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Traveling With a Chronic Illness: Tips For Packing & Preparing

Whether visiting family or doing some solo trip, this time of year can be full of traveling. Knowing what to pack for your condition can feel daunting, especially with a new diagnosis. The best thing to do is to determine your packing list well ahead of time.  Trying to remember everything while under pressure and brain fog can add to the anxiety that you will miss something.

So, a week or more before you leave, when you have some extra spoons, think about the trip ahead of you.  What will the transportation entail? What will you be doing once there? As you brainstorm, write down anything that would be helpful for you to know or bring for each step of the journey.  Here are 4 tips to consider when traveling with a chronic illness:

1. Traveling with medications and medical equipment

Traveling with a chronic illness often involves bringing treatment options with you. This can mean bringing a lot of gear.  To help with this aspect, we recommend a good bag that is reasonable to carry and easy to organize. The Fluid Motion Backpack is great for organizing all your gear, reinforced to safely hold sharps, and insulated with space for ice packs to keep infusions and nutrition bags cold on the go.  The side zippers make it easy to access a pump or tubing. If you have too much gear for just one backpack, consider a rolling suitcase with enough packets to be easily accessible.  For smaller gear, go with a med case like the Self Care Case.  You can keep your medicines, and small gear organized and stow them in your larger bag for safekeeping.

2. Traveling with comfort

It may seem obvious, but sometimes it’s easy to get so wrapped up in what you may need that you forget to bring items that will add comfort.  A good pillow, a cozy blanket, and a sleep-eye mask can be the difference between saving enough spoons and crashing.  Bring safe foods, comfortable clothing (weather-appropriate), and whatever items you know help you relax.

3. Finding an accommodating space for your travels

While thinking through the trip to plan a packing trip, make sure you know what you’re walking into.  What will the sleeping conditions be like? What meals will be available? When you arrive, who will be there?  Will there be a space available for you to get some recharge time? Don’t be afraid to reach out and find these answers.  Then, think realistically about how you will be feeling when you arrive and what accommodations you may need. I often worry that I am being too pushy or that I will be a downer on other people there.  The reality is that most people genuinely want to help meet your needs and just don’t know what to ask. Being able to make slight changes can help them feel useful. Small steps taken to avoid a crash will benefit everyone.  And, frankly, you deserve to feel safe and comfortable, just like everyone else.

If you have trouble asking for help, here’s a little reminder.

4. Develop a contingency plan

So, you’ve brought your medical equipment, cozy clothes, and have a couch to flop in when you arrive.  You’ve planned ahead and are ready to go. However, life doesn’t always go as planned. Make sure to (well before each trip) think through potential mishaps, just to be extra prepared.  What if your flight is delayed? Bring a day or two extra for meds. What if there’s a sudden heat wave or cold spell? Bring an extra outfit to regulate your temperature. What if your symptoms end up flaring?  Research ahead of time and bring phone numbers of doctors in the area who may be able to see you. Remember to bring your “as needed” medications. Having contingency plans ready to go will give you peace of mind and can prevent a bad day from becoming much worse.

Did we miss anything?  What do you bring on trips?  We’d love to hear about it in our facebook group or the comment section below.

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