First, make sure you can travel
Us spoonies are known for biting off a little more than we can chew once in a while. Talk to your doctor before you plan a significant trip. If you really aren’t up for it, you can find a compromise. Maybe you can stay at a hotel for a few nights in the closest city to you instead, or just take a day trip to a nearby destination. It might be less exciting than a big trip, but your body has limits and you have to listen to them. If traveling is going to set you back in your treatment or could injure you seriously, consider whether it is actually a good idea for you.
The transportation itself
Planes, trains, and automobiles can take their toll. It can sometimes take me a week to recover from a particularly long plane ride- which is usually how long a vacation lasts. So anything you can do to make the travel easier on you is good.
At least a few days before you travel, picture yourself sitting in whatever mode of transportation you will be on and imagine all the discomforts. Yeah, this sounds awful, but bear with me. If you can, think of something to alleviate the discomforts that you can bring with you. A neck pillow, some tylenol PM, a sleeping mask, compression stockings, ear plugs, and a refillable water bottle can be the difference between you spending the day in bed tomorrow or being able to venture out and explore a bit!
It’s probably a good idea to take Vitamin C the week leading up to travel to help prevent catching colds from the travel. Every time someone coughs on a plane, I’m a little paranoid. Am I the only one? And as much as I hate the stuff- it can’t hurt to carry a little bottle of hand sanitizer with you any time you use public transportation when you’re traveling. You can’t afford a virus on top of the stress of travel.
If you are flying, give yourself extra time at the airport. Less stress is good. It may mean waiting around more, but it also could mean standing in lines for shorter amounts of time and not rushing to your gate. And you never know if you need to stop and rest or face some other obstacle on the way to the gate. So prepare for that.
Make sure to bring any essentials in your carry on. Yeah, you may only take that one pill once every three months when you get a killer migraine, but if that day is tomorrow and your luggage is lost, you are out of luck. So if you need it for your health, carry it with you!
The key here is to plan ahead. You can’t afford to plan everything at the last minute. It could make your travel much harder.
Swallow your pride
Are you embarrassed by the cane you need when your knees flare up from rheumatoid arthritis? Or if you need to use a cart or wheelchair to make it across the airport without passing out? I get it. People sometimes give you a hard time for it, people stare at you, and you feel out of the norm.
Well, truth time: you just have to suck it up. This isn’t the time to push yourself to your limits. Traveling and getting out of your routine is already hard enough for your body, so you need to do whatever you can to make it easier.
My family made fun of me one time we were on a plane and I had on my sunglasses and a scarf wrapped around my head. Well, I had a migraine and the sunglasses blocked out light and the pressure from the scarf helped with the pain. So I took the teasing and the weird looks. And I was much more comfortable because of it.
Are you the only one on your trip in a heavy coat because your body can’t regulate it’s own temperature? I feel you. Do you wear your sunglasses at night? I get it. Do you sit down in the middle of crowded areas to avoid passing out? I’ve been there. You have to swallow your pride and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!
Expect the best, prepare for the worst
Prepare for bad scenarios. You never know what will happen when you are on a trip. The most important thing I always do when I travel is make sure that I have 2-3 extra nights worth of my medicines in case we get stuck in another location for longer than expected. Flying into Chicago, it is not that surprising to have a flight cancellation because of weather. So I am prepared for it.
Like I said for bringing meds in your carry on, always bring the one med that you almost never have to use. Because if you need it, you will be glad you have it.
And let’s be honest, you may not be able to participate in all the activities on the trip. So prepare to spend some time alone in the hotel room. Bring books, movies, audio books, or whatever you can do to keep yourself occupied/ entertained/ sane while you are alone. Not everywhere has free wifi- so maybe download a movie from iTunes before you go so you know you have it ready.
Don’t forget to bring lots of snacks. Wherever you are going might be lacking in gluten free/ dairy free/ low histamine/ paleo/ raw/ whatever diet you might be on to help your health.
It doesn’t hurt to have a go bag ready to bring to the hospital if that is something you might need. Just bring it along inside your carry on and have it ready if necessary. And that includes knowing where the closest hospital is to where you are staying. You probably won’t need it- but if you do you will be glad you have it.
And definitely stay organized! The less time you spend searching for something like a water bottle, a pain pill, compression stockings, an instant ice pack, or anything else you need in a pinch, the more spoons you’re saving. Think of the spoons!
Talk to your companions
Hopefully the person or people you are traveling with already understand your illness, but if they don’t make sure to fill them in. They will need to understand if you are unable to do something or need to rest once in a while, or whatever limitations might arise. This goes along with swallowing your pride. It’s not always easy to talk about your illness.
If you have trouble, give them the brief version and then print out some materials from a source you trust. But definitely give them the heads up of any situations that could arise because of your illness. You don’t want anyone unprepared to help you- or panicking over something that is a small deal for you. Communication is key.
Have fun, but don’t push yourself past your limits
You’re on a trip and you are probably going to push yourself a little to try to fit in all the vacation fun. Although it may feel like you’re taking a little break from the real world, unfortunately, you’re still in it. And you still have your limitations. It’s not bad to push yourself, but it is bad to push yourself to a point where you are hurting yourself in the long run.
So- don’t forget: drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, get those fruits and veggies, get AT LEAST 8 hours of sleep a night if not more (c’mon it’s vacation- you have the time!), and follow the protocol for your treatment. Listen to your body if it is telling you to stop or take a break. (How many times should I say listen to your body? You got that part? It’s especially important when you are out of your comfort zone!)
Prepare yourself mentally before you leave to know that you may not be able to do everything on your dream vacation itinerary. It just isn’t always possible- even non-spoonies get worn out! So have a great time on your trip, but take care of yourself. You may be on vacation, but unfortunately you can’t take a vacation from your illness. It’s part of who you are, and you are awesome.
You’re gonna have a great time on your trip doing what you can and taking care of your health!
Hopefully these tips will give you some ideas to help you with your next trip. What else do you do to help you when you travel?