Traveling While Chronically Ill: 10 Fool-Proof Hacks To Vacationing While Ill

If you’re newly chronically ill – or even a long hauler but you’ve never vacationed since you’ve been sick, you may think there’s no way you’ll be traveling while chronically ill. I have good news though, it can be possible to take a trip while chronically ill and I’m going to share my travel tips for chronically ill people and how to enjoy your vacation despite being sick.

Traveling while Chronically Ill

traveling while chronically ill

Your 10 Travels Tips 

1.Travel locally

Consider traveling no further than 4-6 hours from home in a vehicle – or a “quick” plane ride. I’ve found the longer the trip to get to my destination the worse I feel once I get there. Fatigue, pain, and migraines tend to flare quickly and easily for me and for many others with chronic illness while traveling and this hack has really helped me in getting the most out of my trip. (It’s also nice to be closer to home in case of emergency and I need to get back to my doctors and bedroom.)

I understand that not everyone lives in an area close to fun vacation destinations and this tip won’t work for everyone. The shorter the trip, or if you can even break the trip up, the better your chance of not hitting a major wall during the traveling.

  1. Don’t drive more than 4-6ish hours in total
  2. OR, don’t drive more than a few hours at a time without a break
  3. Fly short distances if possible. Long flights will possibly be very stressful on the body.
  4. Rest as much as possible during the commute

travel tips for chronically ill

2. Sit back and be the passenger

Traveling while chronically ill can be tricky but it is doable for many people. If you’re going to drive to your destination, I would advise being the navigator OR simply be responsible for nothing but laying back enjoying the scenery. Let your vacation partner take on the responsibility of driving or at least the bulk of it.

If you’re more comfortable driving the vehicle, and you’re well enough to do so, I would recommend stopping at least a few times along the route for a break. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, eat a little something, and rest when needed.

  1. Be the passenger
  2. Take breaks along the way
  3. Stay hydrated and eat well

3. Bring your gear

If you get migraines bring your sunglasses, wear a hat to block the sun, bring your meds or whatever helps you should a migraine occur. If you have bad back pain, wear a heating pad and bring a small pillow. If you’re fatigued, start the day with a good meal, fully rested from the night before. Think about the drive and what you may need to keep yourself not only comfortable but also as symptom free as possible.

  1. Think about your common symptoms and bring your pain hacks with you
  2. Think about bringing the comforts of home with you if possible – cozy clothes, pillow, throw blanket
  3. Don’t forget your meds or natural remedies in case you need them

traveling sick

4. Eat healthy

Don’t go crazy with the junk food. Even when eating out try choosing healthier options because a lot of chronic illnesses are triggered by inflammation and that can be brought on by the foods we eat.

Bring healthier snacks to the hotel and bottled water will be a great option for you in a pinch. For example, my husband likes his caffeinated beverages but my body can’t handle caffeine like a healthy person so I brought bottled water and a few sprites for that sweet tooth.

When you go out to eat try and stick as closely to your typical diet as possible. If you’re on an anti-inflammation diet do your best to stick to it. Don’t beat yourself up if you splurge, just be aware that sometimes we spoonies do react to naughty foods and drinks.

  1. Bring healthy snacks
  2. Bring healthy drinks
  3. Eat as close to your normal healthier diet as possible
  4. Don’t beat yourself up if you splurge


5. Rest as much as you need to and don’t feel guilty about it

If you suffer with pain or fatigue you’re going to need rest. There’s really no way around it. And guess what, you should never feel guilty about that. It isn’t your choice to be sick and it isn’t your choice to be limited in your energy levels . It is your choice how you handle it and it’s OKAY to rest. Even on vacation. Especially on vacation!

Plan your days around rest. If you’re making plans to go to the zoo, make sure you sleep in, have time for a healthy breakfast, take your time at the zoo, and then make time afterward to rest at the hotel or resort.

  1. Plan your days around rest breaks
  2. Take a nap at the hotel if you need it
  3. Sleep in if you need to
  4. Don’t feel guilty about rest

travel tips for the ill

6. Limit the days you’re gone

I’ve found that the longer the trip, the harder it is on my body. Find your sweet spot and stick with it. If, from experience, you know you can do 4 days away and be okay then stick with that even if others want a longer vacation. Or, another option would be 4 days and then the rest of the vacation everyone understands that you have to stay in bed at the resort. This will take some trial and error. You’ll probably end up on a vacation that’s too long and that’s how you’ll find the perfect length of vacation.

Depending on how sick your body is you may want to run the idea past your medical professional team. In my case, I’m just sick enough to interfere in my life and plans but not sick enough that I have a full medical team that I would need to be concerned about a vacation. You’ll know if you should run it past somebody.

  • Keep it shorter than you may ideally like if you were healthy
  • OR – stagger your activity and stay longer but be okay with resting when your body says so
  • Talk openly with your vacation partners about your limitations
  • REST as much as necessary
  • Talk to your medical team if you need to before leaving on vacation

7. Have a backup plan

If you’re traveling while chronically ill and things go array and you just simply cannot finish the vacation you will need a plan to get home early. This will involve being upfront with your fellow vacationers about the possibility that you’ll need to leave early and if you leave that means they leave with you. And if you flew somewhere it will be harder to have a backup plan, but you could look into options to get back home sooner if necessary.

You need to be okay with this and be okay with cutting the vacation short. Don’t feel guilty about it. Your health is important. IF your child, spouse, or loved one that is on the vacation with you needed to cut it short I’m positive you’d be okay with that and understand because you love them and care about their health. The same is likely true for them and they will likely understand. Be gentle with yourself!

8. Know where medical help is located

This should go without saying but you’ll want to know where the local emergency room is, or walk in clinic, JUST in case you need it. This is good advice no matter who you are, sick or not, just to be on the safe side should someone need medical attention.

9. Think like the chronically ill person you are at home

Think about your every day life. What tools do you use every day? Do you have a migraine hat you need to use? Ask ahead if there’s a freezer in the room, or available to you. Do you have special shoes to help with the pain when you walk, don’t forget them. Do you have a visor you need to keep the sun out of your eyes, bring it. Do you nap every morning for an hour, make time for that nap even on vacation. Think about the tools and hacks you use in your every day life and bring them when traveling while chronically ill.

I would also advise that you’re very clear and upfront with whomever is coming along with you on vacation that this isn’t going to look like a typical vacation. There will need to be downtime. There will need to be games played with the family in bed at the hotel while you recover from a busy morning out at the zoo. There will need to be a nap in the afternoon while your spouse takes the kids to the pool, or whatever. This will help some possible disappointment on other people’s parts when they have to work around your schedule because the reality is, for the best vacation possible for your body, you will need some special accommodations made. And guess what? That’s okay!

rest on vacation

10. And finally, HAVE FUN!

All this work, all these preparations, and special accommodations, don’t forget to unwind and enjoy your time away from home. Soak in the sun (if you can), take a short walk exploring wherever you are, meander around the beach, take a dip in the pool, breathe in and breathe out the beauty of your destination. Give yourself as much permission to have fun as you do to rest, and take care of your body. After all it isn’t every day you get to take a vacation!


travel hacks

Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional and these are just suggestions that have worked for me and my specific chronic illness body. Please consult with your medical professional prior to taking a vacation should you feel that is necessary. Full privacy and medical disclaimer here

XOXO, Nell