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10 Things to Bring on Vacation When You Have a Chronic Illness

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When you go on vacation, there’s always the question of what is essential and what isn’t. Do I need to bring five pairs of pants for my four-day trip? How many swimsuits should I bring? What about pairs of underwear?

I can help you with some of the essentials I bring along, but you’ll have to decide on your own about the number of things. I like to go on vacation prepared for anything that might come my way. That might be a surprise fancy night out dinner or a shockingly cool night. However, the worst thing I have to prepare for is chronic illness.

You know about all the things you need just to get through the day, and now you’re traveling on top of it. What if you have a flare? What if you get dizzy and need some electrolytes? Well, I’ve got that all covered in my list of items to pack.

1. Normalyte. I know a lot of people who have fibromyalgia or POTS (or both like me) like to have electrolyte beverages at the ready. It’s easy when you’re at home, but on the go you might not be able to find your brand everywhere. Normalyte comes in convenient packets that fit into a pocket or bag and can be mixed in any water or juice.

They have a gram of sodium in each pouch! That can be great, especially if you’re in a warm weather location or just need extra salt. They have several flavors and they taste amazing, especially if they’re mixed with cold beverages. I would never travel without them, that’s why they are my number one!

2. Dry shampoo.

If you have hair, you need this in your life. If you’re not already using it, it’s time to get on board with dry shampoo. This can help cut shower times down on vacation (and at home) and make your clean hair last an extra day or two.

You just spray it in the roots of your hair, let it sit, then rub it through the rest of your hair and bam! You have beautiful clean, dry hair. No need to waste extra spoons on that shower; now you can go do more fun activities while you’re on vacation.

3. Water bottle.

This one should be obvious, but just in case it’s not, here it is. I rarely leave the house without a water bottle. It’s so important to keep water with you at all times. You never know when you might start to feel woozy and need to grab a few sips of water to help ground yourself.

4. Sunglasses.

Photosensitivity is no joke. No one wants to spend their entire vacation to a sunny or tropical destination squinting and trying to see when they forgot something simple like sunglasses.

If you need them, check out prescription sunglasses and see what options are available. That way if you want to read in the sunlight, be able to see a reasonable distance, or drive, you can.

5. A tablet (Kindle or iPad).

It’s important to have something to do if you need to rest and relax for a few hours. You might need to go back to your hotel room and chill, and what’s better than having a movie, game or book at your fingertips?

I love having my device with me for a good TV show so I don’t have to watch whatever is on cable with commercials. I can binge whatever I want to on Netflix or Amazon and enjoy a little time activity-free.

6. Medications and medication list.

You’ll definitely want to bring all your daily and emergency medications with you. Sometimes getting them filled while on the road can be a real pain, especially if you’re out of the country. If you fly, some airports will require the medication to be in the original bottle. Call ahead to confirm what your airports require.

It’s a good idea to have a medication list on you at all times. It can help in case of an emergency. When ER techs and nurses ask what medications you’re on, the list might be long and hard to remember when you’re in a stressful situation. You don’t want to be given an incorrect med because you can’t remember what your dosage is.

7. Mobility devices and disability placards.

If you have any mobility devices, especially smaller ones, be sure to bring them. This can be a cane, walker, rollator, scooter, wheelchair etc. If you think you might need it, bring it with you. It will come in handy if you have a major flare up and need to rely on something.

If you have a disability placard, you can use it in any state you visit. If you get a rental car at your destination, you’re free to use the placard as long as you bring your paperwork with you. It will be especially important to use to avoid long walks at busy locations.

8. Compression gear.

If you are flying, this is especially important to wear to the airport. Compression socks can help with your circulation while flying and help you feel better when you arrive at your destination. I wear compression socks daily, so I always make sure I have enough for the trip.

There are more than socks! There are sleeves, leggings, shirts, pants and probably something else I haven’t heard about. They can all be very useful for when you’re having a flare and just need that extra push of circulation.

9. Quick snacks.

Having something you can quickly eat when you take medication is very important for a lot of people. Pack some protein bars or bags of nuts. Other options include fruit snacks, which aren’t as filling but still provide something for your stomach. It’s still very important to eat on a regular schedule and try to get in healthy, or at least somewhat healthy meals that are similar to your meals at home.

10. Toiletries.

A lot of people I know with POTS and fibromyalgia also have mast cell activation syndrome or MCAS and are allergic to many things. I don’t have it, but I’m allergic to a lot of products, so I recommend bringing toiletries like shampoo, conditioner and body wash to avoid any reaction. That way you know you won’t have any surprise allergic reactions to new soaps. Which means no surprise vacation trips to the doctor or ER!

This story originally appeared on Chronically Traveling.

Getty photo by Yelizaveta Tomashevska.

Originally published: June 26, 2019
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