8 Tips for Traveling When You Live With Bipolar Disorder


Spring and summertime! It’s the time of year when my husband and I need a break from work and home life, so we get away for a few days. I attempt to never go too far from home because that can be a big mistake. (I had a complete meltdown in Rome and I disappeared from my companions for 12 hours.) I try to travel no more than 12 hours away from home so a turnaround isn’t impossible. I thought I had traveling down. Traveling with my husband has been spontaneous, adventurous, frustrating and lifesaving. He pays attention to my subtle changes and what works, doesn’t work, works well, and jeez, don’t ever try that again.

This vacation, we decided to kick it off with a concert by a band that plays one of our wedding songs. We booked a condo on the beach in the same city for three more days. The locale: Orange Beach/Gulf Shores, Alabama. A five-hour drive from home. We have planned this trip since February, paid in full with Christmas money. Just hop in the car and go!

Snafu number one: tropical depression Alberto formed in the gulf and appeared to be heading for the Alabama/Florida coast.

Snafu number two: tropical storm Alberto is heading straight for Alabama/Florida coast. Concert is still on “rain or shine,” according to an email the day of the concert.

Snafu number three: we arrive, new email canceling concert. Storm to hit one hour east of here causing 4 feet of storm surge there. What does that mean for here? Will our car get flooded? Should we go home early? Should we go grocery shopping, plan for a blackout and deal if the car floods?

All of this drama on the tail of finding out our new puppy might be pregnant while at the vet scheduling her spay. It has been a roller coaster in two days, and my husband is watching me closely and planning everything by ear based on my reactions. I need routine, except when I start to get stressed. All plans are off; get me back to calm. Surprisingly, I’m staying completely calm. This is my vacation. We walked on the beach twice. We’ve eaten out a lot. I slept almost the entire second day here through the rain. We have plans to go to an escape room on day three but we haven’t booked it yet. Husband called the shot; no booking anything while plans keep changing. “You never know how you’ll feel tonight, let alone tomorrow. Let’s book it once we see how you feel in the morning.” I love him. He gets me. I’m not angry. He’s totally right. I have a history of melting down on day three of a trip. I can’t get mad at him for observing and being cautious.

Can you imagine the people we could get locked into a room with for an hour if I wake up hostile or weepy or anxious?

It is day three: I’m up at 5 a.m. to catch the sunrise and I do think it’ll be a great day to do an escape room. All systems go, meds are taken, I’m very well-rested. Time to tackle day three. We are leaving for home tomorrow. This has been the perfect getaway. I have my husband to thank for this. Wish us luck.

Tips for traveling with bipolar disorder:

1. Plan in advance so you don’t put yourself in a financial bind. Don’t borrow money (credit) to travel. Wait a little while longer and save.

2. Don’t spend more than what you’ve saved for new clothes or swimwear. The stuff you have will do. No one at the beach knows your suit is a year old.

3. Tell a neighbor so they’ll keep an eye on your house. Tell a family member so they’ll know where you are.

4. Stick to your routine as much as possible. If you wake up at 6, set an alarm. If you eat dinner at 7, get to a restaurant at 6.

5. Pack three extra days of medicine. Bring original bottles with labels in a ziplock.

6. Remember to plan fun things for the others you are traveling with. You aren’t the only one on vacation.

7. Relax and go with the flow. You’re on vacation.

8. Take care of yourself, you’re worth it.

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Lead photo by Timo Stern on Unsplash. Article image via contributor.


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