It’s a question that pops up in my Instagram DMs all the time, as someone who spends half her life in bed, how do I manage travelling with the complications of chronic illness. There’s no simple answer to this question, and really it all depends on your own restraints and limitations, but there are things I do to make travelling more comfortable and viable.
I spend more time planning trips.
Logistically, travelling with chronic illness is trickier. Making sure I have everything I need, that I’m in a safe space, and that if I have any kind of flare up I’m never too far from somewhere I can comfortably ride it out. There are other considerations too, for example, since I struggle with IBS, overly rural areas or trips where I’m not close to a bathroom are not possible. This was something I struggled with in Venice, as there are no public toilets. Figuring out these things in advance and planning how I can get around it makes life a lot easier, and travel much more viable.
I speak to my Doctors before I travel.
I’m lucky to have some supportive healthcare professionals looking after me, who are happy to help me do as much as I can. Before a trip I check in with them to see if there’s anything I can do to manage my symptoms/push through to have a good trip. Most of the time, they’ll have advice for short term pain or symptom management, with diet, medication or anything else.
I’m accepting of my limitations.
I don’t plan beyond my capabilities. I accept that I can’t always do everything on a trip, I accept that I may make plans and have to change them, I accept that I may need to just stop, and sit and rest. There’s little point in trying to challenge this, when approaching it with a more accepting, positive attitude makes the whole experience more enjoyable. And if that means stopping in the day to spend an hour in a coffee shop resting, or if it means going back to the hotel to rest, then that is fine. I usually don’t book anything that involves committing to big chunks of time either, because I know I’m just not up for being out and about that long.
We spend more time.
We tend to book longer trips now, so that we can find a good balance of rest and accommodating my health, whilst still experiencing as much as possible. It also means we travel less, we’ve been taking fewer trips, but making them longer.
Making travel more comfortable and enjoyable with chronic illness invariably ends up costing a little more. Most of the expense comes from hotels. I usually need to plan my days around a break in the afternoon, an hour or two tucked up in bed, and so we tend to book slightly nicer hotels, because it’s not just a place to lay your head at night. It means that I can rest up, snuggle up in a giant comfy bed, even order delicious room service, and Con can either chill with me, or spend some time in the hotel gym/pool/bar or whatever. We spend a little more money because we’re spending more time in a hotel, so we want it to be great and comfortable, it’s a big part of our holiday experience.
On our last trip to Canada we chose to spend a bit more and fly business. There were a lot of reasons for this, partly because we’re both tall and long haul flights in economy are a chore to start with, and partly because when we landed back here Con had to go straight to work so he really needed to sleep on the plane. But a lot of the decision was made based on the fact that flying exacerbates a lot of my symptoms, including my stomach cramps and bloating, and being able to stretch out, and especially lie flat is really helpful. We got a great deal on our business class seats, and the extra expense was worth arriving feeling better, and not spending the first three days of the trip recovering from the flight. Being able to use the fast track check in and security, and having the airport lounge to chill in also made the airport experience a LOT less stressful and rushed too, I was able to go at my own, very slow, pace.
The additional expense is another reason we are travelling for fewer trips, it just means we can spend a little more.
Enjoying the big moments and the little moments.
Yes, visiting Niagara Falls was amazing. You know what else was amazing? Eating Chipotle in our bath robes in a giant hotel bed, watching trashy American TV and laughing at the adverts. A good vacation isn’t just about ticking as many bucket list items off as possible, it’s about having fun. And I had as much fun going out exploring, as I did hanging out in indie coffee shops, ordering food in, and catching up with friends in my comfies in the hotel bar.
I hope this helps!