Spoonie travel tips
July 7, 2021 5:14 PM   Subscribe

Hello, I have medical conditions that get worse under stress and am about to take a pretty extensive vacation across multiple time zones which will stress my body on top of symptoms already being more active. Help me mitigate this as much as possible?

I have a couple of autoimmune conditions. Currently also recovering from a cold, that has transitioned to one of my ears. I was doing well until recently. I believe joining a new gym caused me to overdo it and I'm paying for it now. I'm already following the doctor's recommended treatment so that side is covered. I'm looking for experiential hacks now. I am going to avoid caffeine. I've got a tiny humidifier for the airplane, although I'm not sure how useful it will be if I am wearing a KN95. I even (with much grief) bought myself a rollator walker in case my body is too fatigued to move around much once I reach my destination, as has been the case this week for the first time ever.

I hesitate to go with high doses of corticosteroids bc that will make me immunocompromised right before air travel. I'm vaccinated but 64% protection isn't much so I want to be careful.

I am planning to stay hydrated and eat whole foods, fruits and veggies where possible. Try to prioritize sleep. Anything else I can do to mitigate the stress response of travel so my body won't keep attacking itself?
posted by crunchy potato to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Breathing exercises!
posted by aniola at 5:34 PM on July 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure how much you can do at this point, but for me obsessive amounts of planning in advance helps with travel stress - making sure there is a lot of time between flights, making worst-case-scenario backup plans in case something goes wrong, making packing lists in advance so I don't forget anything, reading every possible thing I can find about my destination to cut down on surprises.
posted by LadyOscar at 5:46 PM on July 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

Probiotics might not really help but they let me feel like I am doing something. I am a big fan of these self-heating eye masks. I try to bring warm socks and a blanket for the plane and something that smells nice but won’t bother other people. A tiny spray of a rose water mist goes a long way. Try to enjoy the people watching after all this time spent apart!
posted by chocotaco at 6:14 PM on July 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm not saying you should take benzodiazepines, but the one time I had a valium for a red-eye flight I was so incapable of worrying about anything that I boarded the plane without my suitcase, had to double back on the jetway to ask an airline employee to go find it for me, got on the plane and got 7 uninterrupted hours of sleep on the way to Europe. Just thinking about that situation now is stressful, but I felt nothing but calmly focused on solving the problem at the time. Drugs are weird.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:36 PM on July 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

I understand that using mobility aids can feel like a diminishment, but they can also be magical energy-saving devices. I have used mobility scooters at a conference I attend every year, and they do an amazing job of preserving my energy.

Consider asking the airport to provide wheelchair service to and from your gate. The last time I flew, a couple of years ago now, I did this, and the airport staff met me at the door, got me in a wheelchair, got me through security through some sort of bypass lane so there was no waiting, and zoomed me to the gate. They all had radios and were passing me from person to person like the baton in a relay race. It removed so much of the stress of flying.

At the much bigger airport at the other end of my trip, they had a wheelchair/golf cart system that was like mass transit, with routes and a central hub, and it was a little more annoying, but also I wasted zero of my limited energy hiking through airports and standing in line. I heartily recommend it.
posted by Orlop at 6:50 PM on July 7, 2021 [25 favorites]

If you can start to adjust your sleeping schedule to the travel timezone before you go, it may help you adjust to the changes better. That might not be possible, but it could make things a tiny bit easier.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:57 PM on July 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I swear by melatonin for jet lag. This article has some tips for how to use it.
posted by bq at 7:04 PM on July 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Walk around on the carpet barefoot making fists with your toes.
posted by mannequito at 7:13 PM on July 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

I second asking for the airport wheelchair service. Especially if you are changing planes, it reduces the stress so much for me to know I won't be limping my way to try to catch my connection, and having someone help me through customs is great for international travel.

