The weather is slowly warming up in my part of the world, which means vacation season is almost upon us. Whether you are taking advantage of spring break or looking ahead to wonderful summer vacations, traveling with a chronic illness or disability is a complicated affair!
Careful planning beforehand is essential. But in addition to planning, I find it helpful to have a few must-have items on hand to make the trip go a little smoother. Here are my travel must-haves.
1. White Noise
Sleep is so very essential, and if you’re like me, you likely find yourself needing to nap at unusual (even inconvenient) times of day. Whether you are staying in a hotel, a vacation rental, or with family or friends, chances are you will not have the opportunity to sleep in an empty house. So it’s helpful to bring along some kind of white noise to deaden some of the sounds around you and ensure good rest.
Years ago when I worked night shift, my dad bought me this white noise machine. It is amazing. I’ve given it an awful lot of use in the past decade, and it still works like a dream! It’s compact and durable, too, so it can fit easily in your suitcase.
If you prefer not to mess with a separate machine, consider installing a white noise app on your phone. I usually fire up the White Noise Lite app when I’m napping on vacation. It’s free and gives me a variety of sounds to choose from. I typically put my phone somewhere near my head and add some ear plugs, and I nap like a baby! Which brings me to my next must-have…
2. Ear Plugs
It’s just so hard to control ambient noise on vacation, so along the lines of white noise, I always travel with ear plugs. They’re small, portable, and discreet (meaning you can sleep on the plane, if you want, without the world knowing you’re blocking them out!). I seem to have oddly-shaped ear canals and have a hard time finding plugs that fit me well. These seem to do the trick for me. They’re soft and moldable, aren’t so big they make my ears ache, and block most of the noise while still letting me hear if there’s an emergency.
3. Wrinkle Releaser
Since I often spend much of my vacation napping, sitting, or in a wheelchair, my clothes tend to give me away. No one wants to iron, of course, and it’s just not always possible to pack all wrinkle-resistant clothes. So I always travel with a small bottle of wrinkle releaser. This stuff is amazing: a couple of spritzes, a tug at the hem, and all the wrinkles disappear! It works wonders when my kids have packed for themselves and wadded all of their clothes up into a backpack, too (not that that ever happens in my family!).
4. Foldable Cane
If you have varying levels of mobility or fluctuating symptoms, it pays to plan for the worst. Even when I’m in a relatively good stretch, at the very least I bring a folding cane on every trip. The stress of travel, added exertion to see sights, altered diet, and impaired sleep almost always cause an uptick in my symptoms. It just gives me peace of mind to know I have back-up. If we’re heading out to explore a new place, it’s easy enough to throw it in the car or in a backpack so it’s close at hand when needed.
Similarly, if I know I will be visiting places that involve a lot of walking (museums, zoos, parks, etc.), I try to make space to bring my wheelchair. Some places offer wheelchair rentals, but they’re typically first-come, first-served, and include a fee. If you can manage it, it’s not a bad idea to have your own on hand. If it never gets used, great! But at least you have it ready.
5. Removable Grab Bar
Let’s be honest, most vacation accommodations are not the most disability-friendly spaces, unless you manage to book a fully-accessible place. For the rest of us, it takes a little creative thinking to make things workable. One way to improve safety in your accommodations is to bring along your own removable grab bar. These can attach to any surface such as tile, marble, etc., and are secured with suction (meaning they don’t leave behind any kind of mark or adhesive). They’re small and lightweight, so they’re easily portable. They may just give you that added layer of security and peace of mind as you step into and out of the shower or tub.
6. Handicap Placard
On my vehicle at home, I have a permanent disability license plate. But I also have a hanging handicap placard that we keep for my husband’s car, for when I’m out and about with him. Because I normally have parking permits one of those two places, it doesn’t cross my mind to remember to pack it when I’m traveling. But in the last year, I’ve been caught out on two trips without my placard: once when we traveled in a rental car, and once when I went on a girls’ weekend with my best friend.
Since trips often involve visits to tourist areas–or at the very least, involve extra walking, sight-seeing, and energy expenditure–it’s worth remembering to bring a handicap parking permit. Even if it just saves a few yards of walking, it’s energy expenditure that can be saved for something more valuable!
With those essentials securely packed away, hopefully you are free to enjoy a carefree, relaxing vacation away from home! What are your must-haves for travel?