Tips for a Vacation with Kids and Lupus
Years ago, I heard someone say that going on vacation is just going out to eat in different cities. I disagreed with them for many reasons, but mainly because I love to see new things when I travel. But now, when most of my friends have families, I hear people saying that going on vacation is just taking care of your kids in a different city. That's one I agree with.
Taking care of kids on vacation does change the nature of a vacation, but it can still be fun. But what about when you have to take lupus with you on vacation? I always want to leave my lupus behind because it tends to make things difficult, but there are ways to minimize the burden of lupus on a vacation.
Ask for support from others
Having help is always a good idea when you live with lupus - no matter what you’re doing. For our most recent trip, we prioritized getting help with our kids while we packed up and loaded the car. I also had help the day after we came home so that I could rest since it’s common for me to flare in the days after vacation.
My husband and I also asked for help in preparing for our trip. This was our first vacation with 2 kids (well, the first one since the second kid was past the newborn stage) and I was worried about how traveling can bring out stress. That stress often leads to fighting which tends to flare up my lupus, so we made a plan with our counselor on how to better understand each other and work together relationally throughout the trip.
If we had the money, we’d travel to one of those all-inclusive resorts that provide childcare for a few hours a day. Since our budget is much smaller, we let our oldest child’s favorite TV show help us out a lot more than usual. We also were able to have a family member visit twice and help with our kids.
The biggest help I had during the trip was my strong partner. Without my husband, I wouldn’t be able to travel far or do hard things with my kids during this season.
Planning, planning, planning
I often spend a lot of time brainstorming before a trip. I think about the space we are staying in and what we might need to make it safe for our children. I make a packing list. I think about what foods will be easy (my go-to is sandwiches). I pack paper plates and plastic silverware (even though it breaks my environmental heart a little) because it will make things easier on my body.
Before kids, I would plan by creating long itineraries with our must-do's. Now I plan to work through questions like, which toys can we take that will not roll underneath the furniture? What activities should I take along for the car ride to minimize whining? Which order do we need to pack things in? The pack-n-play needs to go last, but it takes up a lot of space.
The bottom line is that more planning will likely lead to an easier trip.
Accomplish things little by little
I pack a little bit every day the week before our trip. Living with lupus means I have to pace myself, even when it comes to vacations. Now that there are 4 people in our family, there are so many things to pack – especially for a trip that includes water activities.
I try to keep things clean(ish) in the house and stay on top of the laundry. That way, when it’s go-time, I can pack without being slowed down by regular chores. When you have lupus, keeping up with chores can feel like a constant battle. I try to win it using baby steps.
Built-in recovery time
Try planning a rest day if you’re going on a longer vacation. For me, a long vacation is usually more than 5 days. In 2018, we took a 10-day trip to the Caribbean, and I planned a rest day for day 6; I believe it's what kept me from flaring.
An alternative is planning self-care for your trip. Additionally, make sure you have methods of pain relief with you, like heating pads, flare meds, or ice packs. Or book a place with a nice tub.
I crashed pretty hard every afternoon of our recent trip. My husband knows this is what typically happens with me and was able to plan for it. Communicate your needs to the person you're traveling with because you know best what your body needs to recover. You’ll feel better if you give your body the type of rest it needs.
Measuring vacation successes differently
Was everyone fed? Did you laugh and spend time together? Then you had a successful vacation.
Who cares if you forgot the tray for the highchair? (Okay, I cared a little.) You can purchase another one or get creative. Vacation does not mean things have to be perfect.
Traveling with kids and lupus is difficult, but it is possible. I really enjoyed our vacation. Sure, I wish we could have done more or done some things differently, but I'm trying to focus on the positives. The fact that we did it at all is a huge triumph.
It also helps to remember that this is just a season. My kids will get older, they will need less help, and hopefully, I’ll find new and better ways to manage my lupus.
One last tip: don’t forget to take your medications on vacation with you!
Have you written a letter to your local congress representative to advocate for lupus research and education funding this year?