Tips for Traveling with a Chronic Illness!


What is one of the most stressful things to do during the holidays? Travel!!! Most of us have more than one place to be this holiday season, whether it’s traveling between in-laws or traveling between family members, it’s still the
stress of having to pack up the car and the kids and traveling as long as hours on end.

I’m going to share a few tips for traveling with a chronic illness and then traveling with kids! Both are hard and then combine the two and it can even seem impossible.
Traveling With a Chronic Illness.
Last year was the first time I was traveling with a chronic illness, I had to come up with something to make the trip a little easier or suffer the consequences. So I came up with my traveling bag, it’s the same idea as the waiting bag but made just for traveling.
-Bottled Water
-Snack (granola bars, crackers, etc……. Or chocolate (anything for me to
sneak in chocolate)
-Book, or crossword puzzles.
-If you are like me and can’t read in the car due to car sickness, I made a little investment in a portable cd player., which now are quite cheap or MP3 players are great too. This way you can listen to music and not have to fight
for the car stereo or radio.
– Blanket, this is a must in cold weather traveling, especially when in a van and stuck at the back where the heater might not reach fully.
-a pillow for resting
-and if you are lucky to have a DVD player in the van or better a portable DVD player, this is also a good investment for long trips, just remember ear phones to plug in so you don’t have to hear all the commotion in the car and
can relax while hearing your movie.
-Bring your I.C.E bag (the in case of an emergency bag). I always bring mine with me, this is the bag that you keep packed away in the closest for those emergency trips to the hospital. In it is-
-nightgown or PJ’s
-clean under garments
-list of meds
-your doctor’s name and phone number, along with you name, phone number, address etc…
-a list of any allergies to meds
This is an important thing to have with you always, but especially during traveling since you never know if there will be an emergency where you may need to be taken to the hospital and it’s always best to be prepared. This is just a small bag and I usually keep mine packed in the hall closet with the exception of the water and snacks, which I add when I need to.
Other tips
-Make sure that whoever you are traveling with is well aware of your illness and that they may need to make frequent bathroom or rest stops along the way should you need to, always take that into account when planning
your route on any trips. I am usually ok with bathroom stops as long as my Irritable Bowel Syndrome is under control, but I’ve had car sickness since being diagnosed with lupus and find that at least every hour I need to stop
and get out of the car for some fresh air. So make sure your family or partner know this.
-Make sure you bring all your medication with you and that it is easily accessible in the car should you need it along the way. Don’t pack it away in your suitcase because if you should need to take something it’s more of a hassle to take it out. On the highway or freeway it’s almost impossible to stop quickly just to retrieve medication, so pack it away in the traveling bag you keep next to you or your purse. It is just as important to keep water near by in your travel bag too. That is the reason for snacks also, as some medication you need to eat with.
-Make sure at least one person on the trip has a cell phone charged and ready in case of any emergency.
-If you are prone to car sickness always keep a plastic bag or garbage bag in case of the need to be sick this keeps everything clean, and have a box of Kleenex in the car.
-Also if prone to car sickness, make sure that you refrain from eating dairy products at least three hours before going in the car and eat a light meal before going on a car trip. If traveling in the morning eat some toast and
juice and if at night eat as light as possible and wait a while before traveling.
Traveling with Kids.
If you have the above taken care of for yourself, now add kids into the mix and you have more to worry about, but there are some things to do that can help.
-My mother always made a little bag for us filled with water, or juice, snacks, and some books. She also cleverly at Christmas kept a small toy each just for the car ride. It was never expensive toys just something from Walmart or the dollar store, but it was the new toy that worked to keep us quiet (this was before DVD players in the car).
-If you have a portable dvd player or one in the car then you are ahead of the game and this is something worth thinking of if you do a lot of traveling as a family. They really work I’ve seen it with my own eyes! But if
you decide to do a small toy each, here are a few things to keep in mind.
-Make sure the toy is new and hasn’t been seen by the kids until that moment, as it’s the novelty of it that will keep them happy,
-If you have more than one child around the same age make the toys equal or the same, as the last thing you want is arguing.
-Keep the toys simple and make sure they don’t have small parts that can get lost in the car or you will be stopping to look for items and that will cause more trouble.
-Try to find toys that will help your kids think and have fun, keeping their minds occupied and they will stay quiet.
Other Tips
-If you have more than one child and you see that two of them normally don’t get along or fight more, try not to place them beside one another. Chances are if two children fight normally an extra long car ride will bring that out of them in the car. Try to seat them apart.
-If like my family there are only two children and they fight and have no choice but to sit next to each other then my mother came up with the reward game, where if we were quiet and polite for the trip and the time we were at
relatives houses, then we were rewarded with a trip to the dollar store and we got to pick out one thing as a reward. But if were were bad we got something taken away from us, we got punished. It worked, we were usually on our best behavior and a dollar store gift didn’t run my mother more then a couple dollars, so as a reward a few dollars was worth the price of silence.
-Also prepare for frequent stopping when kids are involved, as they will have to go to the bathroom and of course they will all have to at different times. So just keep that in mind, also my mother always kept a garbage bag in the van just in case one of us got car sick which rarely happened, but isn’t impossible, especially on the way home when kids are stuffed full of Christmas sweets.
-Bring a few blankets, at least one small blanket per kid, to keep them cozy and a pillow each is a great idea especially for traveling at night.
These are just a few tips and ideas to hopefully keep your holiday traveling as stress free as possible, so that you can enjoy this special time with family and friends. Merry Christmas everyone and happy traveling!
By: Stefanie Leale ©

