I started to write this blog post while we were away this past week, and then got side-tracked and didn’t have the chance to come back to it until now! Rather than editing it, I will leave it mostly as is 🙂 We can just pretend I’m still in Quebec City writing this, ha!
Classes are officially over for the summer, and that means, I am now on semi-vacation, and Bart has the next week off of work! So, we decided to do an end of class trip to my home province, and we’re currently in Quebec City (the capital of Quebec) for 4 days. While packing, I was bending over, folding, walking to and from rooms in our house, and had to take a breather mid-pack to lay on the couch from the pain and fatigue – what a bummer! So, I thought this would be a good post to write, as I’ve had to learn the hard way my limitations while travelling, whether on short or long trips!
Those of us with fibromyalgia and chronic pain illnesses know the conflicting emotions when planning a trip or vacation. We are excited about getting to see family and new places and having new experiences. We dread the thought of hotel mattresses, having to sit for long periods of time, and not getting enough rest—all of which can create a terrible fibro flare, and all that while away from home.
If you plan ahead, the trip you have been looking forward to does not have to turn into the one you dread. Keep in mind, fibromyalgia will not take a vacation from you—so we cannot take a vacation from proper management of fibromyalgia or chronic pain illnesses! Here are my top tips for totally terrific traveling.
1)Extra Rest: Before, During and After
Travel requires more energy than everyday life, shrinking your available energy. If you don’t adjust your activity level to match the lesser energy, you risk a flare up of symptoms. The most common travel strategy I use is to rest: before, during and after a trip. Store up extra energy by taking extra rest before a trip (twice normal), limit symptoms during a trip by taking extra rest while away, and take whatever extra rest is needed after to bring you back to normal.
If I am going on a week long vacation, I plan for a two-week period. I make sure that I don’t take on any extra activities for a few days before and a few days after my trip. I also make sure that I pace myself carefully during the trip, resting during non-active times. After returning, I continue to take extra rest.
Day 1 after arriving in the afternoon on Friday, scallop and apple salad (delicious!) and a cappuccino. I shockingly did not get a crepe, Bart did, but I can’t find that pic (I did eat a few over the weekend lol).
2) Plan for pleasure, and to remember the good time you had
Peruse the travel brochures and decide on what experiences you would enjoy the most. Get pictures and videos of you having fun in nice surroundings. They will be a reminder of the great time you had and can help relax you on those “bad” days that may come after you get home.
3) Get your prescriptions and supplements stocked ahead of time
Don’t be caught without enough medications and vitamins right before you leave. If you need any refills, call your pharmacy or doctor 10 days before your trip. If you are using prescription pain medications, check with the country you are visiting to know if any special arrangements need to be made beforehand for a refill so you don’t get caught with a shortage.
My toiletries and makeup for the weekend:
4) Prepare to sleep with comfort
If possible, carry a foam pad or air mattress to cushion unfamiliar beds. Sometimes I travel with my own pillow as well. Doing this can be a life-saver, and a back-saver!
4) Adjust Your Expectations
Making mental adjustments is crucial. Don’t try to do everything you used to do on a trip – adjust your expectations to fit your body’s limits. For example, plan to stay in one place for a while, taking time to recover from travel before beginning sightseeing. Keep your schedule flexible to accommodate unforeseen events or higher than expected symptoms. Replace resentment of all you can’t do by focusing on what you can do.
5) Pace Yourself
Another common travel strategy is pacing: alternating of periods of activity with times for rest. To help you decide how to use your time, you can prioritize the activities you want to do, as mentioned in the example above. Take a rest day between active days or have a flexible schedule that allows more rest, if needed.
Enjoying a cold drink before our dinner at a French steakhouse:
Bart trying to understand the menu aka googling lol (I speak French but he does not):
6) Opt Out of Some Activities
If your travel companions would like to do more than you, you can agree to do some things together and let them do other things on their own while you rest. Sometimes I stay at the hotel and sit in the hot tub or relax and read, while others do some sightseeing, and then meet them later for dinner.
7) Use Creature Comforts
Ask what you need to be comfortable while traveling. I always carry a “Fibro Rescue Kit” a bag that contains my medications, supplements, water bottle, heating pads, bio-freeze and essential oils. I also ensure I have healthy snacks on hand. When flying longer than 1.5 hours, I bring a pillow and a blanket on the plane.
Our first crepe meal together – SOOOOO good. I introduced him to the butter and sugar crepe which is my favourite and I tend to make at home, and he actually loved it (no surprise with the amount of sugar they put into it – WAY too much!) As a side note – the majority of the meals we ate in Quebec City were not nutritionist approved and not the way we usually eat!
8) Ask for assistance.
If you need a room with a shower only and no bathtub, a room closer to the elevator, a helping hand up and down the bus steps, or someone to lift a bag into the overhead compartment—ask for it! Don’t be shy about asking for help or special accommodations.
9) Don’t seize up—do your stretches.
If you are doing a lot of traveling by plane or car, you may be required to sit for extended periods of time. If driving, stop every two hours for a 10-minute stretching break. If you are on a plane, take a walk to the restroom. You can also do some stretches in your seat. Stretch your arms and neck. Wiggle your toes and ankles. With your feet flat on the floor, lift your heels and tighten your calf muscles. Don’t forget to do your daily routine of stretches in the morning and before bed.
7) Sleep is NOT overrated
Enjoy your trip, but get the well-deserved rest and sleep you need. Enjoy the opportunity to rest and put your feet up rather than going all day and all night, if you have a chance for naps, take them. Get your eight hours of sleep and don’t cut yourself short. Come home from your vacation feeling rested, not like you need another vacation just to rest!
8) Your feet were made for walking, so take good care of them
Sore, swollen feet will take the fun out a trip fast. Ditch the flip-flops and wear good shoes. At the end of the day, pamper your feet by a nice soak, massage and lotion. Put your feet up and give them a rest. In the summer I walk in my Birkenstock sandals, in the fall I wear runners or comfy flats, and in the winter comfy boots.
Relaxing watching the crowds go by:
9) Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect to see it in a day
Don’t try to see it all, try to see it more fully. Look over what the daily options are and choose the ones that will be most meaningful to you. Spontaneity is fun, but planning your trip will help keep you from overdoing it.
We walked closed to 20k steps daily 🙂
10) Allow plenty of time.
Acknowledge that delays will happen. Don’t add to your stress by being booked too tight. Planes get delayed, trains get side-lined, and ships can take forever to debark. Build extra time into your schedule. Take a good book, some needlework, or your journal to fill in the time. Better yet, take a power nap and be ready for the next stop!
The good news is, I followed these rules while I was away last week, and I had an absolutely fantastic vacation! I slept well in the king size hotel bed with the air conditioning cranked on high (which drowned out Bart’s snoring!), I walked all day in Birkenstock supportive sandals, I took breaks when needed (and shockingly it was Bart who needed them more so than I did because he doesn’t do as well in the heat as I do), walking was great for my pain, because I slept well my fatigue and pain were at bay, and my mood was amazing because we were on vacation! Although I drank too much coffee, ate pastries and foods I shouldn’t have, I still had a great time, and my body didn’t suffer TOO much! Always have to follow the 80/20 rule!
Yesterday, I met with a new Naturopathic Doctor and had IV therapy and injections done for the first time, which I have to say have made a positive impact on me ALREADY! I will share more details on that in my next post. Stay tuned!
Happy Canada Day! 149 years living in a country that has served me quite well!