A few months ago, I came back from my first trip abroad in years. Damn, I had forgotten how difficult flying and travelling can be if you have health problems. My husband turned up with this little rucksack, looking all happy, whereas I needed a rucksack for my medication alone, let alone my carry-on items. I wish I could be One Rucksack Rosie but no.
So with the flights and travel plans still fresh in my mind, I thought I would share my top tips for travelling with chronic conditions. Whether you are newly diagnosed with something and looking for support; travelling with a chronically ill person and want to be the best travel buddy you can; or are just a spoonie packing for a trip away – this is for you.
For my babes who need medication – make sure to order your medication with plenty of time.
This doesn’t mean ordering your usual amount the week before and hoping for the best. If your medication can last, order it two weeks in advance and order double. If you are flying, I would recommend having medication in your carry on and in your hold bag. That way, if your hold bag gets left at the airport or lost in transit, you won’t be without it. You can also leave those doubles at the hotel. If your bag is stolen whilst you are at dinner, you know you can come back to your hotel and and be medically safe. One of my biggest fears is being somewhere without my inhalers, because my anxiety will kick in and make it hard to breathe and the vicious circle begins. When we were on our honeymoon, I carried all of my medication in my bag, my husband made sure he had an inhaler on him, and we had extras of everything stored around the hotel room. When it comes to surviving and thriving, you can never be too prepared.
Take a doctor’s note with you.
Even you folks who don’t carry medication – take a doctor’s note with you. This is important for a few reasons. Firstly, let’s get the nasty stuff out of the way. If things go tits up with your condition and you end up hospitalised, you’ll be able to get treated quicker if the medical team know what the exact problem is. Secondly, some places may ask for proof of condition if you need extra help. For example, wheelchair or ECV hires may prioritise booking for those with a medical need. Or, it can be used to get additional support. When we went to Disney World, I used the Disability Access Service due to some of my conditions. Whilst I am comfortable enough to talk about them with a cast member (and, well, anyone), if you are a little anxious, showing a doctor’s note should work just as well. Finally, if you are a medicated babe like myself, doctors always say to take a note or a repeat prescription with you if you are flying. Now, I have never been asked to show my proof of medication. But you know what? I’m still going to bring it with me every single time.
Speaking of medication – put it all in those clear bags.
Even if you don’t have liquid medications, put any medication you have in those clear bags. Anything too big to go in the bags? Put it through the scanner with your electrical items. It’s never obvious at airports that you need to do this, but it makes life easier for everyone involved. Plus, it means you are less likely to get patted down if you have a rogue packet of codeine floating about in your carry-on. Also, make sure to take any equipment, even if it’s just plastic, out of your carry on and in the scanner tray. On our last trip, I left my plastic spacer (a hollow, plastic tube that you can use with your inhaler) in my bag. What do you know – I got pulled to the side with people who had left liquids or electricals in their bags and had to wait forty minutes in a queue, when I could have been enjoying precious airport breakfast time! The ‘do you know you have a liquid in your bag?’ queue was so long that people before me ended up missing their flight. This is why you get to the airport with hours to spare, and it’s also why you make sure anything medical is taken out of the bag and put in the tray, okay?
Schedule rest into your itinerary
You might have to work harder to get there but listen – you deserve a break, a holiday, and some rest just as much as everyone else. So don’t over do it. I know how easy it is to want to put pedal to the metal, do everything you possibly can, and make the most of every hour a holiday can give you. Especially if you are on a ‘doing’ trip, like exploring historic towns, running to the beach, or visiting theme parks. But don’t burn yourself out when you are trying to relax. I know it sounds oxymoronic to say that, but it’s true! If you are creating an itinerary, put ‘relax’ days in there, where you stay by the pool or in the hotel room to recharge. These days saved my butt when we were on honeymoon. We hit those theme parks so hard in the first two days, my sciatica didn’t know what was going on. But we had those afternoons and days planned at the hotel so I could rest up (and Rory could too, twenty-thousand steps a day is hard), and be fighting fit for the rest of the plans on the itinerary. Planning is always key.
Finally, it’s all on you
Look, this isn’t some fluff piece where I say ‘my top tip is to just be you!’. Although that is kind of what I mean. Your health and enjoyment starts with you. You need to make sure the airline has organised an allergen friendly meal. You need to make sure you can pre-board. You need to make sure your hotel room is by the lift. You need to speak up so you can have your accommodations met. It is frustrating to say the least to have to put in more work and effort than most people to get a similar outcome – or even a slice of a similar outcome. But us chronically ill folks and health condition babes still deserve rest, relaxation, and the chance to drink some wine in the sky. Even if we do have to put in the hours to get there.
So those are my top five tips for if you are travelling with chronic conditions. They are tried and tested – and sometimes, boy have I been tested. One of the more memorable testing moments has to be when a flight attendant said to me ‘okay, we won’t serve peanuts in economy, but we’ll serve them in premium and business classes’. No ma’am. I will literally die. That’s what anaphylaxis means. Would you rather a dead body on your flight or excess bags of peanuts? That’s what I thought. Ya’ll, don’t bring peanuts on flights, it’s not hard. Sorry, I got distracted by a sore point there…
Tell me, whether you are travelling with health conditions or not – what is your top travel tip? Leave it in the comments below and let’s get some more advice under our seatbelts (like on a flight? Get it? Yeah, I’m sorry).
Thanks for reading,
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Educate & Donate: Stephen Lawrence Day | Stonewall UK | Survivor’s Trust | Mind |
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