How to Travel with Chronic Pain and not be Disappointed

How to Travel with Chronic Pain and not be Disappointed

How to Travel with Chronic Pain and not be Disappointed

It’s holiday time!

I know why you’re here. You’re hoping to learn how to pause your illness for the holidays, right?

Sorry, so far it’s not possible.

Does that mean you are inevitably going to be disappointed at some point during your travels then? Well no, not if you prepare well.

Hang on, you thought I was about to list the common travel tips for people with chronic illness, didn’t you? Do we actually need a reminder to pack our medication?

No, our tips don’t go in your suitcase. Check them out below.

Hopefully after reading this, the only disappointment you experience on vacation is that you couldn’t afford to visit Bora Bora. Oh, beautiful Bora Bora, why are you so expensive!?

1. Schedule rest days (extend your trip)

Ok, you’ve decided how many days you want to be away for. You’ve included flying time, know the attractions to visit and you’ve checked your holiday leave and bank account. You’re ready to book flights!

Well no just wait, that’s how healthy people book holidays.

For us with chronic illness and chronic pain to avoid disappointment while on vacation, rest days need to be planned. It’s not good enough that you plan your holiday and then pencil in a few hours longer at the buffet breakfast to rest.

You need to add extra rest days on top of your holiday plans so you don’t miss out on sightseeing and adventure days. The Chronic Pain Couple add one rest morning every 2/3 days starting mid trip. For long vacations, rest mornings become rest days and we try to book accommodation with a comfy bed, bath (if possible) and a nice room or view for those days.

travelling with chronic pain and chronic illness
Quality time in New Zealand recently

2.Plan adventure… for your partner

You know, it’s not just those who are unwell who might feel disappointed on vacation. Sometimes, we can be so focused on coping with pain that we forget our partner might also have different expectations for their vacation.

Your rest days are the perfect opportunity for your partner to explore new cities further then you are able to, experience adventure and relax without the stress of your physical capabilities and pain.

Your partner’s fun days are just as important as your rest days, so pre-plan activities.

Was it difficult when Johann recently hit the slopes in New Zealand without me? YES! I was really jealous. We enjoyed snowboarding together for years before I became unwell. It was so satisfying though feeling rested and seeing him content after such an adventurous day. If you want your relationship to flourish when one person is chronically ill, you need to encourage the person who is not unwell to continue with activities they enjoy.

Queenstown New Zealand Chronic Pain
Sightseeing around Queenstown, New Zealand

3.Don’t be your best self

I’ll get straight to the point. The quickest way to have more energy to explore during a vacation is to shorten your morning routine.

I know most of you plan envy provoking images to post all over facebook while on holidays. I get it, you can’t beat the feeling of uploading a picture of you across the world looking your best and refreshed that your colleagues will scroll over on their lunch break.

But, if you have chronic pain and intend on making the most of your trip, men get used to holiday beards and women, stock up on dry shampoo. Go on, head over to our Instagram account here and I promise you won’t find a picture of me with well styled or curled hair on our last holiday but you will see some beautiful places we got to visit because I saved my energy!

Some ideas to cut down on your morning routine:

  1. Pack daily outfits in individual bags
  2. Head out barefaced, without makeup
  3. Don’t shave your beard/ body everyday
  4. Don’t style your hair everyday, instead, use dry shampoo (not for the entire trip!)
  5. Bring clothes that don’t require ironing or budget for dry cleaning services while away

4.Worst-case scenario

Finally, you should make a worst-case scenario list. By this I mean, make a list of what you would like to see or do at a minimum incase your health declines while travelling.

Together decide on your top 3 ‘must do’ things on holiday. You might have 20 things you want to do while away but choose what you would regret the most not seeing or doing.

Now, if your holiday doesn’t go to plan, if your pain intensifies, if your illness wreaks havoc or if your husband suffers a head injury while surfing (sigh, that was our worst case scenario!), you already know what activities to prioritise.

Your unremarkable circumstances living with chronic pain doesn’t mean you deserve an unremarkable vacation! Hopefully you are blessed with a restful and exciting next holiday.

With love & pain,

The Chronic Pain Couple

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  1. admin:

    Hi Janice, It's so great to read how you juggled your health and holidays! Thank you for sharing. I am sorry about your husband. It sounds like although you struggled with pain, your holidays were a time of reconnection and rejuvenation. I agree, a rest day before travelling by air is important. Sitting up for an entire flight can be exhausting and painful.

  2. Janice T:

    My late husband and I would plan our vacations in advance- activity day, rest day, activity day, rest day, etc and the rest day was still fun - we would plan where we ate out (because he said it wasn't really vacation unless we went to a restaurant for both lunch and dinner) and we would do something like play a round of mini-golf and go to the arcades for some fun afterwards. Low key, easy peasy, yet fun and things we did when we were young kids in love and things we still loved to do, truth be told. It made us remember those years and the fun we had when we were younger. Every vacation, we tried to alternate rest and activity days, and then we also planned a rest day at the end of the vacation before going back to work - especially if we travelled by air - but even if we just did a staycation.

  3. admin:

    Hi Shirley! It sounds like we're very much on the same page! It's so good to hear you and Dave are both adjusting your expectations regarding where you holiday. There's no point going to a beautiful country if you can't leave the bed after the trip there! We added in rest days due to exactly what you highlighted, I'd be so disappointed when I couldn't keep up. Thanks for the suggestion of New Caledonia, we always need close options for travel. Happy travelling Shirley! TCPC

  4. Shirley Caldwell:

    Thank you for the wisdom regarding travel and coping with chronic pain or illness. We had to learn the hard way and initially tried to travel as other people with the expectation that I would keep up. Some days I just had to take a day out and hang out at the hotel. It would have been better if we had planned it rather than feeling disappointed that things had to be changed. We have realised along the way that Dave has to do some more adventuresome activities and visit places I was unable to walk too. Sometimes its been hard not being able to participate and stay at the base wherever that is - something that has helped me is to plan something in that day that I also enjoy. e.g. massage. Lunch out at a favourite café with a good book. The long trips we realise need to have rest days and not sure whether we will attempt anymore of these. There are lots of beautiful places nearby and we have just returned from New Caledonia 2 1/2 hours travel. Very beautiful place with everything we both needed to have a restful holiday. Some of our best holidays and trips have been nearby - Tasmania, Whitsundays, New Zealand and now New Caledonia and also Vanauatu although its not as easy to travel in. Your insight and honesty does confirm the necessity to plan and not be disappointed. Thanks so much

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