26 June 2016

7 Ideas for Coping with Travel Packing by Carrie Fancett Pagels


Summer is supposed to be a time of fun, right? And of trips and fun travels, correct?  But for those of us with chronic pain or other chronic conditions, planning for a trip  or even thinking about the trip can be stressful!

Lists are the friends of travelers, but for those with autoimmune issues, there is often an extra layer of lists just for medications and for over-the-counter medical stuff and supplements. There may be the five ice packs you bring along for your own inflamed joints and another family member's.  We're currently packing for a combo Camp JRA trip for our son and then later we'll have packing for our trip to Michigan where I have book signings and two library presentations. One thing I love about Pennsylvania's Camp JRA program is 1) they give you a complete list of  often-needed things for kids with juvenile arthritis and 2) your child is not the only one hauling all this stuff.

Deciding to even take a trip requires a lot of prayer. God, do you really want me doing this? Even knowing that I could have a flare up, or another family member could? What if I forget my medications? What if I need health care in a remote location? When you're out of state your insurance works a little differently, too.

For those of us already barely managing to do our daily activities of laundry, cooking, keeping up with bills, and some cleaning -- planning a trip adds an entire extra layer of requirements. There is usually some shopping to do. I mainly shop for groceries, every couple of weeks and that is pretty much it. So today, adding some shopping for cargo shorts added a little extra to our Sunday and, although I hate to admit it, taxed my already low stamina.  If you've never read about the spoons theory and autoimmune disease, here's a link (click here.)

Here are just a few tips I have besides first committing your travel to prayer and to the Lord:
1) Figure out your usual schedule and how often you are "down" from your ailment, on average. Take the "good" days or your best days and count those up and divide by the number of weeks. Let's say you find out you really only have 2 days a week that are "ok" days where you get your list done (for me it is a)laundry, b) meals, c) bills, and d) some kind of cleaning) then estimate how long it will take you to prepare for the trip. Take that time and divide it up over those good days.  You may find out it takes you over a month to have stamina to prepare for a one week trip.
2) IF possible, delegate and also enlist the help of others to help with the work.Sometimes just discussing the list with another adult can help. Be sure that person understands where you are going. For instance, in some rural areas of Michigan, where we often travel, there isn't going to be a Walmart to run to! And even if there is, they may be out of stuff that you didn't bring.
3) Be careful not to add too many activities to that period of time leading up to the travel. IF you do that, then you need to add more weeks to your expected packing time.
4) Personally, I've found it easiest to keep a travel bag of sample sizes ready for personal items. That normally takes me a ton of time to pack, so keeping a personal bag all stocked up saves me a lot of time.
5) If you're going someplace where you're wearing your normal everyday clothes, as you get closer to departure consider packing right from the dryer, instead of putting clothes away. Ask kids and spouse to use some of their less-worn items in the interim before the trip.
6) Don't compare yourself to others. You may need an entire suitcase filled with cold packs, special pillows, TENS unit, etc. and a special pillow.
7) The stuff you use at home to manage your illness often becomes taken for granted. As you get closer to the trip really pay attention to the stuff you use on a daily or even weekly basis.  For instance, I use a memory foam pillow when I sit for very long, so that has to come with me. Also, don't forget to pack medications that are only for your "worst" days, just in case.

GIVEAWAY: What about you? What do you need to pack for your vacation that you can't do without?

I'm VERY excited about the paperbacks of my new release Saving the Marquise's Granddaughter coming out on July 1st and I'll be packing a box to take up to my book signings!!! Leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy!

22 comments:

  1. My meds are something I do not want to forget. Happy travels, Carrie, and thank you for the great job you do.

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    1. Those weekly pill containers come in so handy, don't they, Melanie! The meds have to be packed up well in advance. Thanks, Melanie!

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  2. Wonderful helpful post, Carrie - thank you!!

