Traveling is exciting and stressful, but it can be even harder if you have a chronic health condition. Learning how to travel with a chronic health condition might seem impossible; after all, you need to bring medications, specialized equipment, and maybe even a therapy dog along with you on your travels. But no one should be landlocked if they have the desire to adventure and explore.
Luckily, inclusivity for those with disabilities has come a long way. In fact, Airbnb recently changed their booking options to demand that its users list accessibility features on the premises just last year. And airlines are becoming increasingly open to passengers bringing pets right on the flight with their owners as long as it is a pet needed for medical purposes.
There is any number of chronic issues that might make travel difficult physically. Those with heart issues may be averse to flying while those with arthritis and joint pain might think that they are limited to a short drive. But even those with diabetes, asthma, and depression might all cope with new changes in different ways.
Traveling might not be easy for those coping with a chronic medical condition, but a proper health plan and some essential preparedness planning on your end can make any trip possible. Here are some top tips on how to travel with a chronic health condition.
Choose a modern destination
While it’s possible to visit the forests of South America and the plains of Africa, it might be easiest to choose a destination with modern amenities. Perform some planning before you decide on a final destination to ensure your living quarters will include clean water, handicap-accessible restrooms, and elevators for your comfort. If you really want to stay in an area that doesn’t have access to these amenities, you can always rent your own equipment to ensure your health is maintained throughout your trip. It might take a bit of extra planning on your part, but it can be done.
Modern amenities will also ensure that you have access to essentials, like air conditioning. Some chronic medical conditions make moderating your temperature difficult. Check with your hotel or room provider to ensure heating and cooling is available as needed. Air conditioning is particularly vital since the northern hemisphere is entering summer sooner than later. If you’re planning a summer trip, you want to ensure that your comfort — and your health needs — are protected.
After you choose your ideal destination, it might be worth sitting down with a travel agent or your doctor to go over other health concerns on your trip. In some cases, your travel agent may be able to help you save money on rentals and equipment that would be hard to bring on your trip otherwise. Approach travel agents with an open mind, even if you’ve already planned for a multitude of worst-case scenarios. You never know when your travel agent will recommend a special hotel that utilizes commercial floor coatings to prevent slip and fall accidents. There are plenty of gems across the world that might make your trip easier.
You never know what kind of options are available that can make your dream trip a real possibility. However, looking into the potential health concerns that come with your destination is a top priority. If you’re unable to visit the rainforest because of your health issues, you might be able to go to a closer tropical destination as a form of compromise.
Visit the doctor
Visiting your primary care physician before a big trip is a necessity for those with chronic health issues, but visiting your specialists should also be a key item on your to-do list. For example, some doctors might discourage folks with heart conditions from going on planes as a general rule of thumb but your cardiologist will tell you whether or not this is possible for your health. Learning how to travel with a chronic health condition demands that you care for your health every step of the way.
On the other hand, people with asthma might discover that they shouldn’t visit Japan when the cherry blossoms are in bloom because of the pollen. Luckily, your ear nose and throat doctor might also be able to provide advice to make this trip possible, such as wearing a face mask. Since chronic health issues look different for everyone, it’s important to check with your doctors and specialists before going on a big trip or making any serious lifestyle changes that might damage your health.
Scheduling yet another doctors’ appointment on top of the many you already have can be frustrating, but it’s a necessary step if you want to stay safe on your trip. After all, getting advice on your chronic health issue on the web can only do so much. On the other hand, these experts are adept at telling their patients how to travel with a chronic health condition. They might also be able to fill out prescription medications to help manage your symptoms during the trip, which is essential if you’re worried about running out while you’re traveling. If you’re going any longer than 30 days, visiting your doctor is absolutely essential, otherwise, you will run out. Because some insurance companies only allow you to get a 30-day supply at a time, it’s important that you work out these issues before your trip arrives. There’s nothing worse than a last-minute cancellation over something preventable.
You should also invest in a medical card that explains your chronic health conditions when you travel. Doctors and medical professionals might not know that you’re diabetic if you’re unconscious. You might even be able to get this card — or recommendations for a card — by talking to your doctor. Visiting the doctor might seem like a hassle, but they are available to help you, not make your life more difficult.
Choose a travel method that works for your health issue
It’s already been mentioned that some people with heart conditions shouldn’t fly, but it’s more than just the changes in altitude that might affect your health. Being seated in a small space for a long period of time — like riding on an airplane or taking a train — can result in health flare-ups because of your lack of motion. Even if your train or bus utilizes an elevator akin to residential lifts, if you don’t have the room to move around, your body might become tense and your mental health might suffer as a result.
Folks with arthritis and vein problems also need to move around a lot to prevent their limbs from hurting. If you’re confined to this small space, it’s important to realize that you will need to get up and move around often. It isn’t impossible to travel by plane or train, but regular trips to the bathroom where you can stretch a little bit can make all the difference. Try to get up and move at least once per hour if you can.
Unfortunately, this can be harder if you’re on a road trip. Many people prefer to drive due to the low cost and ability to bring whatever you want with few restrictions. It also enables someone with a disability to bring more materials with them as long as you use a sway control hitch to lock in your trailer. It’s recommended that those with chronic health conditions travel with a partner; having another person nearby is vital to maintaining your health. If you get too tired to drive on your road trip, you can always take turns manning the vehicle. If you have a sudden flare-up, relying on a partner will also ensure that your health needs are met, especially if outside help is required.
Pack with your medical condition — and activities — in mind
Packing is, perhaps, one of the most difficult parts of planning the perfect trip, especially if you’re learning how to travel with a chronic health condition. Those with strict medications should organize their prescription and over-the-counter drugs accordingly. Those with sensory processing disorders should be sure to pack headphones and other forms of entertainment that can help them feel more grounded. While you might not be able to bring a flat-screen tv with you, a pair of earbuds and a tablet is easy to pack in most to-go bags.
You might want to think practically when you’re packing too, whether you’re learning how to travel with a chronic health condition or not. Many people think that their trip will be filled with fancy dinners where pointy shoes and jewelry is needed. But in reality, you will likely be walking around for hours as you explore somewhere new. Be sure to pack comfortable shoes and clothing that work for a variety of situations. You can also dress up basic pieces of clothing with the right accessories and turn a bad hair day from drab to fab with just a few hair extensions. Find customizable pieces that are easy to wear. That way, you can be prepared for just about anything.
You should also pack your bags with certain activities in mind. For example, talking to a boat dealer might mean that you’re going to take on the ocean. Without a swimsuit, you may have to buy a new one at your destination. While this isn’t bad for some people, it can be an unwanted sensory overload for others. Being open to new experiences on your trip can make for a fun experience, but it’s essential that you have a loose itinerary planned for big events like this one.
Finally, you should be sure to leave a little room in your bag for fun souvenirs. This might mean that you plan to bring an empty bag entirely. After all, most people are able to get a little money back through customs when you buy new items in a new country. While this isn’t possible in the United States, most other countries still use pos paper roll receipts to track your purchases. Keep these receipts in a safe place — usually along with your new purchases — to ensure that you can claim these when you come back home.
How to travel with a chronic health condition
Traveling is hard enough without having a health issue get in the way. Hopefully, these above tips have helped you learn how to travel with a chronic health condition, whether you’re suffering from sensory processing issues, mental health concerns, or demanding physical ailments. Do your research, rely on friends and doctors, and be sure to perform some planning before you race outside.