  • This was a very detailed list-thank you! I like to bring a personal Ionizer that helps with storms that pass through. Happy Travels!

  • Lindi

    I travel a lot between AZ and the midwest, sometimes by car, sometimes by plane. If you have lupus or any other disease that makes you photosensitive, you should also remember to put on sunscreen as well as bringing some along for more reapplication. In fact, sun screening clothing, available several places online, is not a bad idea.

    This is true whether you are driving (even in winter!) or when you are flying (the sunscreen will help protect you against the artificial lighting as well as light coming in the windows.

    I also take along tubes of moisturizer when driving, since being inside a car seems to make my skin drier. Nowdays, you can’t carry tubes onto planes so I squirt enough for the flight in a baggie and keep it in my purse.

    Also, if you have dry mouth due to disease or meds, you can’t take water on the plane anymore and sometimes it takes a while to get some on the plane. Mint gums help me or you can even take a paper cup onboard and then fill it up in the bathroom if the plane doesn’t take off in time (they don’t serve drinks until you are in the air and although they are supposed to accommodate disabled passengers, they don’t always, even when you ask). Normal healthed people don’t understand what Sjogren’s can do to a mouth. /-:

  • Rochelle Odell

    Hi all,
    Those were great tips. However, for those of us flying in aircraft, there are very strict rules and guidelines.
    Because I do 20% Lidocaine subq injections for my incessant RSD burning pain, I make sure to carry not only the prescription for my syringes, don’t need to be considered a druggie, illegal that is, along with the copy of the script for my Lidocaine, which is a liquid, as liquids are once banned from inside the plane, and there is no way I am putting either my syringes nor Lidocaine in my check in bag. It also has to be kept cold, so I just bring the little brown bag the bottles came in that says they have to be kept refrigerated. I put two or three of those white bags you can freeze and they last the whole trip. If I have to do an injection, I put the used syringe, minus the needle back in my purse.
    I also years ago made what I called my:
    Medical Information Sheet
    (actually it’s turned into 4 pages as my allergies grow.
    Page one has all my Medical information, including my Insurance Plan, my Primary Care Physician and my Pain Management Physician, along with their addresses.
    I list my emergency contacts and phone numbers of doctors with emergency contacts.
    I also list all physical conditions I have and Page 1 is pretty much filled up.
    Page Two-
    I list all my medications, doses, etc. and who prescribes what meds.
    Page Three-
    Has all my Drug Allergies and believe me it takes up a whole page. I list my reactions, etc.
    Page Four-
    Drug Sensitivities.
    It too takes up a whole page.
    The good thing about this document is Nurses, Doctors, Paramedics, EMT’s, etc., love it and wish other people would do the same as it is very complete and concise due to my multiple meds and allergies.
    I also found a Chronic Pain Patient Certification Form online, which is really for those going into detox or rehab.
    I changed it to just Chronic Pain Patient, and gleened from it what applied to a chronic pain patient and nothing more, so my document when finished only barely resembled the original document I had found, and my Primary Care Physician actually signed it for me.
