Over New Year, I flew out to Northern Ireland to stay with a close friend and her family. It was the first time, travelling alone, since being diagnosed with gastroparesis and Addison’s Disease so there was a fair amount of anxiety on my behalf and a lot of anxiety on my mum’s behalf.
Travelling with chronic illnesses, or any long term conditions can be challenging and requires a great deal of organisation. Gone are the days of booking a flight and jumping on a plane for an adventure (I never did that anyway). So, here are my top tips to make travelling with a chronic illnesses a bit easier.
- Get medical proof. Because I was going to be travelling with anti-sickness injections and emergency steroid injections, I needed a letter from my GP to explain why I had needles and what the slightly suspicious white power was that I was carrying. Travelling out of England, security were very cautious with my medication and closely examined the various elements of it, which leads me onto my next point…
- Leave extra time. But don’t do what I did and take the extra time to a whole new level and arrive at the airport two hours before bag drop even opens, because you honestly will lose the will to live. The extra time will allow for any additional cautiousness from airport security staff and will mean that you’re not rushing around, trying to find the right departure gate.
- Pay for hold luggage. Whilst I don’t regret paying to check my luggage in, I really resent having to pay £50 for a 21kg bag. I didn’t have a choice in checking in my bag, I was travelling with 14+ bottles of nutritional supplement drinks and they would have taken up all of my hand luggage allowance. And that’s not even considering getting all that liquid through security. Price aside, I can’t stress enough how much easier it was, getting through the airport and being on the plane, not having to consider having luggage with me. Pulling luggage around can really hurt my joints, so I was able to reduce the risk of dislocations or additional pain.
- Make sure you have “friendly food” with you. I use the term “friendly food” because some people, like me, have a restrictive diet and finding food in an airport that I’m able to eat can be challenging. Unless you’re able to eat chocolate and crisps or fast food, having your own food with you makes life much easier.
- Carry more medication than is normal. My outgoing and return flights were both delayed and I don’t even want to consider trying to battle through traveling without sufficient pain meds.
- Consider special assistance in the airport. Personally, special assistance isn’t something that I feel that I need at the moment and I hate the idea of relying on a member of staff in the airport to get me places. However, airports have a system whereby people with invisible illnesses or disabilities can get a lanyard with daisies on. This alerts airport staff that you might need assistance or help, without you having to go into a spoken essay about the reasons why.
- Talk to cabin crew. Although I was on a very short flight, my body doesn’t respond very well to flying, which when combined with anxiety, means that flying isn’t an enjoyable experience for me. I had my first asthma attack on a plane and cabin crew knew what was happening and how to help, but going into an adrenal crisis is less common, so simply saying to the cabin crew that I have Addison’s, my medication is in my bag and what they should do, made me feel much calmer.
- Book flights at sensible times. This might mean paying slightly more, to fly at a civilised time, but it’s kinder on my body and let’s be honest, no one wants to be leaving the house at 4.30am to transfer to the airport.
Let me know if you have any tips to make travelling easier.