I’m currently on holiday (WOO!) and thought this would be a great opportunity to share some tips for traveling when Chronically ill as I know this can be a pretty daunting thing to even think about. I mean where do you even start and what happens if you have a flare/crash/massive spike in symptoms while you’re in a foreign country? (I have experienced this and I was by myself, I survived…obviously) So I though I would give this blog post a go and maybe make it a little less daunting.
This is mainly aimed at flying abroad and obviously, everyone’s illnesses are different, even those with the same one, but these tips are, I hope, pretty universal.
My Top 5 Tips:
Book assistance people! Even if you don’t normally use a wheelchair, even if you think there are probably other people who need it more, even if you could probably just about manage without. Do it. Airports are very big places with a lot of waiting around, the amazing thing is multiple people can use assistance at once, they have whole teams of people ready to help, did I mention airports are VERY big places. Personally when I go away, we bring my wheelchair with us and my parents push me so we just check in and are allowed to bring it all the way through to the gate where they put it in the hold for you. But I’ve used assistance by myself before and it’s been a lifesaver. It saves so much energy that you could be using for other things (fun things!). So please try not to feel to self-conscious about it, It is there for you. That is it’s purpose. (Has anyone noticed that I always use the same photo of my wheelchair? I only have one. I have had him for YEARS now but I NEVER remember to take a photo of me in it!)
2) Plan your attack
Before you go think about how you are going to manage. (Obviously, wait, I’m going to explain…) If your mobility is limited like mine think of distances between places. You might want to be in a built up resort so everything is close and available or you might prefer somewhere quiet where you can rest and relax.
You might want to think about the type of accommodation, high rise hotels are good because you won’t ever be too far away from facilities whereas some hotels are resorts in themselves sprawling over large areas with eight restaurants and five pools. Also think about how far from the airport your accommodation is. After dealing with a flight you might want to make sure you get to the accommodation quickly rather than another hour long transfer. Think about when you are going to eat, before you go, at the airport, on the plane, once you get there. Think about times of the flights, if you can pick, decide when would be best for you to fit rest in before/after. There is nothing worse for me than surviving the however many hours of traveling only to arrive and have to hang around for another couple of hours because check in isn’t till later.
3) Don’t over do it
This is more a personal opinion I guess, it’ll be down to preference but when I go away I’d rather enjoy my time than over do it with the experiences and spend my time regretting it. There isn’t anything worse for me (I realise I’ve said that already and I will probably say it again) than over doing it on an outing then having to spend the next few days in bed feeling sick and my holiday slipping away from me. You’re going to be doing a bit more than usual. Probably. You’re going to be tired from flights and traveling, but pushing to do everything you possibly can might end up with you in agony and wishing you were at home.
I make sure I do NOTHING the first day. If I’m in a hotel I get the room service for my first night, I don’t even leave the room. The next day, no matter how much I want to, I don’t get in the pool, I definitely don’t go out. I’m on holiday and I want to be enjoying it but I’d much rather rest and twiddle my thumbs for the first day than spend the rest of the holiday trying to catch up on rest. Which brings me on to rest activities. Bring things with you for these moments. For me, that’s books and music. I might not be getting in the pool and I might not be getting a tan but I can still lie down in the shade reading a book or listening to summery music while watching the clouds /planes in the sky. I’m still enjoying my holiday and I’m being kind to myself so that I can enjoy the whole week not just one really good day.
(I actually don’t leave the hotel/villa AT ALL on my holidays, apart from the travelling there/back. Seriously, I spend all my time ENJOYING the poolside, sunshine and yummy food rather than paying for an outing but that is personal preference and to do with my individual illness.)
4) The journey.
Be a bitch. I really mean that. You need help? Get assistance. Don’t dither and say ‘oh, its okay, I can manage’ if they look a bit under staffed. Sit it out. Don’t ruin your holiday because you didn’t want to be a hassle. Block everyone out if you have to. I do. I put in my headphones and listen to music to block out the noise, I wear sunglasses to help with the light. Maybe a hat or hoodie to block out some of the extra surroundings. Do whatever you need and plan for it before you go so you have everything handy.
I’m expecting at this point you already have the traveling/assistance dealt with but think about light, sound, smell and being comfortable. Sunglasses or a sleep mask for the flight if you think that might be helpful. Headphones or ear defenders to block out the noise. If strong smells get to you then think about how you might combat it, I bring a scarf and spritz the end with my favourite perfume and put it in my bag just in case I need it. Think about warmth and temperature changes, planes tend to be cold places but you might end up somewhere very warm, short of bringing a whole extra change of clothes, think layers. Warm socks for the plane, a warm jumper or hoodie over a tank top, a scarf in your bag. Comfortable clothes! Think if you need a travel pillow or something soft to lean against. I book the window seat on planes so that I have more to lean against but you might prefer to book an aisle seat so you can stretch or get to the toilets easier.
Pack early. I don’t mean in the morning. I normally pack as much as I can about two weeks before I travel. This way most things are sorted and I only have to put a few last minute things in (electronics, toothbrush…) which means I can rest up and sort myself out rather than spreading myself too thin before I’ve even left. Also, pack everything you might need. Those drugs you’ll probably be okay without, pack them. Those painkillers you probably won’t need until you get there? Hand luggage. The Pillow that helps you sleep… Stuff that in there too. There’s nothing worse than ending up somewhere and needing something you can’t get. So your suitcase gets a little bit bigger? They give you a lot of baggage allowance and I’m normally way under the limit anyway (I only have so many comfy clothes) and if you have assistance at the airport then they’ll help you with baggage too.
I hope you’ll find some of these helpful. I’m going to be staying in a villa with my parents and we’re going back to Lanzarote where we’ve been many times before. Depending on the severity of your illness, it is possible to do it alone too, I have before. Very successfully and not so successfully as well (which was completely my fault for over doing it) but I learnt from my mistakes and have been away very successfully by myself again since then. There is lots of help available and with lots of planning you can have a very enjoyable holiday.
I’m away right now, obviously, but if anyone has any questions or wants more info about my experiences then I will be more than willing to answer them once I’m back.
I’d also love to hear any of your tips and experiences of going on holiday while ill. What do you always look for or do that helps you? Or if you don’t what is the main thing that stops you?