I have always wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands. I am an animal lover, and the unspoiled nature of this destination makes it irresistibly appealing. Living with a chronic illness, however, makes an already difficult trip such as this mere fantasy, I suspect. I will likely have to settle for something a little closer to home (perhaps Ocean Isle, North Carolina, one of my favorite places). Traveling with a chronic illness comes with some unique challenges, but there are several preparations one can make to ensure the trip is a little more tolerable.
To begin with, you want to make certain you are physically able to endure the trip. You might consider scheduling a doctor’s visit shortly before embarking on your vacation to ascertain whether there are new or serious symptoms that would prevent you from travelling. We all hate to cancel or postpone plans, but if those plans become a threat to your health, this should not be ignored. If you are unable to travel to your originally planned destination at the appointed time, perhaps you could consider staying a bit closer to home, postponing your trip for a bit, or even having a “staycation” instead.
Once you have established that you are indeed going to embarking on your adventure, there are several things that can make travelling easier. You might consider researching the area where you will be staying to make certain you are aware of the location of all relevant medical facilities, just in case you should need to avail yourself of their services. Review the local urgent care and emergency facilities in the area and verify that they will accept your insurance and can meet your needs. Make sure there are pharmacies in the area that will work for you as well. Inform your regular doctor that you will be travelling and let him/her know that you might need to get in touch via telephone or e-mail in the case of an emergency. Also make certain the hotels, attractions, and venues you will be visiting will be able to accommodate any special needs you have.
In addition to scoping out the area, confirm that you have plenty of up-to-date medications and supplies with you (perhaps twice the amount you anticipate needing) and are not in need of refills. If you will be separated from your luggage, keep your medications with you in their original prescription bottles or containers. You do not want to risk your medications being lost with your baggage. Bring a copy of your prescriptions, too, if this is possible. Also, consider bringing a written record of your (brief) medical history or a note from your physician describing your condition and various medical needs and wearing a medical alert band for the duration of your vacation. These measures could be of great help to you in the case of a medical emergency.
There are several things you can bring with you during the actual travel portion of your trip that might make your life easier as well. Make certain you have plenty of “disease-friendly” meals and snacks on hand just in case you are unable to access these types of items during travel. Travelling already puts additional stress on your body, and you certainly do not want to find yourself in a situation where you exacerbate this problem by having nothing tolerable to eat and/or drink. Consider bringing games, reading materials, music, videos, or any other paraphernalia that will help you pass the time. Such forms of distraction can relax you and keep you from focusing on the hardships of the trip. Allow extra time when travelling as well, as you might need to stop more frequently than anticipated for rest, bathroom breaks, and exercise/movement.
Once you have arrived at your destination, make sure everything you need is in place, in working order, and suitable for your needs. Remember to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and plan for plenty of “downtime.” Make sure those travelling with you are aware that the added stress of travelling can take a toll on your body and that you do not want to push yourself too far beyond your limits. Restrict your outings and activities to what you can bear, and be willing to adjust your plans as necessary to accommodate your needs. Be flexible!
We could all use a vacation every now and then to recover from the demanding, stressful world in which we live, and though travelling with a chronic illness poses some interesting challenges, these can be minimized with a bit of planning and a willingness to bend a little to the needs of your condition. Go out and have some fun – just be reasonable and take care of yourself in the process.