Travel is one of the great joys of my life, but as someone who lives with chronic illness, planning a vacation has a few more things for me to consider. Last week I decided that a work trip was needed for my day job, and before you could say Mickey Mouse I had switched into full-on planning mode. I thought I’d share the travel fun along with some great spoonie tips for travel planning.
Spoonie Tips For Travel: Planning Mode
Research Your Destination
You’ve got the whole wide world to explore, but its important to remember that not everywhere is as accessible to people with disabilities as the United States is. Do a little research ahead of time and figure out if the place you want to go will suit your special needs.
Here Are A Few Things To Consider
General Health – Are you well enough to travel? Are there areas of the world that you should avoid due to health concerns? Will you need additional shoots or medications in order to make your travel safe and comfortable? Now is a great time to check in with your medical team and be sure that you are in ship shape.
Mobility – How much walking will you be doing? Can you rent a wheelchair? How will you transport the chair plane/car/bus/etc? Are there accessible transportation, accommodation, and recreational options?
Electricity – Will you have an adequate power supply for any medical equipment you use? Do you need to bring along any additional equipment in order to use it?
Dietary Needs – Will you have access to food you are able to eat? Do restaurants you plan on visiting take special requests from the kitchen? If not, how will you make sure your dietary needs are taken care of?
Accommodations – Sometimes while on vacation a spoonie’s body just says “enough with the fun!” This is time to regroup and spend a little time just chilling out in your hotel room. For this reason I prefer to pay a little more and make sure I have a room worth hanging out in. Your mileage may vary, but I am an unapologetic hotel snob.
I’ll be heading to Walt Disney World on my next trip, and they really go above and beyond the norm when it comes to guests with disabilities. If you are looking for a friendly place with above average accommodations, you might want to try vacationing with Disney Parks and Resorts.
Bring A Companion, But Choose Wisely
I first planned to head down for a 48 hour commando strike to get some business done. My family quickly put a quash on that. Tori – my oldest daughter (and frequent service human) was quick to speak up and remind me that I need to travel smart. She stepped up and said she would take the time off to come along.
I’ve traveled with several different people in the roll of my caretaker, and travel buddy truly is NOT a one size fits all job. Make sure the you get along well with your buddy, and that they know what the expectations on them are before you go. Even the longest and strongest friendships can be stressed by travel if you have different expectations.
Here Are A Few Things To Talk About With Your Companion
What do specifically does your travel buddy need to do? How will they be helping you?
How will you split up the costs of the trip? Are you paying for your companion’s travel?
What is the overall game plan for the trip? If there a specific purpose, or is it pure leisure?
Will your buddy get time on their own, or will you always be together?
Planes, trains, and automobiles are just a couple of ways that you may find yourself traveling. When your travel with chronic illness though you need to make sure that getting to and from a place isn’t harder on your body, or your medical equipment, than need be. Be sure to research all of your transportation options and pick what will be best for you overall, not just cheapest.
If you will be using mobility aids be sure that your carrier can transport them as well. Taxis can’t always take a wheelchair. Boats aren’t a good option if you get motion sick. Trains are fun, but can you handle the cramped space and jostling? The pressurization of aircraft can often set off a fibromyalgia flare.
Here Are A Few Additional Things To Consider
Do you need a wheelchair escort at the airport or to use pre-boarding? Check with your airline carrier and make arrangements in advance that will help you have a seamless airport experience. Using pre-arranged assistance has been a huge help to me, but be prepared to spend a little extra time waiting for your escort and getting through security.
Carry-on Medical Equipment. If you will be carrying on medical equipment in a case (and you should because you don’t want to check it) you are still allowed one additional bag and a personal item onboard with you. Just be aware of how much luggage you and your companion can actually manage. I learned the hard way that I need to minimize my carry-on bags simply because I can only juggle so many bags at a time. This is especially important when traveling alone, because if you have a wheelchair escort to the gate, it’s just not possible to be rolling an extra bag with you. Just bring what you can fit on your lap while in a wheelchair.
For my next trip I will be flying Southwest, and using a wheelchair escort through the airport. I have had great service with Southwest when using disability services, especially during pre-boarding.
Packing Your Medical Bag
Let’s talk about one last thing that you have to think about when planning – your medical bag. This may sound like a “no brainer,” but planning for your medical needs ahead of time will save a multitude of hassles on the road. I organize my medical equipment into smaller cases with compartments, and then they go into my carry-on bag. You do not want to check your medical gear. Packing cubes are an amazing way to keep things organized and neat, plus it makes it easier for TSA if they feel the need to hand check your bag.
Here Are Some Things To Consider
Over pack the meds – I take my own mini-pharmacy with me when traveling because you never know when you will have to have extra medication due to delays. Along with my prescriptions I like to bring several types of OTC medications just in case. Sure, you could buy allergy meds in the resort gift shop, but do you really want to pay the inflated prices? This is another lesson I learned the hard way when my entire family came down with a bug on vacation.
Extra Care – TENS Units, Heating Pads, and Braces may be something you use sparingly at home, but pack them anyhow. Travel can be very hard on the body, causing much more exertion than a normal days activity. Bring your arsenal of self-care gear so that you have it to use at the hotel. Maybe you won’t need it, but rather safe than sorry.
“Medi-Spa” – When your body has had enough, designate a night to stay in, relax, and take care of yourself. I always pack some extra comfy jammies, great smelling epsom salts, pain relieving rubs, and a mani-pedi kit for in-room pampering. While not technically medical gear it sure does make me feel better.
There you have it!
My spoonie tips for travel, planning mode edition. If you take time to consider these things from the start, you’ll have a much better time in the end. It’s not impossible to travel with chronic illness, in fact for me it has a great element of self-care. What’s important is that you really take into account about what your capabilities are, and how you will manage life away from home. Now – go get planning!
Hey – Confused by what a spoonie is? Be sure to visit ButYouDontLookSick.com and meet and incredible community of people living their best lives with invisible illness. Read up on the original Spoon Theory.