    He is great at signing anything I have filled out or completed, and after he reads it and is satisfied, he signs it, so I have two documents stating (1) I am a Chronic Pain Patient and (1) my Medical Information Sheet.
    When flying across crountry and across state, documents like that have proven invaluable to me. I have a blank format for the Medical Information Sheet I would be more than happy to forward to the “power that be” LOL, and see what she thinks.
    I think because I was a weekend EMT Warrior for many years for off road races, that’s where I got the idea for the Medical Information sheet. It could save your life if you have allergies like I do that can take mine, and I carry one in my purse always and one is always on my refrigerator.
    Because I am disabled, I get to load first with the First Class passengers, those with kids, so I make sure I grab at least two blankets to keep warm, because once up high the sky, it gets pretty chilly in the airplane. The Flight Crew don’t like you taking two, so I ask for one, and while they go looking, I sneak a second I have already seen, although I would much prefer to use my own, but the airlines limit what we can carry on the plane with us especially during the holidays.
    We can’t even bring our own bottled water or any food, you have to buy it once you have passed through Security. I bring one bottle with me until it’s time to head for the Security area and wind up tossing half my bottle.
    Also, if arranging for a wheelchair, and traveling alone like I do, get $5 bills for each leg where someone is going to push you. It’s seems like a lot, but if you give it to them up front, you get the best service.
    Most people don’t realize wheelchair pushers work for tips, they are not employees, and they really appreciate the $5, so it’s worth thinking about.
    I think giving someone one or two dollars to them is an insult as airports are huge and getting from point A to point B can take often 30 minutes or more including the security screening, and for them, time is money.
    Food for Thought.
    Those are my “Flying by Air” things to take on the plane, including all your meds.
    For all of us traveling have safe and halfway enjoyable trips because if we don’t, we will pay for days after we arrive when we want to be with family and feel like kids again.
    Happy Holidays to everyone and a great New Year.

  • Great article on travel preparations. There’s only one thing I’d add to it — toys for yourself.
    Bring a digital camera so you can snap any beautiful views on the way, it helps make watching out the window more fun.
    Bring some small clean crafts or puzzle books, things you can do when you’re sitting still doing nothing for hours on end. Oil pastels are a good sketch medium because they’re clean, small, don’t involve liquid or other preparations and very very cheap.
    I have seen sets of 12 for under a dollar, and even the larger sets are only a couple of bucks — this is on a par with the dollar store toys for the kids, plus a small sketchbook — the half letter size ones are most manageable.
    Because oil pastels are like crayons but opaque, you can’t get bogged down in tiny details and it’s easy to fix wrong lines by going over them with a lighter color. That means you don’t need as much control as pencil or pen drawing and so if your hand shakes, big deal.
    Do some colorful doodles and practice shading with all the fire colors or all the greens. Try doing a color wheel or a value chart or doodles that fool around with color where shape isn’t important. That kind of thing can be a lot of fun and also lead to becoming a good artist!
    Oil pastels also work great with coloring books because you can shade one color over another, cover completely and get bold effects with them.