August 4


How to Travel with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Illness

By Sue Ingebretson

August 4, 2015

chronic, fibromyalgia, flare, illness, plan, plane,, tips, Travel, trip, vacation


How to Travel with Fibromyalgia and Chronic IllnessGot summer travel coming up? An overdue vacation perhaps? There’s nothing like a great respite to help you feel relaxed and rejuvenated. But, have you ever been away from home only to have a fibromyalgia flare throw a monkey wrench into your plans? Here are tips to plan ahead. Tell that flare, “Don’t you dare!” 

The following is an article I originally wrote for on the subject of how to prepare and plan for travel with fibromyalgia and / or any other chronic health challenge.  ****************************

Do you remember going on road trips as a kid? You packed your favorite toy, a toothbrush (if reminded), your PJs, and you were good to go. Things aren’t so simple now that we’re grown. Especially, for those of us with chronic health concerns such as fibromyalgia. Pain, fatigue, and digestive issues can make traveling quite a challenge.

Does the thought of travel make you cringe?

If so, I hope you find a change of heart by the time you finish this article – so please read through to the end.

Not so many years ago, I planned for a momentous vacation abroad. I coordinated with family members in three different states. I searched for the right hotels, trains, boats, and other accommodations. I arranged for the care of our children still at home and for Pup. I made decisions about the phone plan, credit card usage, and so many other details.

(Just thinking about it makes me want to go lie down and take a nap.)

By the time my bags were packed and we were on our way, I was so fatigued I felt myself floating in sort of an “other worldly” existence as I climbed into the airport shuttle. If asked, I wouldn’t have been able to pass a test on how to spell my last name.

You know how that feels, right? It’s when you’re so fatigued and foggy that you know you’re in the present moment, but you’re not really there. My friend once described it to me this way. She said, “When I’m this foggy, I feel like I’m in the room, but my brain is in a jar over on the window sill. Things don’t really connect.”

That says a lot!

Occasionally, we may feel fatigued and foggy anyway, but planning for a trip can really bring it on. That’s why I’ve compiled the following information for you. Following the tips below will help you to gauge your resources so that you have enough energy left to actually enjoy yourself.

The success of your trip may
very well hinge on how well you plan.

I just happened to read an article at the chiropractor’s office today about how “Prehab” is as important before surgery as “Rehab” is afterward. It went on to illustrate the planning steps – in detail – to take before surgery.

Planning may not be fun, but the good thing is that anticipating a vacation or trip is a lot more enjoyable than surgery.

After the arrival of a chronic illness diagnosis, spontaneous and carefree travel may be a thing of the past. But that doesn’t mean traveling can’t still provide adventure.

Here are a few key tips to keep in mind for your next trip – whether by car, boat, train, plane, or magic carpet.

List, List, List

First of all, get friendly with the idea of making lists. You’ll need one master checklist – plus many sub-lists. Here are some sub-list ideas:

Medications: Compile a list of prescriptions, over the counter medications, supplements, digestive aids, medical supplies and medical foods you may need while you’re gone. Also plan ahead to make sure you have the medications and supplies that you’ll need when you return home. Write down the phone numbers of pharmacies, doctors, or suppliers that you may need to contact in case of an emergency.

Household: Compile a list of things you may need to do around the house before leaving such as putting a vacation hold on the mail and newspaper, turning off or on automatic watering systems, leaving an extra key for house/pet sitter, tossing leftovers from the fridge, securing doors, windows, etc.

Clothing: Compile a list of items you plan to wear. This may sound tedious, but seeing your clothes listed on paper can help you to pare down and coordinate your outfits, maximizing the space in your luggage. Travel isn’t the time for high fashion. Pack for comfort – especially when it comes to shoes. Bring items that can layer on and off for personal temperature control such as scarves, socks, gloves, sweaters, etc. Even in the summer heat, a scarf and sweater can be a life-saver in a too-chilly restaurant, museum, theater, or airplane.

Food: Compile a list of snacks, foods, meal replacement shakes (single-serve packs – great for travel!), cups, spoons, and anything you may need. Packing a snack ahead of time is a great way to plan ahead for unexpected travel delays. (I sat in a train station in Paris for hours on end and was grateful for the loaf of banana bread I’d made in advance and stashed in my backpack. Everyone else around me was grateful for the nibbles, too.)

Personal items for air travel: Compile a list of items you may need to pay special attention to if traveling by plane. Write down the contact information and phone number of the airlines. You may need to call ahead to ask for instructions on how to travel with liquid medications, medical equipment, and/or for assistance in getting on and off the plane. Book bulkhead seats, if available, for additional room. This part of planning ahead is essential – you do NOT want to find out at the airport that something you need cannot go in your carry-on bag and should have been in your check-in luggage.

Technology: Compile a list of electronic items you may be taking and their necessary accessories. Be sure to include phones, computers, cameras, wall and auto chargers, carrying cases, stands, earphones, speakers, handheld games, extra batteries, etc.

The comforts of home: Compile a list of comfort items to bring along if luggage space isn’t at a premium. Bring your favorite pillow, blanket, tea mug, neck roll, heating pad, gel-cushioned seat, and whatever else makes you feel relaxed and comfortable. Don’t forget items that help you sleep such as sleep aids (even if you don’t think you’ll need them), a sleep mask, and earplugs.

