Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Ultimate Guide to Family Travel as a Spoonie

Tips for Family Travel with Chronic Illness

Coming fresh off our trip to Lake Placid, NY with the kids, I thought it might be helpful for other people struggling with chronic illness to hear how I manage to travel with kids, my dog, and my plethora of autoimmune and chronic illness issues. 

Here are my top 10 tips for family travel with fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses:

If you are driving to your destination, there are several tips I have for you.  I haven't flown anywhere since my illnesses emerge, so I can't speak to that just yet.  But some of my tips are definitely useful for any type of travel, since I am sharing with you many of my tips for your time at your vacation spot!

1.  Pack everything you will need for the trip AND the car the day before you travel.  It's too much on your body to do all of the packing and preparing for the trip...and then drive/ride in the car for several hours all on the same day. If you can adjust your schedule to do so, plan the whole day beforehand as your packing day so that you can pack a little, rest a little, pack a little, rest a little.

2.  Travel in the morning, if you are able to, so that you are only contending with your typical pain and fatigue, not your typical plus all-the-packing-getting-ready-managing-kids-pain-and-fatigue.  You will most likely still feel additional pain and fatigue from packing the day before, but you will be better off with having some sleep in between packing and traveling.

3.  Hopefully you will be traveling with another adult companion, be it your spouse/significant other, family member, or friend.  You need someone to go with you that will be able to do at least half, if not the bulk of the driving.  Traveling in the car tends to be uncomfortable for Spoonies, whether driving or resting in the passenger's seat.  But the additional mental and physical energy it requires to drive long distances can be even more fatiguing and you don't want to wear yourself out before you even arrive at your destination!

4. Try to make frequent rest stops to use the bathroom, grab a bite to eat, and stretch your body out.  But keep them as short as possible.  You need to have the break from sitting, but the longer it takes you to reach your destination, the more fatigued you will be.  Of course, with kids in tow, frequent stopping is completely typical anyway, so take advantage of the kids' needs to meet your own, as well.  If you're like me and have IBS, too, that can mean more frequent stops, as well.  It can also mean that you may run into a situation where you need a rest area immediately, but there isn't one in sight.  Many times in the past, we have scooted off the highway to the nearest gas station, store, or fast food joint.  Just like for the kids, make sure you always have a package of wipes, plastic bags, and an extra outfit packed in your car that is easily accessible...just in case.

5. Try to schedule your trip so that you are not in a rush to get to your destination.  Even though the goal is to arrive in as little time as possible (limiting your sitting time), if you add the pressure and stress of a scheduled arrival time, it will increase your fatigue and pain.  So if you can, just go with the flow and try to enjoy the downtime with the family! 

6.  But also make sure you have activities for the children to do!  That's typically a mom no-brainer.  But when you have a chronic illness, the noise from the children being in such close proximity to your ears could make you extremely irritable.  You MUST prepare for them to be occupied if this is a possible outcome for you on your trip.  The point of traveling with your family is to have fun together and spend quality time together, not for the kids to be driving you nuts so much that you end up on the brink of insanity, screaming at them to JUSTBEQUIET because it truly hurts your ears due to their highly sensitive nature.   Oh, and also--the Quiet Game almost always works!  Whenever I say those magical words, "One, two, three, four, Quiet Game!"  I am guaranteed at least a couple of minutes of no whining, complaining, shouting, squealing...you get it! So use it whenever you need to!

7. Once you arrive at your destination and settle into your room, take at least a 20-30 minute rest.  If there is still time left in the day to do any sight-seeing or fun activities, you will need to recuperate as much as you can from the drive.  Of course, since we are often fatigued no matter how much rest we do get, you will most likely still feel it when you are up and moving about again, but that little bit of a rest could mean the difference between enjoying your family and wanting to cringe every time they speak.  (It ain't easy being a spooned!)

8.  Throughout your trip, plan times that you will be back in the hotel for downtime if you can.  The kids need the rest as much as you do (even if they don't want to admit it!).  I can't always get a nap in when we travel, but I have to have rest time planned into each day.  Sometimes that might mean just sitting down on a bench at a park or attraction for 15-20 minutes several times throughout the day if it's not feasible to go back to our room.  But life has changed since being diagnosed with my illnesses, and in order for me to last throughout the day, our pace for sight-seeing is no longer break-neck.  It might mean that we cannot do everything we'd like to do at our destination, but that's okay.  The point is to enjoy your family, experience new things together, and see the world. That doesn't mean that you have to kill yourself doing it!  You will be of no use to your family when you return home if you completely overdo it while you're away.

9.  The kids are probably going to want to take in all of the sights and activities that are energy-consuming for you.  But that doesn't mean you cannot choose an activity or two that is less physically-exhausting.  I find that when I plan activities for the children that are lower-key, mixed in with the exciting, all-consuming, physically-draining ones, it makes it less exhausting for them, too.  And they appreciate those moments just as much, when we are sitting in a park watching the squirrels, or next to the ocean/a lake/a stream breathing in the smells and relaxing to the sounds of the water.  Just as kids need to learn how to be "unplugged" from electronics, they also need to learn to just "be"...in nature, in the moment, with us, in our world...without the "whatarewedoingnext" mentality we've come to know and expect in our culture today.

10.  If you are able to, I highly recommend scheduling at least one down day right after you return from your trip.  Don't make any major plans to do ANYTHING!  And if you can, try to enlist the support of family or friends to help with the kids that first day you return home.  You will most likely need to rest quite a bit and the vacation laundry may have to wait a day or two, but it will all get done eventually.

If I think of more tips, I will come back to this post and edit it to include them, but for now, that's all, folks!  Do any of you have tips you could add to the list?  Please share them in the comments below!

Exhaustedly yours,
Marathon Momma

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