Chronic Illness and Holiday Travel

Having a chronic illness can make holiday visits with family and friends more challenging, especially when the visit requires travel. In part because travel usually means that the people you are going to see don’t know a lot about the day to day experience with your condition. And, in part because travel can turn the volume up on normal symptoms like fatigue, pain, depression and anxiety (to name a few).

Suffice it to say that holiday travel requires increased planning for folks with chronic conditions. Some things to consider:

  • How do I want to travel? How long do I want to stay? Where do I want to stay?
  • Can I insure that I will have time to myself to rest if I need it?
  • Do I have enough of all medications to take with me?
  • Is there someone I can ask for help who won’t need me to explain a lot to them?
  • Do I need a pillow or other tool to make travel more comfortable?
  • What kinds of foods do I need with me in case I can’t find anything at the airport/on the road?
  • What do I need to pack (comfortable clothing and shoes, gifts, etc.)
  • What do I need to do to care for my emotional wellness?
  • Creating a plan in case symptoms are not manageable. This could include having the phone number of your medical team saved in your phone and with one other person.
  • Do family members know about your illness? How much do you want to tell them?

People who don’t know about your day to day life may have reactions, especially if you are behaving differently than you had in the past. For example, you need to take more breaks or you need to spend time away from people from time to time now. Some folks like to tell people ahead of time about some of the changes, some prefer to manage things as they come up.

If you are traveling with a companion, it is often helpful to let that person in on your plans for self-care on this trip. Sometimes a partner or close friend can run interference so you can focus on taking care of yourself.

A little preparation can make a holiday visit more enjoyable!