    Oh, how I relate to each of the steps in your post - including all the extras one with health issues must take along when traveling, which means added issues transporting them, and the fact I work more slowly as I age and have become more fatigued and have less strength due to my health issues. Since I live alone, I must make sure my brother or son is available to help me load and unload my car on my worst days. It's also important to make sure I get enough rest before starting a travel and get everything finished well before departure time so I'm not so stressed when I begin my trip - I have yet to accomplish this, I'm afraid. Numerous things always seem to come up unexpectedly to consume my time and throw my schedule off. When traveling alone, as I often do, having enough boldness to ask for help in transporting luggage, etc. is helpful also. There's also the hassle of unpacking, laundry, swollen feet/legs from driving, etc., extra loss of sleep ( I have sleeping issues which are always greater when traveling)when I return home. However, I can set my own schedule at getting it done.

    One may wonder why I push myself through the added stress of traveling, however, I've always had "wanderlust", it's a balm to my soul, and I want to see as much of God's beautiful world as possible. He made it's beauty for us to enjoy, appreciate, draw us nearer Him and demonstrate His power and glory - I'm blessed and grateful for each of my travels!!

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    1. P.S. You have numerous health issues, yet accomplish so much - I know God gives you the strength. You are an inspiration - thank you, Carrie!! Hugs!!

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    2. All those things you mentioned would deter most folks from traveling, Bonnie, but what a blessing that God has allowed you to pursue your dream! That's a good point about not being afraid to ask for help and about asking others to assist. The airports are a problem for me if I am by myself because I can't lift the big bags so I usually have to have someone help me.

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    3. So agree about the airports, Carrie. I used to love to fly, but flying was becoming a hassle even before my development of health problems. Overcrowded flights, delays and cancellations, baggage and other new fees, added security measures, time spent at the airport, amenity cutbacks etc.- it is no longer fun, health issues complicate the process even further. One can frequently drive and arrive at a destination more quickly than with flying - to say nothing of the money saved, and being able to stop at one's leisure.

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  3. Ah Carrie, this is a wonderful post! You inspire me with how you accomplish so much even with your many health problems...all with God-infused strength!

    I can relate to each one of the steps you mentioned, especially when traveling...which I have not done in recent years (since 2007) because of many health problems and chronic exhaustion. Like you, I have to pace myself if I am planning a trip--before, during and after, so what little energy I do have is not totally zapped. It doesn't take much to zap that tiny bit of energy. I only have a small "window" of energy and by 2:30 pm I start to "fade", so I try to accomplish things before then. I certainly cannot do what I did many years ago, not all because of getting "older", but mainly because of health problems. One of the hardest things, after stopping working--which I loved and going on disability, was not being able to drive any longer, which adds a whole other dimension to things. Besides my many medications, there is my CPAP, distilled water for that, my cervical pillow (I keep one for traveling), personal items and clothes of course. So, just for me there is a lot of items to be packed. Like your #4, I have a small case I keep smaller sample-size items in, like shampoo, hair spray, tooth brush/paste, bath soap, etc...that helps immensely.

    God bless you Carrie!
    Love and blessings, Tina

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    1. P.S. safe travels and enjoy your trip!
      Blessings, Tina

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    2. It sure adds to the difficulties of travel, doesn't it Tina? That's one reason we're not flying this year but doing a road trip because we have so much stuff! Thanks!

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  4. Safe, happy, and healthy traveling, CARRIE! Thank you for the helpful tips for those struggling with various health disorders.

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    1. I pray one day soon you'll be traveling again, Angel Diana!

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  5. I need lists when I travel. Several years ago I learned this the hard way. I was packing for a ministry trip where I would be teaching children each night. Of all things I forgot to pack my Bible! After that I had a list for clothes and general items I would need and then a separate list for the ministry items I would need.

    I still do this on a smaller scale each week as I pack my totebag for church. Now that I have a permanent injury in my inner ear, I never know when the vertigo and balance issues will be extreme. I can be just fine at home on a Sunday morning and by the time I get to church it is extreme. It affects me in other ways because of the fact that I have to be concentrating so on staying upright, it is difficult for me to focus on anything else like what I am needing to teach the children. I have my lesson so planned out that I can read it if I need to.

