash your hands. They were a life saver when I spent 3 nights in a row on overnight buses and had no hostel!

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