Johnny and I were recently traveling, and I was reminded of the things we've done to make sure our vacation is really a vacation, rather than a breeding ground for a nasty Lupus flare. Here are a few of the things we do to ensure I stay healthy while on the road (or in the air, on the tracks, or on the water):
1) Make Relaxing a Priority: We don't really plan a whole lot of activities during our vacations. My husband makes all of the travel arrangements, and I typically show up the day of the vacation, and then just see where the trip takes us. We're not huge sight-seers, but we do like to walk, so when we arrive in a city, we usually just head to the sidewalks for a nice, leisurely stroll, stopping along the way for requisite snacks, drinks, or entertainment. (And in my current condition, the snack and drink stops are plentiful.) One might think that for a "relaxing vacation", we'd just head to the beach, but I'm not a huge sun person (due to Lupus). Plus, Johnny and I would rather go exploring in a new city, region, or area rather than sip away our vacations in a beach chair. (Although, that doesn't sound too bad right about now, does it?)
2) Plan for a Nap: We've traveled to over 35 countries around the world, and no matter where we've been - on safari in South Africa, at the top of Machu Picchu in Peru, or enjoying the thermal baths in Eastern Europe - I've managed to fit in a nap in the middle of each and every day. Johnny does a great job of "busying" himself (by golfing, golfing, or golfing) while I stop down for a couple of hours each afternoon, and by the time I wake up, I'm ready to rock and roll into the wee-ish hours of the night. (I say wee-ish because we aren't really partying until 4am anymore, but we do like to linger over a late night dinner with drinks, dessert, etc.) Without a nap, I'd be incoherent by about 7pm...but with a refresher nap from 4-6pm, I'm good to go until 12am or beyond.
Sometimes the actual day of traveling makes napping challenging, but Johnny does his best to book our travel times so that I can either get a nap on the front end or back end of the trip. For instance, if we're flying out in the morning, he'll try and arrange for us to touch down and find our way to our hotel by about 2pm or 3pm...in time for a nap. If we're flying out in the evening, he'll make sure he leaves enough time so that I can nap before we have to leave the house for the airport, and then I can fly out rested and refreshed. I used pretend that I could sleep on the plane - and while every once in awhile that is necessary (for long flights abroad), I've learned that banking on a solid 2 hours to nap on a plane just doesn't cut it for me.
3) Don't Hesitate to Ask: Nine times out of ten, I end up calling the hotel we're staying in to either get an early check-in or a late check-out, in order to fit in a nap. You'd be surprised how accommodating hotels can be when you say that you have a medical necessity and that you need to have access to a hotel bed in the afternoon. In fact, one time, I was traveling with my sister and my then 1-year old niece, and we called to ask for an early check-in so that my niece could take a nap. The front desk person didn't seem to be able to help us out, but when I got on the phone and said that actually, I also needed to take a nap, due to medical necessity and the fact that I had Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, she was able to get us a room. I don't use Lupus as an excuse to get what I want, but I am assertive about making sure I take care of myself. No need to spoil an entire day (or two) of vacation because I was too embarrassed or shy to talk about my disease!
4) Double check Meds and Carry them with You: I would be LOST without my meds...so I always check to make sure that I have enough pills to get me through a trip, and I carry my medicine bag with me, rather than checking it through in my baggage. I used to get some pretty quizzical looks in security (because there were times when I had a lot of prescriptions), but when that was the case, I kept the drugstore copy of my prescriptions with me so I would have documentation to back up the pills. The only exception to carrying my drugs with me has been with the injectibles I'm currently taking for pregnancy (Lovenox). While I could carry the injections through security, I believe I would need a letter from my doctor issued each time I flew...and I prefer to avoid that hassle and take the risk by packing them. Thankfully, at $50/needle, I haven't had any problems with lost luggage so far. Baby Bun and I haven't seen much air time anyway over the last few months, so it hasn't been much of an issue.
5) Keep the Essentials Packed: I keep a 2nd set of the following in my suitcase at all times: A hat with a wide brim, a bag of medical supplies (aspirin, bandaids, cold meds), sunscreen, toiletries (like shampoo, conditioner, etc), a little black purse, and 3 pair of underwear. Clearly, the last few items aren't Lupus-related, but I thought I'd throw them in there since, indeed, they, too, are always in my suitcase. (I've learned that keeping a few extra pair of emergency undies in my luggage is easier than trying to ask for directions to the unmentionables department in a foreign language.)
The hat and sunscreen obviously help out when we're in sunny locations and I can't seem to find the shade. The medical supplies are for all of the unforeseen issues that crop up with Lupus - we're so prone to health issues in general, I find that generic, back-up meds (all of which are safe to take in conjunction with my prescriptions) make traveling alot less troublesome. And the toiletries just make packing that much less stressful, as do the purse and undies. The less I have to throw in a bag, the better. I also try and pack the evening before we leave, just so I'm not running around the day I travel. The "day of" is exhausting enough - so I try and eliminate as much stress as possible.
There you have it - just a few helpful hints that have allowed me to continue to travel the world, despite Lupus.