Thoughts of a vacation should conjure up feelings of excitement and anticipation—but when you have fibromyalgia, the idea of spending time in an unknown environment can cause feelings of anxiety and trepidation instead. Your head can fill with questions like: Will the food agree with me? Will the bed be comfortable? How many stairs will there be? Will I be able to manage the flight without too much pain?

If you find out about the area, do a bit of forward planning, and arm yourself with a sense of adventure, holidays can be immensely exciting and enjoyable times.

Here are some tips on how to plan a successful holiday.

Getting to Your Destination
By Car:

  • After planning your route and working out roughly how long it is going to take you, look for suitable stopping places every few hours so you have the opportunity to stretch and move around to relieve stiffness and pain.
  • If the journey will take more than five hours, consider breaking it up and staying overnight somewhere. It is better to arrive at your destination a day later feeling okay, than to have to spend the first few days of your vacation recovering from too much time sitting in a car.
  • Travelling by car also gives you the advantage of taking as much luggage as your car can hold! You have the option of taking your own pillow, perhaps a comfortable mattress cover, food you like to eat, and as many pairs of shoes as you wish.
  • Take audio books to listen to as you travel, keeping your mind occupied and helping the time pass more swiftly.

By Plane:

  • Try to travel light. Use luggage on wheels—it’s easier to handle.
  • Always pack essentials—like your medication and a change of clothing—in your hand luggage in case your suitcase is delayed or lost.
  • Consider booking assistance at the airport. Navigating through an airport can involve walking long distances, and at the end of the flight you may be very tired and stiff; it is worth booking wheelchair assistance to help you get from check-in to the gate, and then from the plane to the luggage collection point. Simply ask when you book your flight.
  • If you are travelling with your own wheelchair, remove the control panel, footplates, and any cushions, packing them in your luggage to keep them safe.
  • To relieve pain and stiffness during the flight, ask for an aisle seat so you're able to get up and move around every half hour. You can even do some simple stretching exercises while in the bathroom!
  • Take whatever you need to make the flight more comfortable—for example, your own cushion, heating pads that heat up on exposure to air, pain relieving gels, etc.
  • Try to drink as much water as possible to prevent getting dehydrated.

A Place to Stay
When choosing a place to stay, you need to ensure that is going to meet all your requirements. Phone your intended lodging to talk through your requirements with the manager or owners, rather than relying on information from the internet or a travel agent.

  • Ask for a room on the ground floor, near the office, to avoid lots of steps and having to walk long distances.
  • Ask about exact distances to places you want to visit, like the beach or local town, to help you decide if you will need to use public transport, rent a car, or take a wheelchair to help you get about.
  • Check that the hotel restaurant can provide food you can eat, or ensure you have the option to self cater.
  • If you are travelling with a wheelchair, ask for a wheelchair accessible room and find out what facilities are accessible in your accommodation complex. Check that the bathroom has a wheel-in shower.
  • If you have a power wheelchair, you may need a voltage adapter to charge it up if you are going abroad, as countries outside the US often supply a higher voltage.
  • If you have allergies, ask if they use feather duvets and pillows. You may need to bring a synthetic alternative.

Exploring the Local Area
Try to find out as much as you can about the local area before you arrive. You can often get maps and guidebooks from your local library, and of course the internet can offer a wealth of information. There is no point spending a lot of money on a holiday to find there is nothing you can do comfortably when you get there!

  • Research the accessibility of local sites you wish to visit, either phoning or emailing to ask any questions you may have.
  • Be selective in what you want to do. Don't try to cram everything in so you become exhausted. It is important to pace yourself still and schedule rest times.
  • Find out about disabled parking, whether you can use your disabled badge in that country, and what the rules are.
  • Bear in mind that holidays can involve more walking than you are used to as you are unfamiliar with the area and want to see the sights. If you want to do lots of exploring, work out the best way to get about, either by bus, taxi, car, or perhaps a rented wheelchair.
  • If you take a wheelchair on your trip, find out what buses, trams, or taxis are wheelchair accessible. The local tourist board should have this information and provide maps illustrating which routes you can use.
  • If you have a wheelchair and plan to rent a car, look for the option of renting a small van installed with ramps. If this is unavailable, you will need to ensure that the trunk is large enough to accommodate your wheelchair and all your luggage.

General Tips

  • Journeys can be long and tiring, so schedule a rest day after your arrival to allow yourself time to recover.
  • If you are travelling across time zones, switch into your new time zone as soon as possible and then take your medication accordingly.
  • Find out the best time of year to visit: often spring and autumn are the best times to avoid the crowds and the possibility of intense heat.
  • If you plan to travel in the winter to a cold climate, ensure you have suitable clothing and remember that if you are sitting in a wheelchair you will get a lot colder than your more mobile companions.
  • Most important of all, relax and enjoy the novelty and adventure of a new place. Take plenty of photos and display them at home to remind you of your achievement and that there is a whole world simply waiting to be explored.