Traveling for work or pleasure can become even more complicated when fibromyalgia is part of your life. We hope these tips will help you get where you need to be with your physical and emotional health intact!
Relevant Blog Posts
Holiday Travel and Self-Care
Planning Your Journey
Travel insurance can help protect against many common risks travelers face, such as trip cancellation, lost or stolen baggage, and medical emergencies. Unfortunately, however, many travel policies exclude pre-existing conditions, which can mean that any health issues that can be related to your fibromyalgia may not be covered by your insurance policy. For an overview of why travelers with fibromyalgia should consider purchasing specialized travel policies, visit Travel Insurance Review to read their blog post, “Are There Special Travel Insurance Options for Travelers with Disabilities?”. [Note that there is no law requiring persons traveling with disabilities to purchase travel insurance, despite what this blog post suggests: the author probably intended to say that travelers with disabilities need to purchase additional travel insurance policies to cover risks associated with pre-existing conditions.] Two other helpful sites, especially for residents of the United Kingdom, are “Travel Insurance for Disabled People” (a service of Directgov) and the “Travel Insurance” page of Flying with Disability. These sites can help you clarify your policy needs and understand what to look for when shopping for travel insurance.
Traveling overseas? The U.S. Department of State offers “Tips for Traveling Abroad”: scroll about halfway down the page for recommendations on traveling with disabilities. More information can be found in the “Tips for Disabled Travelers” offered by the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
When planning to visit historic sites, be aware that not all of these sites may be completely accessible, depending on your needs. In the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require that historic sites be retrofitted to comply with its standards if doing so would cause irretrievable harm to the site. [In their brief, entitled "Making Historic Properties Accessible", Thomas C. Jester and Sharon C. Park, AIA, note that "The goal in selecting appropriate solutions for specific historic properties is to provide a high level of accessibility without compromising significant features or the overall character of the property."] To avoid unpleasant surprises, do your research well in advance. Call ahead, consult online sources, speak with a travel agent. Most historic properties want to make your visit as pleasant as possible and will do their best to accommodate your needs.
Even if you don’t typically work with a travel agent to make your arrangements, it may be time to start: these helpful folks can assist with a wide range of accommodations – some of which you might not even know were possible! If you prefer to travel in groups, savvy tour operators can be lifesavers.
What to Pack
Bring along a heavy scarf when traveling. Planes and trains can often be distressingly cool, and a good thick scarf can help keep you cozy. You can wrap it around your head, ankles, hands – wherever you need a little extra warmth. Or fold your scarf up for an instant pillow!
Pack cleaning wipes when traveling: spills are more common in compact and unfamiliar surroundings, and this can help you save an outfit for an extra day. Trial-size bottles of Febreze can also be life-savers!
It can be difficult deciding whether to pack extra clothing for a trip and face paying baggage fees and managing extra luggage or to pack lightly and risk not being warm enough. If you have enough advance time, one option might be to ship clothing ahead to your destination: while you’ll still have to pay fees, this might alleviate some of the physical strain.
Plan ahead. Keep all medications and comfort aids close at hand. Bring an empty bottle for water: you can fill it once you’ve passed security points. Think about what you keep in your car emergency kit and be sure to pack those items – acid-relief tablets, instant cold- or hot-packs (if flying, these may need to be gel-free; check with your airline), and so on.
Pack a hat: not only will it help keep you cool or warm, but the brim can shadow your eyes and help you get some well-needed rest during your trip.
During the winter, you need to pack a few extra things for your road trip. In addition to your standard car emergency kit, be sure to pack blankets, extra water, road flares, medical supplies, spare batteries for your phone, tire chains, and extra food. It helps to keep a change of dry clothes – including shoes, socks, and gloves – on hand, too.
During the Journey
Consider taking a train for shorter journeys. You can more readily move about than on a plane, and you don’t have to halt your travel to get your legs stretched.
If flying, take advantage of early boarding procedures – if you think it will help. You might be better served being one of the last to board, depending on the length of your flight. Balance your need for carry-on storage with your need to stretch and move before sitting for an extended period.
Drink plenty of water. It’ll make you have to get up more, which provides more opportunities to stretch. Also, it helps counter the dehydration flying can cause.
Even if you don’t ordinarily use a wheelchair or walking device, it may help to use the wheelchairs or motorized carts available at airports: this can help you reserve your strength and enjoy the trip. Be sure to call ahead to request a wheelchair if you want one!
On long car trips, take breaks every half-hour to stretch. Even if you just walk once around the car, it’ll help loosen stiff muscles.
General Travel Tips
Tami Stackelhouse, Fibromyalgia Coach, writes: “When I travel, I always schedule an extra day of rest both going and coming home. I block it off and schedule nothing but rest and maybe a massage. Especially if I’ve been in an airplane, the massage can make a world of difference in making me feel normal again quickly.” – our first-ever reader suggestion! Thanks, Tami!
Possibilism has a great post about travel tips – it focuses on planning, packing, and the actual journey. Seriously, go read it, if you’re considering a trip soon: Hayzell, the author, has done a really great job.