The holidays and summer break are popular times to travel. We’ve got to get to our destination and back home one way or another. Whether on a plane, train, or automobile, travel often consists of long periods of sitting or standing on your feet waiting in lines.

These situations can be uncomfortable and pose a potential risk for those with varicose veins and a concern for others trying to avoid them. However, there’s no need to avoid traveling altogether.

Despite the added risks, there are ways to mitigate them and enjoy your travels. You just need to consider four key things for vein health while traveling:

  1. Move
  2. Elevate
  3. Water
  4. Clothing and Compression Stockings

Read on for more in-depth information about implementing these four strategies into your travel plans and additional travel tips for varicose veins to help make travel easier for you and your legs.

The Four Most Important Tips to Keep Your Veins Healthy While Traveling

Passengers often find cars and airplanes uncomfortable and cramped, which can be frustrating. This is particularly concerning for individuals with vein disease, as limited legroom and poor seating positions can worsen the condition and cause pain, especially for those with varicose veins.

Here are four key things you must do when traveling for two or more hours to help prevent pain and complications:

Move Frequently

When you sit with your legs bent, it increases pressure on your veins and increases swelling. Additionally, the muscles that help pump fluid out of your legs are not active when sitting. This can lead to fluid retention, medically known as edema. Getting upright is the most important thing you can do to prevent this swelling and fluid retention from occurring. But you don’t want to just stand there; you also need to move.

Standing does relieve pressure, but if you don’t move, gravity causes the blood in your veins to push down and potentially pool in the veins. This blood stagnation can cause swelling of the legs and ankles and feelings of heaviness, aching, or tiredness. It also creates the perfect environment for a blood clot. Walking activates the calf muscle, which is key to increasing blood flow and minimizing pain.

When flying, choose an aisle seat if possible so you can easily get out in the cabin and walk around frequently without disturbing others. You should aim to walk for a few minutes at least once every hour or two. If you cannot leave your seat, another option would be to do seated toe raises, ankle circles, or knee lifts for at least 30 seconds, repeating every half hour to an hour. Like walking, these motions allow blood to pump from the leg to the heart.

The same rules apply to a road trip. Pull over every 60-120 minutes for a quick walk, and perform toe lifts, ankle circles, and knee lifts between pit stops, especially if you cannot pull over and get out of the car.


Propping your legs up can be very beneficial in reducing the pressure of gravity, making it easier for your lower legs to move blood back to your heart.

On a road trip, whenever you stop to walk, take some time to lie down flat with your feet raised straight up in the air. During the drive, prop your feet up on some extra pillows.

When flying, if there’s no one next to you, stretch out and prop your feet up across the seats. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a row to yourself, you can use your under-seat bag as an elevated footrest.

If elevating your legs is not possible while traveling, do this as soon as you have reached your destination.

Drink Water

Drinking a lot of water is essential to maintain optimal blood circulation, prevent dehydration and ensure your blood remains fluid. Additionally, staying hydrated keeps the vein walls from narrowing and can prevent constipation, which also stresses the venous system.

While it may seem counterintuitive to increase your fluid intake when your body is already retaining fluids, staying hydrated plays a crucial role in combating the effects of fluid retention, especially during flights.

To ensure you start your trip adequately hydrated, it is recommended to drink extra water the day before and the day of your trip. You should also bring a large water bottle with you to help ensure you stay hydrated throughout the entire duration of your flight or car ride.

Staying hydrated has another benefit: it encourages you to follow tip #1 and get up and walk to the bathroom when nature calls.

Wear Loose Clothing and Compression Stockings:

When traveling, you should always wear loose clothing, except on your feet! Pick a shirt and pants that are not restrictive, especially in the waist area. Tight clothing increases pressure on the abdomen and hinders the venous system’s ability to circulate blood flow properly.

The exception to this rule is your socks. Compression stockings are extremely beneficial during times of travel. Compression socks are specialty socks that offer a rise in pressure designed to help your lower leg veins circulate the blood flow back to your heart.

