I’m something of a travel-bug. I like to go on trips when I can. Usually I prefer short, semi-roughing-it excursions that are not too far away or a local stay-cation type of trip (which, in New York City, can be great fun), but sometimes you get the chance to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip – like I’ll be doing at the end of November. Yes, dear readers, I’m going on a trip to China! And, unsurprisingly, the to-do list just for my health stuff is enormous. If you’re planning a longer trip, here are some of the tips and tricks I’ve been using, that may save you a bit of a headache down the line:
- Start early. Leaving everything for the last-minute is a guaranteed way to drive yourself crazy – not to mention a great way to forget some important detail in your rush. So, start as early as possible.
- Organize yourself. Make a list of tasks to do and post it somewhere easily accessible. Add notes to it when new items come up. One trick that’s made my life easier – for phone calls, I write the number I need to call right on the list. That way, when I’m ready, I don’t have to go hunting for the number.
- Don’t do it all at once. Try to knock out only two or three tasks a day instead of trying to do everything over the weekends. Most likely, you’ll just exhaust yourself, stress yourself out and already be starting your trip on a bad foot.
- Research, research, research. Hop on the internet and look up everything you can find about your destination. Big topics to look out for: any shots you may need, any potential issues with customs and your medications and any accommodations you might require. As a general rule of thumb, any places that have flexible accommodations for the elderly or disabled (even if you’re neither) are pluses – they’ll be more likely to have more space and details like handlebars in the shower that can be helpful to people with lupus.
- Tour or solo travel? Each has its pros and cons. Going solo allows you sleep in and tour later in the day if mornings are not your friend, lets you book the best airline seats and fully customize your itinerary to match your wants and health level. Tours, on the other hand, do all the planning for you, leaving you to just sit back and enjoy and there’s usually only one person (your guide or contact) who you can go to if something’s not up to par. Neither is better than the other – it boils down to what you need and what will really make your trip easier and more pleasant.
- Check alternative places for travel insurance. Your current medical insurance might have some international coverage, as well as your tour company, but another place to check is your credit card company – some may offer coverage if you paid for the trip using their card. For lupus patients, travel insurance is a huge plus – if you get a major last-minute flare, you’ll be able to recoup most of what you paid. Medical coverage in whatever country you go is also important – just in case.
- Over-prepare. Even if you don’t need notes from your doctors, try to get them anyway. Make sure you bring more medication than you think you might need, pack proper sun protection, etc. Also consider things such as a folding walking cane or special shoes – anything that will not only protect your health, but also make you comfortable.
- Keep a travel folder of all your printouts and information, including insurance details, contact information and medical records – that way, in the event of an emergency, all your documents will be in one, easily accessible place.
While all this might seem like a hassle (and to some extent, it is), don’t let it stop you from seeing the world and enjoying yourself. By taking a slow, step-by-step approach to planning and being a little extra careful, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed and be as well prepared as possible.
I’m looking forward to putting some pictures of my trip here once I get back!