Tuesday, November 20, 2007

14 Tips for Chronically Ill Travelers

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When our health problems and pain make even routine household errands and shopping trips discouragingly difficult, traveling hundreds or thousands of miles at the holidays may seem like an unmanageable task. Chronically ill people don't have the luxury of throwing a few clothes in a bag three hours before a flight, but we can successfully get where we want and need to go with the best of them.

My confidence is in no way meant to minimize the task we face. From sleeping in an unfamiliar bed to eating out more often than usual or in someone else's home to worrying about forgetting an essential medication, there are many legitimate concerns to be addressed. These tips should get you started on the right foot.

14 tips for the chronically ill traveler


1. Keep important medical information accessible. Make a list of the names and contact information for all your health care providers in case an emergency arises on your trip.

2. Make packing lists and check off each item as you put it in your bag. Forgetting something is never fun, but it is especially important to avoid this if you have special health needs.

3. Program phone numbers for your airline and the people you will be staying with into your cell phone.

4. Warn your hosts well in advance about about any special dietary restrictions or other health-related concerns.


5. Set a timer on your watch or cell phone to remind you to take your medication.

6. Check all your medication a few days before your departure to make sure you have time to get any necessary refills.

7. Put your daily medication in a pill box so you can easily take the necessary doses on the road.

8. If you're traveling on a plane, keep your medication in their original containers, per FAA requirements, and store them in your carry on bag.

9. Be sure to pack a few extra doses of medication in case you are unexpectedly delayed.

On Travel Day:

10. Leave yourself plenty of extra time. If you know it will take you more time than someone else to walk to your departure area, keep that in mind. And don't forget how busy highways, airports and other mass transportation terminals are over the holidays.

11. Ask for help. If you need something, don't be hesitant about politely making your carrier's staff aware of your needs and enlisting their help. If you are polite and respectful they'll be unlikely to resist helping you out.

Respect Your Needs:

12. Build time into your schedule to take breaks to walk around and stretch when you're riding long distances or to sit down and recover when you're walking long distances.

13. Bring healthy snacks and bottled water with you. Airport and fast food is notoriously unhealthy and unsatisfying. Fruit leathers, nutrition bars, dried fruits and nuts and string cheese are all good choices. Remember to keep your migraine triggers in mind when you choose snacks. You'll need water both to stay hydrated, which can be especially difficult during air travel, and to take your medication.

14. Pack light. Don't bring anything you don't really need. Pack fewer clothes and arrange to do laundry at your host's home during your trip. Check with your host to see which items they may already have for you to use, such as blow dryers. Also ask them what activities are planned so you don't have to guess what you might need.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Amtrak and Greyhound all have extensive information for the disabled traveler on their websites. If you're traveling by air, train or bus this holiday season, head over to the appropriate site to get answers to your questions.

FAA: Information for the Air Passenger with a Disability
Amtrak: Special Needs & Disabilities
Greyhound Traveler Information: Customers with Disabilities

Gimp on the Go is a great, comprehensive resource for determining how to address your special needs when you travel.

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