top of page

Tips for Traveling With a Chronic Illness

Updated: Jun 15, 2022

The transcript can be found under the video.

Wondering how to best travel with a chronic illness?

As restrictions are dropping in many places, many people are eager to get out and travel once again. But, how can you best do this with a chronic illness? How can you best do this with POTS or Long Covid POTS?

You may be worried about getting sick on the trip, so you may be wondering how can I make my travel as accessible as possible to minimize the risk of symptoms? Will I be able to enjoy my vacation? Is it worth the risk to travel?

Now, I truly do believe that travel is an amazing magical experience. It opens us up to new experiences. It helps us connect the beauty of new places. When done right, it restores your spirit and body. Not to mention the countless health benefits: it relieves stress, stimulates creativity and happiness, and lowers the risk of depression

There is no reason to sacrifice this if you want to travel and do things. Even with some changes, you can still have a relaxing and enjoyable vacation.

So, let's go through some modifications that can help.

Research is extremely important when planning a trip especially when you're not feeling well. Research shows that planning a trip can actually boost our happiness. It's a big plus even if the trip does not go as planned, you can still have fun while you're there.

Weather Considerations

Many chronic illnesses are affected by weather, not only by how hot or cold it is but also by humidity and pollen levels. This might be important to consider when planning a trip. In the U.S, Florida is a tough destination for many because of the weather and the humidity. If you're going to a place where it is either hot or humid, you just have to plan a little bit better with how you will handle the heat.

Itinerary and activities

With social media and this fear of missing out (FOMO), it can be tempting to over-exert yourself by trying to visit every landmark and do every activity. That's why it helps to plan in advance.

Try to make an itinerary for yourself with one main activity a day. Depending on your energy, and current energy levels, this activity might take something like one hour or it might take something like three hours.

If you're feeling great, you might do the activity and then decide to do something spontaneous afterward like walk around the city or explore other areas. And if you're not feeling great, you can go to the hotel and rest knowing that you have checked off your one activity.

Plan one or two days of nothingness when traveling. That way, if you did fully miss a day of activities because you weren't feeling well, you could still make it up. As a result, you'll know at the end of your trip that you've visited all of the city's or location's major attractions.

When it comes to booking tours and activities, only book them if you really have to. Bookings that have free cancellation are a great way to have more flexibility. This kind of illness does have difficulty with sleep, so a noon activity or an afternoon activity might be best.

Pacing and Mindfulness

Traveling also presents us with the opportunity to be mindful. One of the best ways to do so is to slow down and appreciate each moment This is something that many people with chronic illnesses struggle with. It does force you to slow down as rushing more might trigger some symptoms that might not make you feel well.

Assume you've already completed one of the activities. What should you do next? Perhaps you sit at a café and slowly enjoy your meal or you simply rest somewhere and watch the crowds.

In life, we tend to always rush to the next moment and as a result, we are rarely fully absorbed at that moment. So, it helps to be aware of the locations and have a few places where you can rest while you're traveling.

The 3 Biggest Mistakes

Scoping out little travel resting spots is important to remember. The three biggest mistakes I see when people with chronic illnesses travel and aggravate their symptoms are doing too much, not drinking enough water, or they're not eating the right foods.

Researching and looking around the places to go, restaurants, and cafes, tackle all these three.

Hydrating is incredibly important when you're on a trip, mostly when it's warm and if you have POTS. You need to take hydration very seriously. Restaurants are convenient for frequent bathroom breaks. You also need to rest more often, so the restaurant fulfills the purpose.

Nowadays, a lot of restaurants do have their menus somewhere where you can see them. You can decide in advance what food will not trigger your symptoms instead of deciding when you're hungry and not thinking clearly.

Many persons with POTS or other chronic illnesses have a food trigger, which causes their symptoms to worsen when consumed. Common culprits like gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, and processed food can be consumed in small quantities, but often on vacation is when we tend to eat larger quantities of these.

It is important to be aware of the various things that you can have off the menu. Of course, striking a balance. You still want to experience the culture and food is part of that.

How can you mindfully enjoy the food while still minimizing trigger foods? We focused a lot on the kind of research and planning you could do in advance to make the trip as enjoyable as possible, to take it slowly and enjoy every moment.

Mobility Aids

Everyone has different triggers and levels of where they're at. Oftentimes when you travel there is a lot of walking and standing in line. Even when it comes to visiting amusement parks, many individuals worry, "Should I do it?" Is it secure?

One of the problems many have is that they tend to be more or less okay on the rides but the wait in line for the rides is an issue. This is where having a cane or a walking aid can come in handy.

People will sometimes avoid using these because they are embarrassed, which is normal. It gets easier with time. Walking aids provide a lot of independence. They help you be more active and do more. There are even canes with seats or small foldable seats to carry with you. You may rest almost anyplace this way.

Now, the heat might also make you need to rest more as heat tends to aggravate symptoms. So a cane with a seat might come in particularly handy.

Also, rest when you need to. Listen to your body even if that means crouching, kneeling over, or sitting cross-legged on the ground. If I don't want to draw too much attention, I'll just have a small backpack, and a little purse, and I’ll kneel or crouch over and pretend to look into my backpack or purse or whatever.

So, that's a small hack I've done a lot, and it's always been lovely to be able to relax like that without anyone asking me.

Keeping Cool

Heat is a trigger for many people, triggering their symptoms as well as fatigue and a lot of other symptoms.

Cooling towels and headbands are two popular options. Some people have difficulty regulating their body temperature, so they might feel overheated. And this has an impact on fatigue and symptoms. So, when using these cooling towels, pay attention to your pulse spots because this is the quickest way to cool down. The most effective ones are at the neck and the wrists. So, I'll often take my small headband and wrap it around my neck, as well as dabbing my wrists with it, which helps a lot.

What's really cool about these little headbands and towels is they're inexpensive to buy and once you wet and shake them out, they stay cool for a few hours.

Cooling vests are also another option. They can be worn and they keep you quite cool and nice. Nowadays, there are a lot more. Things that can either keep you cool or keep you rested.

Traveling is a really magical experience, so, it gives you a lot of memories to cherish for years down the road. So, with a little bit of preparation, you could feel not only prepared but confident and you could enjoy it a lot more as well.

Let me know what are your favorite traveling hacks in the comments below.


bottom of page