10 Tips for Traveling With Fibromyalgia

Patient Expert
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If you’ve lived with fibromyalgia long enough, you already know that your body loves nothing more than routine. And traveling is all about shaking things up. But fibromyalgia shouldn’t you locked away at home. Traveling with this unpredictable condition is possible, but it’s awfully helpful if you’re prepared, thoughtful, and can plan ahead. Here are a few tips for ensuring your travel plans go smoothly.

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Be picky about travel times

This isn’t always an option, but if you can choose ideal travel times, you’ll know that you’re at least starting your trip off on the best terms for your fibro. Nothing throws our entire well-being off like a completely screwed up sleep schedule. Saving $100 on a flight that leaves at the crack of dawn just isn’t worth it if it means triggering severe exhaustion for the days to come. Also ensure that you have plenty of time between connection flights so you aren’t desperately running from one side of an airport to the other.

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Prepare for airport stress

Once upon time, traveling by air was a wonderful treat. These days, air travel can be a true nightmare. One cancelled flight can turn one day of travel into hours and hours of waiting and hoping. Stress and fibromyalgia do not mix well. Consider asking your doctor for an anti-anxiety medication or download several meditation apps on your phone to help prevent flare-ups and intense exhaustion while traveling.

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If you use a wheelchair, plan ahead

You can select this option when you’re making your flight reservation, or call the airport ahead of time to ensure a wheelchair is readily available when you arrive. If you’re bringing your own motorized wheelchair, airports generally request you arrive one hour early. You can also request to be picked up in one of the small courtesy shuttles that drive passengers to their gates inside the airport. For any questions about disability needs at an airport, call this hotline operated by the US Department of Transportation: 1-800-778-4838.

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Pack your own self-care tools

You do not want to spend your whole trip in pain without access to your usual self-care tools and supplies. Wrist-wraps, your favorite hand-held massager for sore muscles, acetaminophen or aspirin, an ice-pack for your hotel-room freezer, your favorite sleeping pillow to prevent pain in your neck, favorite topical pain lotions, your heating pad, your sleep aid — whatever tools you value the most, bring them with you. And don’t forget about the hotel’s hot tub if they have one — it’s a special fibromyalgia traveling treat!

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Refill your medications before you go

If your usual dose of muscle relaxants on a good day is 15 mg, you should plan for needing your maximum allowed dose when you’re traveling. More stress, more walking, being off your routine, and sleeping in a bed that isn’t your own can trigger more pain. Make sure you have plenty of the medications that help you get through each day with as little pain as possible. And be sure to pack these meds in your carry-on, so they don’t get lost in the chaos of airport baggage claims!

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Pack warm clothes, especially for the airplane

Nothing ruins a five-hour flight like clenching every muscle in your entire body because you’re insanely cold. Airports and airplanes are just two of the places that might be overly cool during your travels. Pack gloves and a scarf to keep your fingers and neck from cramping, extra socks, and a sweatshirt. Shivering for hours in a miserably cold area is a guaranteed trigger for more pain.

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Ask the hotel for a small refrigerator in your room

There’s no guarantee that a refrigerator will be in your hotel room. If you rely heavily on ice-packs to manage your pain, it’s worth the extra call to make sure it’s there when you arrive. If the hotel is reluctant, explain that it’s part of your medical care. If they don’t offer it, ask if you can keep a small bag in the employee refrigerator or another refrigerator that is easy for any staff to access on your behalf.

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Bring your comfiest shoes

Remember that wearing heels to work and sitting at your desk all day is different than standing in heels and walking around a giant conference center all day. Airports require a great deal of walking and standing, too. The happiness of your feet is going to have a huge impact on your ability to enjoy your entire trip! Bring practical shoes that you know your feet will be comfortable in during busy days.

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Plan your downtime

If you’re going to a conference for work and your boss is expecting you to be socializing and shmoozing for hours on end, make sure you explain that you need adequate quiet downtime each day to prevent triggering a flare-up. If you’re going somewhere fun with friends, it can be hard to speak up and say, “Guys, I really need to sit down and relax for a couple hours,” but hopefully they’ll be understanding. In fact, you might even need to plan an entire day dedicated to relaxing. Either way, make sure you get the rest you need.

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Plan for a recovery day after you return home

No matter how fun the trip was or how miraculously smooth your flight home was, anticipate needing some extra time to recover and regroup before you get back into your normal schedule. If it means asking your boss if you can come in late the next day at noon, hiring a babysitter to help with the kids for a few hours, or ordering take-out for a couple of nights, it’s worth it to prevent flare-ups.