    I am not able to take trips as often now due to this injury caused when a patient on the Psychiatric Ward kicked me and the kick threw me against the wall. This was 8 years ago. I am not able to drive a car because I never know when the vertigo is extreme. Even though this makes life difficult I have found the Lord to be my strength.

    Now whenever I do travel I begin making my lists and packing my suitcase the moment I learn of the trip. It takes a lot of prayer as well.

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    1. I meant to add that I will be praying for your trips this summer, Carrie

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    2. I am so sorry that happened to you, Wilani! You are right about making all those lists! Lists are life-savers! And only God gets us through each day! Thanks for your prayers and I'll be praying for you, too!

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  6. WOW CARRIE this is a great post. Being a mom I am the one that has to think ahead to the "what-ifs." Since both Daniel and Joshua have had asthma and allergy attacks on vacation before I always make sure to pack the nebulizer and the liquid benedryl. Both of those have stopped what could have been an ER trip had I not taken them. It has become an on-going joke in our family that we have to take our "medicine bag" on trips, not really funny but a sense of humor does help to overcome the seriousness of illness.

    Prayers for your sweet boy to have an amazing time at Camp and for the whole family to be healthy and pain-free for your vacation to Michigan.

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    1. Yes, we also pack a medication bag, too, Teresa! Thank God we live in a country where we have access to those medications that we need. The trouble with traveling to the boonies, as much as I love rural Michigan, is like when Clark broke his arm and we didn't know it. We took him to an outpatient medical thing in Chicago and they couldn't tell if it was broken, but he was put into a sling. We went on to Michigan, thinking we could get an orthopedic doc to see him there. Wrong. All the docs were on vacation! It's the last healthy visit we had with my mom and we had to leave early. She came down with cancer the following year and then died.

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  7. I don't have nearly as many physical issues as you do. I do know that I have to bring my medications along wherever I go. I also have a special pillow that has to go underneath my right knee when I sleep on my left side. I have to make sure it comes along. When I had my knee replacement I found that a special playlist of soft instrumental music playing all night long helps me to sleep peacefully. I have to remember to take the iPod that the playlist is on.

    I hope that everything goes smoothly for your (and your son's) travels this summer.

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    1. Oh heavens, I hope we don't have to listen to our son's music at bedtime. It sounds like ocean music or something. I forgot about him needing that to get to sleep. He often leaves it on all night! Thanks for the prayers, Debbie!

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  8. Thanks for sharing what is involved in getting ready for your vacation as well as Clark's week at camp. As one who is now to the whole 'chronic' illness scene, I really have never considered what I would need to take along if I was going to travel. My asthma was under control for so many years, I don't think I even checked if my rescue inhaler was useable. Now I don't know if I would travel without my nebulizer and the meds that go with it. I know I get very tired just doing what needs to be done everyday, so adding preparing for a trip would definitely be something I would do over a number of days.
    I really appreciated the spoon story - I never really looked at illness in that way. It is a good reminder to me for myself, but also for those I meet that suffer everyday.
    Praying for a fabulous week for Clark and a wonderful, pain free time for you in MI and on the rest of your vacation.

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    1. Very honestly, I can barely manage getting around my own neck of the woods much less doing this big travel for this summer, but I prayed about it and had peace. So we're going to do it but I told hubs I don't see myself doing a big trip like this again. That spoon theory is so helpful, Betti! Blessings!

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  9. It's refreshing to read a realistic blog post about how to pack when you suffer from chronic pain or illness. I laughed out loud and then I groaned because I can relate to your statement that "You may find out it takes you over a month to have stamina to prepare for a one week trip." While it doesn't quite take me a month to prepare for a trip, it takes me a month (or two) to unpack AFTER a trip!

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    1. That, too, Rebecca!!! The unpacking is as challenging as the packing for a trip! Thanks for coming by!

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