June 25


10 Travel Tips for the Sick and Tired

By Sue Ingebretson

June 25, 2013

airplane, airport security, arthritis, asthma, cancer, chronic illness, ME/CFS, medications, road trip, Travel, travel pillows, walking shoes


Travel and Fibromyalgia

Travel is stressful.

Whether traveling for fun or for business, getting ready for a trip is often half the battle. But for those who are feeling not-so-healthy on a good day, travel is a whole ‘nother fettle of kish!

Do you have chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, asthma, or cancer? If so, you may worry (with good reason) that you’ll use up the limited energy you have — even before you leave home.

Planning ahead is a good idea for any traveler, but it’s absolutely essential for those who are sick or live with chronic conditions. Spending the time to plan now, will save you from frustration later.

Keep these ten tips in mind to ease you into becoming a successful traveler:

1)                  Make a list of medications/supplements/medical supplies/foods needed while you’re gone. Having required medications and a healthy snack ready-to-go is invaluable for those unexpected travel delays. (HINT: Don’t skip list-making even if foggy-thinking isn’t one of your symptoms.)

2)                  Make a list of “before we go” to-do’s needed around the house (i.e. turn off/on automatic watering systems, adjust settings for your home’s heating or air conditioning systems, place mail/newspapers on vacation hold, leave extra key for house/dog sitter, toss leftovers in the fridge, secure windows/doors, empty the trash, etc.).

3)                  Make a list of clothing to pack (looking at items on paper helps to organize and coordinate outfits maximizing the use of your luggage, and minimizing the need for multiple accessories).

Airport Security and Medications

4)                  Plan ahead for personal accommodations necessary for air travel. Book bulkhead or exit row seating for extra room. Call the airlines, if applicable, to verify that your needed medical supplies may travel as carry on items. (You DON’T want to learn what is and isn’t acceptable as you go through airport security.)

5)                  Drink water. Being properly hydrated helps to improve pain levels, memory, digestion, and fatigue, so start your trip off right. Drink plenty of water and, if applicable, bring it with you as you travel.

6)                  Include rest/relaxation opportunities on your travel and sightseeing agendas. PLAN to take frequent breaks to stretch, breathe, walk, or exercise.

7)                  Consider breaking longer trips into shorter segments. For instance, a one or two night stay in New York City makes a nice break when traveling to Europe from the west coast. And, if taking a road trip, consider staying in one location a day or two before moving on.

8)                  This should be obvious, but pack comfortable shoes and clothing. Wear clothing in layers that can be added or removed as necessary. Even in warm weather, pack scarves, jackets, etc. for that too-chilly airplane, museum, or restaurant.

9)                  If luggage space isn’t at a premium, bring along your favorite pillows, neck rolls, heating pads, blankets, and coffee or tea mugs to make travel away seem like home.

Travel Tips and Chronic Illness

10)              Above all, be kind to yourself. Be patient as you enjoy new and unfamiliar surroundings. Setting your health care concerns as a priority will assure you’ve begun with your best foot forward.

Happy trails!

Do you have interesting travel plans this summer? Do share!

  1. I traveled by car and for some reason unknown to me, find I am, although not pain free, so relaxed it is enjoyable. I am this way on car trips and I do all the driving. Ibuprofen is my pain killer of choice. This has happened three years in a row. I am 80 years young and look forward to my next road trip. Drove over 1600 miles this year. I have Fibro. Seems shortly after I get home I have some trouble sleeping and the pain increases. Nothing at home, but me. (that may be a reason). Puzzles me,,but I don’t fully understand this condition.

    1. The moods and stress levels we experience while on vacation make all the difference! Sounds like you’re enjoying your trip (and enjoying reduced symptoms). That’s win/win!

  2. Great tips, Sue! I make a master list for packing…have a form that I created in word that I use. I like the idea of making a list of things that need to get done before the travel too. Sometimes I do that as well so I don’t forget to stop the mail…so nice that you can do that online nowadays.

    1. I love the quick little apps you can find for list making. That way – once we go to the trouble of making a list — we don’t lose it!

  3. Hi Sue,
    This is a great list, I’d like to print this and keep it with my suitcase. I have traveled a few times since my diagnosis with FM. I’ve reached my destination feeling exhausted and confused. Traveling is difficult, I don’t like to travel alone. There are trips coming next year, I will use you post as my guideline. 🙂

    1. Mariann,

      Thanks so much for your kind comment! I’m glad you found this useful and I hope your next trip is smooth and pain-free!


  4. Great article! The tips you provide are essential! I recently was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Hawaii for our anniversary. I even considered not going because of the daily difficulties I already have with my fibromyalgia and chronic pain. I finally decided to take a chance and go. The 9 hour flight was very hard on my body. I did my best by periodically stretching, standing, walking, & staying hydrated. Out of our 6 days, 2 days I spent the majority of the day in my hotel bed battling fatigue and pain. I knew that would probably happen and had actually planned and discussed this with my husband. He’s always been very understanding and supportive so we used this time to just watch movies, TV, and test out the room service menu. Like you say in your article, you must make your health a priority. I didn’t do that in our trip a few years ago and I ended up in tears wanting to go home early feeling guilty and disappointed in myself for not being able to keep up. I did make my health a priority during this recent trip and although it was difficult I had a beautiful, wonderful time. Thank you for addressing this topic 🙂

    1. Elizabeth — I’m so glad that you’ve found this useful. Isn’t it interesting how we need to be reminded that taking care of our health should be a priority? Hope your next trip is grand!

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