Tips For Car Travel with a Chronic Condition

When it comes to travel, it’s more challenging for those living with chronic health conditions like Sjogren’s, lupus, diabetes, and other disorders. That said, a getaway is certainly welcome and possible with the proper planning. Whether your goals are sightseeing or simply relaxing, planning is the key to an enjoyable vacation. So consider the following tips for a smoother adventure!

Choosing Where to Go

Start by selecting your destination based on your interests, season, and the length of your getaway. Your budget can help you narrow down your choices.

Will you be visiting relatives or are you heading for the mountains, beach, or a city? Be honest when deciding if the location and weather fit your health and mobility needs. For example, the desert climate of Las Vegas may not be the best choice if you have Sjogren’s Disease.

Traveling Solo or with Companions

Decide if you want to travel alone or if you would prefer to travel with a friend or family member. Although you may be fine by yourself, a buddy can be more fun since you’ve got someone to dine with and sing along with your road trip playlist. They can also help share in the driving and the memories you create.

A companion may also make you feel more safe and secure. Choosing someone who understands the unpredictable nature of your medical conditions may be the ideal travel companion as well. You should be comfortable telling this person how you are feeling, your fatigue or pain levels, dietary needs, etc.

Selecting Accommodations

Be strategic when choosing your accommodations. Find lodging close to the attractions that you want to visit so you can conserve your valuable energy getting to them. This is especially a concern in cities where short-term parking is frustrating and costly. In this situation, look for public and tourist transit stops close to your hotel.

Once you’ve selected your lodging, request a handicapped/accessible room if you need one. These rooms typically include extra space as well as special bathroom amenities. An elevator near your room can also be a great option.

If you have special dietary needs, book lodging with a microwave or a kitchen to make things easier. Be sure it includes a refrigerator for items like food, drinks, and insulin. It’s a good idea to confirm all of these amenities before your trip. Bring your toaster, cups, plates, and utensils if that helps to keep you safe from food allergies. A grocery store nearby is a bonus, as is a local restaurant that caters to your dietary needs.

Documenting Health Information

Bring a list of your health conditions, medications, and any allergies. It’s a good idea to also include your physicians’ names and phone numbers, and your medical insurance and emergency contact information. Locate the pharmacy and hospital closest to your accommodations. Record their addresses and phone numbers so they are handy if you should suddenly need them.

Packing For Your Adventure

Car travel has many benefits, especially when you have a chronic condition that requires extra supplies and equipment. The following items may be handy to bring along to keep you more comfortable.

Equipment and Supplies

  • Wheelchair, motorized scooter, or cane are important for mobility at your destination.
  • Medications you need, with extra if your return home is unexpectedly delayed
  • Heating pad, electric blanket, and ice packs for painful joints
  • Desktop humidifier for Sjogren’s dry eyes and nose
  • Healthy snacks, fruit, water, and electrolyte drinks
  • Cooler for insulin and any special dietary needs like gluten-free food that may be hard to find at your destination. You can also prepare meals and freeze them for the trip, or use the cooler for anything else that needs to remain chilled.

Clothing and Accessories

Sun essentials are a must, even if cloudy days fill the forecast. So be sure to include:

  • An SPF 50+ or higher sunscreen, especially if you take medications that cause photosensitivity.
  • A UPF 50+ packable sun hat to protect your face, ears, and neck. UV Skinz Women’s Wide Brim Sun Hat is a great choice.
  • 100% UVA/UVB wraparound sunglasses.
  • Long sleeve shirts and pants with UPF50+ sun protection.
  • UPF 50+ portable shade: a beach umbrella, tent, or a personal sun umbrella.
  • Comfort items: cozy blanket, fuzzy socks, book or tablet.
  • A shawl for traveling and daily excursions. This UV Skinz Women’s sun shawl doubles as a blanket to block UV rays while in a car or chilly tour bus.

Choosing Activities

Vacations offer the opportunity for so many activities to enjoy and experience. But having a chronic condition requires more strategy when planning an itinerary. So it’s critical that you respect your body’s limitations and build in rest times as needed.

One way to manage expectations is to make a list of activities and then prioritize which are the most important to you. Schedule your top activities during the early part of each day when you are the most rested. If you typically feel better at a different time of day, plan your top activities then. Next, add in other activities as your energy level permits. If you can comfortably manage more, great. But it’s OK if you can’t. This getaway was meant to be relaxing and fun, not draining and painful, right?

Find creative ways to conserve your energy. Choose a bus or trolley tour instead of walking. Use a scooter or wheelchair, even for close excursions. No matter what activities you do, pack healthy snacks and plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Be honest with yourself (and any companions) throughout the day if you are getting fatigued or your pain is spiking. Create a list of “plan B” activities that are low-key and more doable when you aren’t feeling your best. This might include quiet time relaxing with that book you’ve been excited to read, or breaking open a new board game that’s all the rage. Schedule a pampering massage, pedicure, or take in a matinee.

Traveling with a chronic condition is challenging, but you can feel more confident and enjoy your getaways when you plan ahead. Realize that even with the most detailed planning some hiccups can occur, but having a sense of humor helps. That’s where managing expectations and using your creativity come into play.