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10 Ways to Have a More Relaxing Vacation with Chronic Pain

Karen Lee Richards Jun 12th, 2014 (updated Dec 7th, 2016)
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Choose your destination wisely
Choose your destination wisely

When choosing a destination for your vacation, keep your physical limitations in mind. If heat and humidity make you miserable, going to Florida in mid-August is probably not a good idea. Or if you have difficulty climbing stairs, don't plan a tour of historic homes that feature high porches and multiple floors. Try to pick a location with weather and activities that won't add to your discomfort. 

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Make a packing list early
Make a packing list early

Begin making your packing list at least a couple of weeks before you're scheduled to leave. Pack everything except last-minute items a day ahead of time so you're not rushing around getting stressed right before you walk out the door. Write down a list of those things that can't be packed until the last minute and put the list with your luggage so you can double check to make sure you have everything you need. 

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Reduce the stress of air travel
Reduce the stress of air travel

Tell the airline you are disabled when you make the reservation. Request a bulkhead aisle seat and allow yourself extra layover time when changing planes so that, even if the flight is running a little late, you will be able to make your connecting flight without rushing. Even if you don't normally use a wheelchair, request that one be waiting for you curbside and at the gate of each stop on your trip. 

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Take breaks on road trips
Take breaks on road trips

When traveling by car, plan to stop for a few minutes every hour or two – especially if you're doing the driving. Get out of the car, stretch and walk around a little. Staying in any one position too long will cause you to become stiff and increase your pain. Try out a variety of sitting positions and figure out how many pillows you'll need to take to keep yourself as comfortable as possible. 

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Plan a realistic itinerary
Plan a realistic itinerary

Just getting to your destination can be exhausting, so don't plan to do much on the day you arrive. Give yourself time to settle in, rest and have a nice dinner. Be sure to schedule rest breaks into your itinerary. If possible, allow yourself time for a nap each day. Or at least take time to just sit quietly and sip your favorite beverage so your body can rest and revive itself.   

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Request necessary accommodations
Request necessary accommodations

Call the hotel you'll be staying at directly rather than using their 800 number so you can ask questions about the facility and make specific requests. Request a room that is on the main floor or near an elevator to minimize the distance you have to walk. And, be sure to specify any special accommodations you might need, such as a room that is wheelchair accessible, has shower grab bars, etc. 

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Make your bed as comfortable as possible
Make your bed as comfortable as possible

If the bed in your hotel is uncomfortable, don't hesitate to ask for as many additional pillows as you need to create your own “nest.” You might also think about going to a nearby discount store and buying a foam “egg crate” mattress pad. The added comfort is worth the few dollars it costs, and because it is so inexpensive, you won't feel too bad leaving it behind when you go home. 

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Use a wheelchair at theme parks and tourist attractions
Use a wheelchair at theme parks and tourist attractions

Most theme parks and large tourist attractions are well prepared to accommodate people with disabilities. Don't let your pride get in the way of your comfort and fun. Even if you never use a wheelchair in your daily life, consider renting a wheelchair or scooter at theme parks – unless you can handle walking for miles and standing for hours without pain. 

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Talk with your traveling companions before the trip
Talk with your traveling companions before the trip

In the early stages of planning your trip, sit down with your family or travel companion(s) and make sure they understand ahead of time that you may not be able to do everything they want to do. The most stressful part of a trip can be trying to meet someone else’s expectations. 

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Plan a day to rest from your vacation
Plan a day to rest from your vacation

If possible, plan an extra day to rest after you return home before going back to the daily grind. Although vacations are enjoyable, they can also be tiring.