The rollator should help a lot, especially if it has a seat so you can rest while waiting in lines. Make sure you have a bag that can fasten on to the frame.
posted by buildmyworld at 7:33 PM on July 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

High protein meals followed by naps.
Steak + sleep is my personal favourite, but it’ll work with whatever your fave protein is.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:00 PM on July 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Get yourself a really good shawl that you can wrap around as light barrier as well as a snuggle comfort object.

I have a black woollen shawl and a pashmina that I alternate - in the travel seat (plane, train, etc) and then I become a shawl covered peasant woman who starts gently snoring within about fifteen minutes. My superpower.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 8:23 PM on July 7, 2021 [5 favorites]

I'd add that I've been traveling while chronically ill for a very very long, and if the trip is shorter than a week, one of my strategies is just to prop myself with things I don't ordinarily do at home, keep going and enjoy my trip, and then recover at home the next week.

So, I'll take my headache medication maybe juuuust a little more often than I'm officially supposed to. If I pass through Canana, I'll pick up some Tylenol with codeine. I might drink coffee practically all day every day. Things like that.

I have enough knowledge of my condition to know that I'll be able to recover once I'm home, and return to my normal levels of medication and caffeine. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

And even doing that, I usually have to nap every day, and I might lose a day in the middle of the conference by not being well enough to attend events.

If it's possible to rent a scooter at my destination, I go for it. If I have the money to take cabs rather than public transit, I spend it. Anything to save a bit of my energy for more important things.

An old friend recently took a trip to Israel with her wife. Her wife has arthritis but won't use any accommodations. My friend is a pastor who was excited to visit the Holy Land. But when I asked about the trip, all she could talk about was her frustration that her wife would make use of available accommodations, and her resulting pain and fatigue affected both of them.

I'm just saying, save your energy in any way you can.
posted by Orlop at 8:50 PM on July 7, 2021 [7 favorites]

Don't go to the food, make the food come to you.

For example, stay at a hotel with a restaurant. Start the day with a good breakfast without having to leave the building. End the day with a good dinner where you can go upstairs right to bed. Don't be shy about room service or food delivery. I've learned the hard way - so much time and energy wasted chasing down food while travelling!
posted by dum spiro spero at 9:23 PM on July 7, 2021 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all.

I forgot to mention that I did book the wheelchair service at the airport. Used it once before and the energy saving value is incredible.

I'm hoping the rollator will allow me to keep some of the short/easy hikes I have scheduled on my itenerary.

Unfortunately, melatonin can trigger autoimmune response and I've been advised not to take it.
posted by crunchy potato at 9:30 PM on July 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

For the jetlag, once you arrive there, get some sun exposure in midmorning at your destination's time. Something about the sun angle resets the body clock - half an hour helps me immeasurably.

Add whatever little comforts you like. For me that's hydrating creams for face and body, plus solid showers. This is definitely not the time to be worrying about "I should be able to do this by grit and resolve". If you're tired, actually take some rest and people- or nature-watch, that counts as vacation too.

And stock up on real pseudoephedrine for the flight, just in case the ear decides do be a pain. Take it before takeoff and again before landing.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:46 PM on July 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

get earplanes, put them in as soon as you sit down and don't take them out until the cabin door has opened on landing
posted by brujita at 2:37 AM on July 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm not saying you should do this, but I just want to put out there that, if you're just not up for it, cancelling the trip is always an option. If your vacation is going to leave you less relaxed and refreshed than you were before, you don't have to go. And given Covid policies for a lot of travel/hospitality companies, you may even be able to get some of your money back. Again, not saying you have to cancel, but I just want to put on the table that you can if you want to, and that it wouldn't be bad if you decided that's what's best for you right now. It's still a pandemic, and you sound understandably stressed about that and about your health, so I hope you're able to find a way to relax and recharge in a way that is best for you.
posted by decathecting at 6:36 AM on July 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

For the plane itself, definitely earplanes. I also swear by using a simple saline nasal spray every couple hours on a plane to combat dryness, though in COVID times, using it would require you to temporarily move/remove your mask, so I suppose that comes down to your comfort level with that (which could be done in the bathroom).
posted by mosst at 11:14 AM on July 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

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