Travel planning with a chronic illness can be challenging. It is so important to plan, though, as travelling is very different for us. It’s something I have been starting to think about more and more with each trip. After a city break in Berlin back in 2013, a year after my lung surgeries, I realised I needed to actually plan things better. I spent the whole trip physically and mentally exhausted as well as in quite a bit of pain. I almost needed a holiday to get over the time away!
Ever since, I’ve always tried to plan trips that aren’t too full on, and have a good mixture of downtime as well as sightseeing. Of course, there are many things to consider when travel planning with a chronic illness, and I thought I’d share my top tips with you today.
Planning the Trip
When you’re actually planning the trip there are a few things I recommend doing. First up, when booking your actual travel, whether it be flights, boat trips or another form of transport, planning it is important. Think about your fatigue levels and plan accordingly. It may well be a bit cheaper to get a flight with changes in the middle. But, one direct flight to your destination will make your trip much more enjoyable and less exhausting – trust me.
Accommodation is another element that needs thinking about. Where is it located? How far from the airport and other places you want to visit? Somewhere far out of town that will take a long time to get to will prove difficult if you suddenly need a nap one afternoon. I also like to make sure there is wifi and also a bar/restaurant on site in case I don’t want to leave the hotel one evening. Wifi means I can still be connected, too.
Travel insurance is another thing that you need to get sorted before going anywhere. I wrote an article all about travel insurance with cancer, and I am sure some elements will apply. There’s a company I recommend if you’re in the UK that’s great with any serious illness.
This is incredibly important. I would encourage you to take more than enough medication to see you through the holiday. Take a few extra days worth, maybe even packing separately in case some goes missing. I always like to make sure I have some in my handbag that I am travelling with, as well as extra packed in my suitcase, just in case.
Smaller pill containers are great for this. I find it much easier than carrying multiple packets. Even for things like ibuprofen, which is what I usually take for my back. I really like this one, and this one, too, which is very similar to the one I have!
Make a Plan
OK, I know this might seem obvious, but the number of times I haven’t done this, and then the trip has ended up being so exhausting and just too much for me. Or, I’ve forgotten things, essentials that would really make my time away easier. Having a plan is probably one of the most important elements of travel planning with a chronic illness.
I’ve recently become a big fan of bullet journaling and will use that for planning my trips. This notebook here is awesome and would be fab for it! I also have some of these cute travellers notebooks on order, and I can’t wait to fill them with prettiness! I can fill it with lists to make sure I don’t forget anything, as well as my schedule for the trip. Feeling organised is half the battle sometimes, and I think this will really help.
What’s an ‘ICE bag’ I hear you ask – well, it’s an ‘In Case of an Emergency bag’. I think it is super important to have one with you when you’re travelling. So, when travel planning with a chronic illness, be sure to organise one of these, too. Here’s a list of things it might include:
- Extra medication
- A snack
- A travel first aid kit
- Your information, including medical
- Your ICE contact info
- Your travel insurance documents
It is super important that you talk to your travel companions about your condition. Let them know about any limitations you might have, as well as what you’re happy to do. They also need to know what to do in case of an emergency, it’s important they feel confident in that. It can be very easy for people to ‘forget’ that you’re not well. I find that, at least, and so reminding them before the trip about your health is important.
You don’t want to feel like you’re holding them back of course. But, making them aware of the things you can and cannot do is kinder for everyone. I have travelled a couple of times with a friend who also has a chronic illness and it’s great because we both ‘get it’. If one of us is super tired and needs a rest, that’s totally OK. If my balance is particularly bad we’ll have a sit-down and she’ll usually go and get me a drink or a snack or something. We make a great team 🙂 Travelling with non-sick people is harder, for sure.
So, to conclude, travel planning with a chronic illness is very important. Planning all aspects of your trip, I mean. The details of the actual travelling, who you’re going with, what to take. All of it becomes much more important for us. Of course, travelling can also be so incredibly good for the soul. It can help to heal our minds, make us feel so much better. A few days lazing in the sunshine always does me the world of good. I always feel more connected, happier and generally better in myself after a trip. So the extra planning involved is always worth it.
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