9 Tips For Traveling Overseas With Lupus
Last updated: August 2023
Traveling overseas with lupus or any other chronic illness can be daunting. However, I believe we shouldn’t have to miss out on seeing our beautiful planet as long as we plan ahead.
Travel was a way of life before lupus
Travel was a huge part of my life pre-lupus. I was extremely fortunate as a child as I had amazing grandparents who loved to travel and would take me on lots of vacations overseas. I believe it was from them that I developed the same "thirst for travel," and I knew from an early age that I wanted to work in the travel industry. I was lucky enough to follow my passion, and I worked overseas in the Canary Islands and for various airlines in my younger years.
Lupus paused my travel plans
Once my health started to decline, I had to finish work. I remember thinking I’d probably be too unwell to travel overseas again – especially on an airplane, as it can be highly tiring even for the healthiest of people!
I remember I had my honeymoon booked to Greece. It had been booked a couple of years in advance, so I had no idea how much my physical health would have deteriorated at that time. The prospect of this terrified me, and we ended up canceling it. I felt so sad, but I knew I couldn’t cope at the time.
A few years passed, and I was really missing going abroad. I knew I had to try and see if I could manage it when I had an opportunity to go to Florida. I live in England, so I knew it was going to be a long journey, but it’s also one of my favorite places, so it was this that swayed me into taking a leap of faith!
Planning helps ease travel woes
Planning was definitely the key to my experience. I knew that I couldn’t manage the walking distances at the airport, so I arranged for ‘special assistance’ to meet me with a wheelchair when I arrived at the airport. I have to say this was the best thing I did. I was taken on board the aircraft and was met upon arrival. I didn’t have to wait in any long queues.
It might sound a little silly, but I shed a tear when I arrived at my hotel. I couldn’t believe that I’d made it. I’d spent so long feeling like lupus had taken away one of my passions in life (along with many others), and I felt like I’d made a small victory!
I had a wonderful vacation, and although I was exhausted, I knew it was possible. I still had to pace myself and plan, but that was no hardship.
Travel tips for people with lupus
I have since traveled to a few more countries, and I recently returned from Turkey, which is another personal favorite of mine. Due to my experience, I have compiled some tips that will hopefully help anyone considering traveling overseas with lupus:
- Create a buffer Allow a few days before you travel to rest as much as possible. This will allow you to conserve some energy.
- Book "special assistance" at the airport in advance. This will ensure you don’t have to worry about walking too far and standing in queues.
- Ensure you have packed your medication in your hand luggage or carry-on. This is so your medication can be easily accessible plus if your suitcase goes missing, you haven’t lost it.
- Speak to the cabin crew on the flight and make them aware if you are suffering from any pain or discomfort. They will help you.
- Research the country where you are going to and also make sure you check out accommodation to ensure it will be suitable for you; you don’t want lots of steps to climb. You may also require a fridge in your room for medication, so check if they will provide one.
- Look into a scooter rental for when you arrive if you feel like you need one. Many scooter rental companies will drop off and collect at your hotel.
- Look into what foods will be served at your chosen destination. I suffer from gluten sensitivity, so finding gluten-free options in Turkey was quite challenging. Here in the UK, companies such as Allergy UK will make up cards in your chosen language to show that you have a food allergy.
- Visit your doctor and have a chat. Suppose you’re concerned about blood clots or swelling due to flying. They may suggest taking low-dose aspirin or wearing compression stockings.
- Ensure you have good travel insurance which will cover pre-existing health conditions.
Planning ahead is definitely the key, but if you allow for this, you should be able to enjoy the vacation that you deserve!
Have there been things you have learned along your lupus journey that you wish had been explained to you by a healthcare provider earlier?