10 Ways to Have a More Relaxing Vacation with Chronic Pain
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.