Compression stockings are very effective in reducing uncomfortable symptoms such as aching, swelling, and leg cramps. Additionally, because they apply varying amounts of pressure to different parts of the leg, they are also a great tool to help prevent the formation of blood clots.

You can purchase compression stockings over the counter or in prescription grade through your vein specialist or primary care physician.

Additional Tips for Traveling with Varicose Veins

In addition to the four main travel tips above, here are a few other expert suggestions to consider before and during travel that can help prevent vein pain and problems.

Avoid Salty Foods

You should avoid excess salt on the day of and even the day before travel, as sodium can cause you to retain fluid, making your feet swell even more.

Most airport food and snacks you pick up at a gas station are loaded with sodium. Pack your own low-sodium meals and snacks.

Limit Sweets, Caffeine, and Alcohol

When traveling, you might be tempted to indulge in sweets, alcohol, soft drinks, and coffee. It is best to avoid or limit these things because both caffeine and alcohol can perform as a diuretic in the body and promote dehydration.

Remember, the goal during long travel is to stay as hydrated as possible! Avoid foods and beverages that could do the opposite.

Don’t Cross Your Legs

Crossing your legs further restricts blood circulation, which is already naturally slowed down when sitting for long hours.

To promote healthy blood flow and minimize the risk of circulation issues, keep your legs uncrossed and maintain a comfortable and relaxed sitting position throughout your travel journey.

Change Positions Frequently

You don’t want to stay locked into one position for too long. This can further contribute to poor circulation and complications associated with prolonged sitting.

If possible, avoid remaining in one position for extended periods by regularly shifting your seated position.

Try Deep Breathing Exercises

While it should not be considered a standalone alternative to other road trip tips, incorporating deep breathing alongside other measures can contribute to the overall health of your veins.

Deep breaths help stimulate blood flow toward the chest, from where it is subsequently pumped throughout the entire body. By consciously practicing deep breathing techniques, you can encourage better circulation and support the overall well-being of your veins during your journey.

Treat Varicose Veins Before Traveling

To ensure a worry-free travel experience, one option to consider is treating varicose veins before embarking on your journey. By addressing the underlying issue, you can effectively remove the problem and minimize the potential complications associated with varicose veins during travel.

Fortunately, vein removal treatments have evolved to become minimally invasive procedures with shorter recovery times. This means you can undergo a procedure that suits your specific needs without the burden of a prolonged and arduous recovery period.

It is advisable to schedule a consultation with a qualified vein specialist at least two months before travel. This timeline allows for proper assessment, planning, and treatment of your varicose veins and a recovery period of approximately four weeks.

Is Traveling with Varicose Veins Dangerous?

Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, it is not necessarily dangerous or off-limits to fly or embark on a long car ride if you have varicose veins. In most cases, as long as you follow the simple tips outlined above, you should not experience any problems.

That said, traveling, particularly long plane or car rides, can affect vein health, even in individuals without pre-existing vein conditions. And for those with varicose veins, the risks are slightly higher, especially if you have severe varicose veins that have left you with swelling in your legs (edema.)

The primary concern when traveling with varicose veins is the potential development of blood clots, especially Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a type of blood clot that forms within the deep veins of the legs. DVT poses a more significant risk as the clot can dislodge and travel through the bloodstream. If the clot reaches the pulmonary artery, it can severely impede breathing and potentially lead to fatal consequences.

It is crucial to take precautions to minimize the risk of DVT during travel. If you have varicose veins, speak with a vein specialist before embarking on a long plane or car ride.

Talk to a Vein Specialist in Middle Tennessee Today

Travel might be stressful, but it doesn’t have to make your varicose veins worse, and there is no need to avoid or dread travel if you have varicose veins.

Addressing varicose veins before traveling can enhance your comfort, peace of mind, and overall enjoyment of your upcoming adventures. If you have any questions or want to book a consultation with one of our vein specialists, contact The Vein Centre today by calling 615-269-9007.