It’s the time of year, when many people are getting ready (if not packing) for a vacation. For those with a Chronic illness, that means paying attention to details. Your life isn’t over just because you were diagnosed. Travel, domestic or foreign, can still be enjoyed. But it does require some careful planning. If you do so, you’ll have less stress … more relaxation … a great trip … wonderful memories … and added confidence for taking future excursions.
First, it’s important to be realistic and honest with yourself (and your traveling companion/s). Do you feel well enough to take a trip? Only you know that answer. If you are the least bit uncertain, you should see your doctor and discuss it. Some seasons may be easier for you to travel in. Some locales may be easier to access. How you travel can also have an impact, on your health. And, in all honesty, there will be years when you simply cannot take the risk. Chronic illnesses do not stop just because you go on vacation. This is your new normal and, like your shadow, your illness is going to be with you. Assuming that you are feeling good and a trip is on the horizon, remember your limitations.
For me, personally, it’s 6-7 hours per day. It doesn’t matter if I’m traveling by car, rail, or air. My body doesn’t cooperate well, beyond that. So, my plans heed the time-frame. If my destination requires 2 days of traveling, I book a hotel room for the night. Pacing yourself, with any Chronic illness, is important. It doesn’t matter if you are en route, or at your destination. Pacing yourself can be the difference between relaxation and a setback. So, don’t push yourself. Think ahead. Do you need to make a reservation, for the road? Do you need to rethink a planned activity? I’m not suggesting that you sit idly in your hotel room. I’m just saying that you need to remember your body’s limitations. And we all have them.
If you are traveling abroad, check your Passport. Is it valid? If you don’t have a Passport, you’ll need to visit the State Department website for information on how to obtain one. This process doesn’t happen overnight (typically 6-8 weeks), so don’t wait until the week before your departure to get started.
With a Chronic illness, it’s essential to choose a destination where you can get good health treatment if necessary. A letter from your doctor, on his office stationery, that details your condition, i.e. medications, etc., is always helpful to have on hand. Sometimes, it can be necessary. Medical alert bracelets, or tags, are another plus. These can be easily obtained online, if you don’t already own one. Will you need immunizations for your trip? If so, these should be taken 4-6 weeks before you go.
Beyond passports, modes of travel and reservations … there’s health insurance. This is especially pertinent if you are traveling abroad. Most regular health plans provide no coverage, or limited coverage, when you are in another country. Medicare offers none. So, take a moment and contact your health insurance. Ask what is and isn’t covered. You might even consider getting Travel Health Insurance.
About two weeks before leaving town, your attention should focus on your cellphone coverage and credit cards. If you are taking your cellphone, you’ll want to call your provider to make certain you will have service at your intended destination. This may require additional coverage and fees, depending upon where you are going, i.e. another country, and your current plan. Your credit card companies also need to be notified of where you are traveling to and when, so be sure to contact them.
It’s time to pack. And let’s be honest, packing can be a hassle. So err on the side of caution, make a list of everything you will need. That way you are less likely to forget something important. You will need to pack your medications as well as any supplies, i.e. inhalers, syringes, glucose test strips, etc. It’s wise to pack a few days extra, just in case you encounter a delay. Comfortable clothing and footwear always comes in handy. Do you occasionally need a heating-pad? If the answer is yes, then pack it. Do you sometimes have incontinence issues? Make sure you pack those products, too. It is easier to be prepared than to be stuck in a difficult situation without them.
When your departure day finally arrives, you’re going to be excited. But it’s still important to stay focused. Wear comfortable clothing, especially on travel days. Comfortable shoes, too. Make sure you have your passport, your ID, maps, tickets, wallet, cellphone, etc. Put your medications in a place where you can easily obtain them, i.e. a purse, a tote bag, carry-on, etc. Stay hydrated. The summer heat can create additional problems and air travel can, too. Drinking water not only keeps your body hydrated, it helps you to stay resistant to germs. No matter which mode of travel you choose, remember to take a break — walk around, stretch, etc. It does help. Keep the time zone differences in mind, when taking your medications. Last, but not least, relax … You CAN do this! Millions of us do!
Happy trails …
* Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash