Those of us with fibromyalgia and chronic pain illnesses know the conflicting emotions when planning a trip or vacation. We are excited about getting to see family and new places and having new experiences. We dread the thought of hotel mattresses, having to sit for long periods of time, and not getting enough rest—all of which can create a terrible fibro flare, and all that while away from home.
If you plan ahead, the trip you have been looking forward to does not have to turn into the one you dread. Keep in mind, fibromyalgia will not take a vacation from you—so we cannot take a vacation from proper management of fibromyalgia or chronic pain illnesses! Here are my top 10 tips for totally terrific traveling.
1. Plan for pleasure--and to remember the good time you had. Peruse the travel brochures and decide on what experiences you would enjoy the most. Get pictures and videos of you having fun in nice surroundings. They will be a reminder of the great time you had and can help relax you on those “bad” days that may come after you get home.
2. Get your prescriptions and supplements stocked ahead of time. Don’t be caught without enough medications and vitamins right before you leave. If you need any refills, call your pharmacy or doctor 10 days before your trip. If you are using prescription pain medications, check with the state you are visiting to know if any special arrangements need to be made beforehand for a refill so you don't get caught with a shortage. Most national pharmacies such as Wal-Mart, Rite-Aid, and CVS can refill your prescriptions at any location in the U.S., but it is important to check before you leave home.
3. Prepare to sleep with comfort. Carry a foam pad or air mattress to cushion unfamiliar beds. Perhaps take a single Cuddle-Ewe pad and an extra flat flannel sheet. You can pull the blanket and top sheet back, roll out your pad and cover it with the flannel sheet. Sometimes you can travel with my own pillow as well. Doing this can be a life-saver—and a back-saver!
4. Ask for assistance. If you need a room with a shower only and no bathtub, a room closer to the elevator, a helping hand up and down the bus steps, or someone to lift a bag into the overhead compartment—ask for it! Don’t be shy about asking for help or special accommodations.
5. Don’t seize up—do your stretches. If you are doing a lot of traveling by plane or car, you may be required to sit for extended periods of time. If driving, stop every two hours for a 10-minute stretching break. If you are on a plane, take a walk to the restroom. You can also do some stretches in your seat. Stretch your arms and neck. Wiggle your toes and ankles. With your feet flat on the floor, lift your heels and tighten your calf muscles. Don’t forget to do your daily routine of stretches in the morning and before bed.
6. Sleep is NOT overrated. Enjoy your trip, but get the well-deserved rest and sleep you need. Enjoy the opportunity to rest and put your feet up rather than going all day and all night; if you have a chance for naps, take them. Get your eight hours of sleep and don’t cut yourself short. Come home from your vacation feeling rested, not like you need another vacation just to rest!
7. Your feet were made for walking, so take good care of them. Sore, swollen feet will take the fun out a trip fast. Ditch the flip-flops and wear good shoes. At the end of the day, pamper your feet by a nice soak, massage and lotion. Put your feet up and give them a rest.
8. An army marches on its stomach and so do you. Experience new cuisines one meal a day and try to stick with simple fare for the other two meals. Trying out new foods is great but don’t be so adventurous that you ruin your trip with an upset tummy. If possible, take along your own instant oats, breakfast bars, and nuts and dried fruits to eat for breakfast. Be sure to drink lots of water.
9. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect to see it in a day. Don’t try to see it all; try to see it more fully. Look over what the daily options are and choose the ones that will be most meaningful to you. Spontaneity is fun, but planning your trip will help keep you from overdoing it.
10. Allow plenty of time. Acknowledge that delays will happen. Don’t add to your stress by being booked too tight. Planes get delayed, trains get side-lined, and ships can take forever to debark. Build extra time into your schedule. Take a good book, some needlework, or your journal to fill in the time. Better yet, take a power nap and be ready for the next stop!
An important note: if you are traveling with health-related medications, liquids, machines (such as a C-PAP unit) or with braces, canes, etc. you have certain rights and responsibilities to be able to travel with them as well as the declaration and handling of these items. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) can inform you and help you know what you need to do to travel by airplane. Go to http://www.tsa.gov/ for details.
Amtrak has information for travelers with disabilities including special rooms and cars for those who cannot negotiate the stairs on the cars. You can learn more at http://www.amtrak.com/.
Having fibromyalgia and having a good time are not mutually exclusive. Managing your condition as well as your trip will help you keep feeling good as well as have great memories of the wonderful time you had.