Traveling allows us to explore the world, take adventures and discover ourselves in new places. When living with a chronic illness or disability, however, traveling can sometimes feel daunting or overwhelming. Fears around unexpected delays, lost luggage, irregular sleep, accessibility, and changes in diet and environment may turn traveling off to some. But we are stronger than our diagnoses! And with the right preparation, traveling can bring the same joy for those living with illness and disability as it does for everyone else.
We have compiled top tips from travel enthusiasts and Mighty Well brand ambassadors on how they manage traveling with a disability or illness. Follow their tips, and travel like a pro:
1. Stay well-charged.
Swapna Kakani regularly travels around the country for patient-advocacy speaking events. “I usually travel with medical pumps, and heating pads, not to mention my laptops and phone charger. My tip? ALWAYS bring an extension cord,” she says. “Hotels often don’t have enough outlets for all of the things I need to plug in. And the outlets can be far from the bed. Having an extension cord means I can access outlets in weird spots and have all my devices, medical or otherwise, as close as I need them.”
Sometimes it’s the little things, like an extension cord, you won’t think of for your packing list. And as you charge your devices, always make sure you are finding time to recharge yourself. Building rest time into a trip will help you manage your energy when you need it most.
2. Prep your carry-on.
The stress of not knowing whether or not you’ll have the medical supplies you need can be incredibly overwhelming. That’s why Celia Fairbanks encourages us to bring your essentials in your carry-on.
“If you are traveling by plane, make sure to have at least 48 hours’ worth of medical supplies in your carry-on,” she says. “Luggage can get lost, and weather can cause diversions. Having 48 hours means you will have some time to get in touch with a home healthcare company and find a way to get more supplies. Or even better, the airline might be able to get you your luggage!”
It’s always safer to have your medical supplies on hand; pack what you can in your carry-on. And check out the Fluid Motion Backpack for a carry-on that can hold the medical supplies you need.
3. Plan ahead.
This is especially important when it comes to food! “If you have food allergies, it really helps to plan ahead,” Julian Van Horne tells us. “I always research the area I’m going to and find out: what grocery stores are near, what restaurants I could eat at, and when they are open.”
It also helps to bring safe snacks with you when you travel. Julian brings protein powders, formula drinks, and other easy snacks in his bag on the plane. If you notify the airline beforehand that your bag is a medical bag, Julian says they will make exceptions for bringing those items with you!
4. Research disability accommodations – especially if you are flying.
Accessibility can be one of the most stressful parts of planning any trip. “Research the airline you’re flying and read up on their disability accommodations,” Julian says; I’ve had some horrific access issues with flying. Know the ACAA – Air Carrier Access Act – know your travel rights and the airline’s rules. All of these things are easily accessible on the internet to you. I make sure to write exactly what I need and call the airline after booking my ticket. If there’s a problem, have the airline’s corporate number and the US Department of Transportation’s contact number.”
What are your top tips for traveling with a disability or chronic illness? Do you have any travel questions? Let us know in our Friends in the Fight group or comments below.
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