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What to Consider When Going on Vacation With a Chronic Illness

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Summer Vacation

It’s summer time! What do most people think of for the summer? They think of vacation! Summer vacation from school, taking a weekend trip or a long vacation from work…vacation can mean many things. Some people take multiple little vacations, while others take one long one. There are those that don’t vacation at all, some of those being people with a chronic illness.

Taking a vacation with a chronic illness is different. It can be a really good thing to get away from daily life, go somewhere new or to a different type of environment. Vacation, though, can bring challenges with it. There are accommodations that have to be considered, equipment that will need to be brought along or extra medication that is needed, depending on how long the vacation is or when it will be.

Vacation Considerations

For us, we love to go to Galveston every summer for vacation. We love that we can get there in a few hours, that there is so much history there and of course we really enjoy the beach. Unfortunately, if you check where are the worst places to be for someone with migraines, anywhere near the ocean is in the top 10 for having a terrible effect on migraineurs.

boardwalk leading to the beach in galveston

The winds, humidity and sun are an awful combination for a migraine. That’s the bad. The good though, is the smell of the ocean air, the coolness of the ocean breeze as it comes off the water, the soothing sounds of each wave crashing on the beach. Oh, the rhythmic harmony of wave after wave careening onto shore is so relaxing. It’s ironic that what makes the ocean environment bad for chronic migraine is also what makes it so relaxing for my husband. My husband’s favorite thing to do is sit on the balcony of the condo. To feel the ocean breeze on his face while being mesmerized by the rumbling of the crashing waves.

Being fully aware that his pain will increase, we must plan to have plenty of medication, always have his sunglasses nearby to fight the strong sun, plan to stay somewhere that he can have a quiet place to get away to, bring plenty of water so he stays hydrated after being in the ocean and plan to keep regular bed times. Keeping these things in mind help to make the vacation more relaxing and enjoyable. Forgetting or not considering any of these things will make the trip not so much fun for him or for us as we see the results in his pain. Having a chronic illness does not have to prevent you from going on vacation. It does take planning though.

Five things to consider when planning a vacation with a chronic illness:

1. Look for accommodations that are modified or tailored to your unique needs. Examples are: wheelchair accessible rooms, no stairs for those that have difficulty ascending them, room-darkening curtains in case you need to sleep during the day, etc.


2. Pick a destination that is within a driving or riding distance that is doable for you. If you can only sit for an hour at a time, it would be difficult to go somewhere that is 10 hours away. If flying is an option, consider the length of time on the plane sitting, the ease or difficulty in getting around the airport and the potential stress of the flight itself. Considering these will help you choose a fun destination that you will enjoy once you arrive, and not be worn out by the trip there.

3. Research in advance things to do at your destination. Consider what sounds fun and interesting, yet will not inflict pain or tire you out so much you become ill. If walking is difficult then a tour that takes several hours is not the best choice. Seek out a local theater or a small museum that you can tour in a short time or has plenty of places to sit while going through it.

4. Make lists of your everyday needs. It is difficult to pack for vacation and not forget something. If you forget something that is absolutely necessary for your comfort or that you may need if you become ill, over-exert yourself or have increased pain, that could be disastrous. Lists help ensure nothing important is forgotten.

5. Remember that a goal of vacation is to relax. Try to leave as much of your worries at home as possible. Relax, do something fun, be waited on, enjoy the new environment. It can be difficult to let your worries go but it is important to try. If you don’t leave your home much due to your illness, being in a different environment can be refreshing.

These things may not work for everyone with a chronic illness. Hopefully they will help some people to better plan for and enjoy a vacation this summer. We try to tour something historic each summer while in Galveston. We have watched documentary-type movies in the historic Pier 21 Theater, toured the Tall Ship Elissa, toured the Bishop’s Palace, visited the Railroad Museum, went to a state park and walked the Strand. Typically we will pick one or two things to do while there each summer.

On the Strand there is La King’s Ice Cream Parlor. We will go there for lunch and have ice cream for lunch. It’s a special treat for the kids. We choose what we do based on the heat, the sun and my husband’s level of pain. When his pain is really high, we don’t go outside as much. Instead we choose to go somewhere that has air conditioning and is not too noisy. The theater was a great choice for this. The kids enjoy the vacation, my husband relaxes and unwinds for a few days and we all have fun! If you haven’t been to Galveston, I highly recommend it!

Where do you like to vacation? What special planning helps you prepare for vacation?

This post originally appeared on Dad Has a Headache.

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Originally published: June 20, 2017
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