Now that you have your sub-lists at hand, create one master checklist that you can cross off items right before you go. Include the above categories as well as anything else that applies to your specific travel such as maps, itinerary, tickets, excursion information, accommodation data, etc.

Start this master list early on so that you can continue to add to it as you think of things in the weeks preceding your trip.

Fibromyalgia Trip Tips:

WATER: Even if you make a regular habit of staying hydrated when you’re at home, make sure that you place even more emphasis on this as you travel. Keep water with you to help keep your digestion on track. Proper hydration also helps with pain levels, fatigue, and even memory.

RELAX: Make sure to incorporate opportunities to relax on your trip. That may sound silly since most travel relates to vacations and vacations are relaxing. Not so Tonto! Vacations can actually be very stressful – even though there are elements of fun. So, make sure you schedule in time to take frequent breaks, stretch, breathe, walk, and exercise.

BREAK IT UP: Consider breaking longer trips into shorter segments. You may choose to do day trips, so you can sleep at home at night, or take several small trips close to home. If you’re traveling further away, make frequent stops to stretch and relax. If you’re traveling a long distance by air, you may wish to plan a stop mid-way and spend one or two nights in order to rejuvenate your energy resources.

RETURN STRATEGY: Plan for providing yourself with some downtime upon your return. If possible, return home a day or so before you have to resume your daily commitments such as school or work. Give yourself some time to ease back into your routine and catch up on some extra sleep.

BUDDY UP: If at all possible, travel with someone else, so that you’re not wrangling overly heavy bags, or doing all the driving. Take turns with the responsibilities that you can handle, and if needed, delegate the ones that don’t work within your limitations.

FIRST AID: Put together a first aid kit of things that you may need – even if you can’t imagine needing them. Include basic first aid items (Band-Aids, anti-bacterial creams, anti-itching remedies, gauze and tape, etc.), plus anti-nausea remedies such as ginger, supplies for muscle pain/cramps, and anything else that relates to your personal tendencies.

KINDNESS: Above all, be kind to yourself. Be patient as you enjoy new and unfamiliar surroundings. Give yourself the latitude to go at your own pace, to organize each day’s activities around your needs, and be flexible as you go. It’s impossible to plan for all contingencies, so when surprises arise – and they will – take them as they come.

Does travel seem like more bother than it’s worth?

You may not have thought of it this way, but travel is actually quite nourishing to the soul. You can consider it part of your healing protocol. The monotony of life with chronic illness can easily become overwhelming without a respite here and there. Routine can be very good, but even the best routines need periodic diversions.

Travel provides the opportunity to step outside of our own comfort zone (literally) and into the unfamiliar. By taking that step – whether across town, across country, or across the oceans – we may discover new strengths and interests within.

Are you set to take your next trip? Just imagine what you can discover about the world around you (and within).

To travel is to take a journey

into yourself.” – Danny Kaye



*This article is my original work and first appeared at It is reprinted with kind permission and may be viewed HERE.

  1. Great suggestions, can’t wait to finally travel, I also plan to rent a scooter wherever I go, if I feel that I can walk, I can always park it:^)

  2. I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Between housesitting for other people (for a little extra$), going to my mom’s house and once in a while going to visit out of town relatives, my suitcase does get used. One thing that helps is to have a ditty bag packed all that time with toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. I can just toss it in the suitcase instead of worrying about forgetting stuff. I may start leaving scivvies, nightie and a pair of socks (in neutral color) in my suitcase too.

  3. Thank you for this great article. I have fibromyalgia since I was little and travelling has always been one of my favourite hobbies. It is so much fun!
    But you are right, that someone should always care about their health and never forget, that it is the most important thing. I already heed some of youre tips. I try to plan at least one day of rest after an vaccation, before I have to go to work again. As I often use weekends, it doesn’t always work, but I feel it would have been better. Nevertheless sometimes travelling is worth the little bit of extra stress, at least for me. 😀
    I agree with you, that planning makes it all easier. When I travel to a new place, I plan very carefully with lot of versions for different situations, so I don’t have to worry what to do, if plan A isn’t possible on this day, because of to much pain etc. I also figure out where the next doctor and hospital is etc. And relatives get information where I am, in case they need it. (I travel alone most of the time.)

  4. Hi! This is a very helpful article. My husband and I own a 27″ RV and I keep a full stash of everything I might need for my fibromyalgia. I made sure we have a nice, comfortable bed and that the toilet is not too low (you
    would not believe what a difference it makes), and have installed blackout curtains in the bedroom so I can sleep in the daytime if need be. It’s very important if you are taking a car trip of over 1 hour, to make frequent stops and walk around to get your circulation going. Carry a card with a list of all the medications you take, the dose and frequency of what you take, and care instructions such as allergies to meds and what kind of treatment you might desire (here in Canada we have what are called “Green Sleeves” with our desired care levels from full treatment down to “Do not Resuscitate”directives) if you need emergency care.

    1. Great additional tips – thanks for sharing! Sounds like you have lots of fun in your RV and I’m sure many of us in this community would love to travel in style as you do 😉

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