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Life Hacks for Traveling When Chronically Ill

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Traveling can be exhausting under the best circumstances, but it is particularly difficult when you have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), fibromyalgia, mast cell activation syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, myalgic encephalomyletis, or a variety of other chronic illnesses. Here are some tips that might make your journey a litter easier.

General Tips:

1. Pack your regular medication in their original bottles (if flying) or your pillbox.

2. Take a few extra pills for each medication, just in case.

3. Be sure to fill prescriptions before you leave – don’t count on being able to get the medication when you arrive at your destination.

4. Pack salty snacks and water bottles. Be sure that you stay hydrated!

5. Wear loose, comfortable clothes for your travel days.

6. Ask for help when needed. Don’t be shy!

7. Be prepared in the case of a medical emergency.

  • Find the nearest hospital and urgent care center to your destination.
  • Keep a list of their medications and emergency contacts nearby.
  • Double check that you have your insurance card.
  • Carry a card with information about your illness. Include all allergies in this list.

Hotels Can Meet Your Needs:

1. Consider a hotel with a restaurant or room service in case you have a flare while you are staying there. Eating in the hotel can save precious energy.

2. A refrigerator in your room can be helpful for food, drink, and medication storage.

3. When making hotel reservations, it may be helpful to ask for a room near the elevator and on a lower floor. This can be useful in case there is an emergency that requires you to take the stairs and allows the hotel staff to help you faster.

4. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that all public accommodations in the United States must comply with basic non-discrimination policies. Hotels must provide:

  • Barrier free rooms and bathrooms
  • Barrier free access both inside and outside of the building
  • Hotels often have rooms designated for people with disabilities who need these accommodations, so call ahead! You can request:
    • Raised toilet seats
    • Grab bars
    • Tub chairs
    • Walk-in showers

Special Considerations When Flying:

1. Contact your airline prior to your departure date and ask for wheelchair assistance, if needed. They can take you from the curb through security and to your boarding gate. You can also have them transport you between gates for connecting flights. This saves energy for the more enjoyable parts of your trip. If you are traveling with someone, they can stay with you through security.

2. Request a bulkhead seat to give you more room to elevate your legs.

3. Consider boarding the plane last and leaving the plane last to minimize time spent standing.

4. Pack all medications in your carry-on bag in their original containers to avoid losing your medicine if your bags are lost.

5. Buy water to mix with electrolyte drink in an airport store after you pass through security. Individually sealed powder packs of Propel, Gatorade, or other electrolyte drinks are great for this!

6. While waiting in the terminal, prop your feet up on your carry-on luggage to decrease blood pooling and fatigue.

7. Move your legs, feet and ankles while seated on the plane to prevent blood pooling.

8. Wear compression stockings to promote blood flow.

9. Travel with a cotton scarf that you can use as a mask if you encounter strong odors in the terminal or on the airplane.

10. Be sure to properly declare and handle all health-related medications, liquids, machines, canes, etc. when flying. The Transportation Security Administration can inform you and help you know what you need to do to travel by airplane. Visit

11. Consider buying insurance for the trip.

  • Trip cancellation insurance: covers the cost of your trip if you are too sick to travel.
  • Travel health insurance: if you are traveling in another country, this insurance is a good idea to cover potential doctor bills or hospital stays.
  • Medical evacuation insurance: cover the cost of transportation to a high-quality hospital in an emergency. This is especially important if you are traveling in rural areas.

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Thinkstock Image By: vonEisenstein

Originally published: March 7, 2017
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