5 tips for planning a holiday with a chronic illness.
Having a chronic illness can be all consuming. Making it through the week, day, the next hour even can sometimes be your one and only focus. Holidays or weekend trips away are usually the last thing on my mind. If i’m going through a flare up of my endo a holiday may even been impossible. As I learned to come to terms with (potentially) a lifelong illness I have come to realise that although the way I live isn’t what I might have planned, I still have a life to live. (OH MY GOD. That was way too corny, I’m so sorry).
I’ve been holidaying with a chronic illness for quite a few years now, even if for some time I didn’t think I was ill. Here’s some things I’ve found always make my journey easier and my holiday more enjoyable.
You know what? I’d love to go on a hiking holiday, horse riding, rock climbing or camping. But guess what? I can’t. As hard as it is when planning a trip away, know your limitations and factor them in during the planning process. If a city break is what interests you, research the public transport, discovering the city on foot might be really romantic an’ all but a whole days walking might mean you spend the rest of your holiday in bed. If there’s particular places or sites you really want to visit figure out your route, factor in rest stops and limit unnecessary travel. Perhaps you have certain times of day when things are a little harder for you? Or maybe you have to keep a strict diet? Factor it in people. Timetable in chances to rest and if eating a different cuisine, or unsure whether you’re going to have access to your normal diet do a little research first and if you know a flare up is on the cards because of this at least you’re prepared.
Check for any restrictions/extra requirements when travelling with medications or medical equipment.
British guidelines state that medications in tablet form can be carried in carry on and hold luggage when flying. Additionally you can carry over 100ml of liquid medication, again in your carry on luggage or in the hold. BUT. You may need a copy of your prescription for these items and even a letter from your doctor. My advice is always check with the airline, have all your medications organised and any needed documentation. There’s nothing worse than being stopped at security and then finding you don’t have what you need to get through.
A lot of people will just pack any medications needed for the journey in carry on luggage or easy to access bags. Remember to pack enough for the journey and then some. If like me you have a chronic pain condition, travel can often cause further pain or a flare of symptoms. Always pack extra pain relief, a heat pad (if that helps) and a cushion. (So helpful on long car rides)!
Be honest with friends, family or loved ones that are travelling with you.
We’ve already established that it’s important to realistic and honest with oneself but it’s equally as vital to do so with family, friends or your partner. Be honest about any fears you have, any limitations you think there might be and what you want out of the trip. My boyfriend is amazing. He knows when I’m going through a flare and he knows what limitations I have when it comes to travel. But he’s not a mind reader!
One year on a holiday in Cornwall I did the worse thing you can do. I stayed quiet. We planned a walk to the next village along form us. It was five miles, with a good amount of hills to climb. I knew it would be too much but a combination of stubbornness and a desire not to ruin the holiday meant I told him I would be fine. Three hours later, as I had my head between my legs on a bench feeling like I was about to pass out, I didn’t agree so much.
If the people you’re travelling with do not know your condition well, ensure to explain it to them before you travel. Heck before you book anything for that matter. They need to know what you can and can’t do and they need to know that it might be totally normal for you to need regular breaks or little or no walking.
Planned a walk? Dinner reservations maybe? Or you’ve been desperate to get on the beach since you arrived? But you’re now going through a flare up and your bed in your hotel room seems the best place to be. Be kind to yourself, rest when your body tells you to and try to be flexible with plans. Perhaps that hike could be swapped to a boat ride or the swim can be replaced with a sun bathe.
Try not to view this as a missed opportunity, rather an opportunity to try something you may have not done otherwise.
For a very long time, I mourned the life I thought I would be living. And sure, I’m sad I wont be climbing Mount Snowden this year, something we’ve planned on doing for years and I’m disappointed I won’t be horse riding anytime soon or going on that walking holiday, BUT! I still have so many trips, holidays and adventures to look forward to.
The need to take things a little slower has meant a new appreciation for places we visit. We can take our time to get to know the local restaurants or cafes. We can discover cities and other places close to us that we may never have given a thought to before. I really can’t stand it when someone tells you to “find the positives.” But for myself at least there has been and I am very grateful.