Travel can be difficult, if not outright impossible, for anyone with fibromyalgia. I personally prefer to drive, because that way I don’t have to deal with TSA. Below are the special routines I’ve developed for myself to make that process a littler smoother and less chaotic for me. I also have specific routines that help make a road trip more feasible without putting my body through too much strain.
Stopping every 1.5-2 hours on a road trip to stretch and massage my legs and shoulders helps to keep adhesions (knots) at bay. I also tweak my “normal” med dosages (amount AND timing) to accommodate higher pain levels during travel.
“Cheap motel? What was I thinking?!”
Avoiding certain foods (very spicy, or anything that has a remote chance of causing gas, for obvious reasons) and including more fruits and vegetables a few days before travel helps make travel easier on my body. I also try to clear as much of my schedule as possible a few days before so I’m a little more well-rested for the trip.
If I know we’ll be staying at a hotel that might not have a great bed/pillow arrangement, I bring a pillow, and sometimes a spare blanket, too!
During a trip, I sometimes have to schedule in some down time so I can actually enjoy the trip. My fiance and I have started to get really good at building in a balance of activity + restful activities during our trips, which also helps to reduce MY stress with it all!
-My Rx meds and daily supplements go in one gallon-size ziploc bag. If I have a med planner to take with me, I seal that in another ziploc, roll it up, and stick it in the bottom/side of the first gallon ziploc bag so it doesn’t fly open (this way, even if the med planner DOES open up, the pills aren’t going very far). Nothing worse than playing “medication roulette” in an airport bathroom!
- Any OTC products, like Biofreeze, ibuprofen, knee brace, etc., go in a second gallon ziploc. Both of these bags will need to come out for x-ray/hand inspection (you just have to ask TSA for a hand-inspection of your stuff if you don’t want it going through x-ray). Keeping the OTC stuff used “as needed” separate makes it easier to find if I’m in the middle of an airport and start having muscle spasms in my ribcage or something. Medical items are NOT limited to the 3.5 oz rule that toiletries are limited to. So, take that 6oz bottle of Biofreeze with confidence! Just make sure it’s clear somehow that it’s a medical item. In my case, I bag the non-prescription stuff up in the same way I bag the Rx stuff. So far, I’ve not had any problems with that.
- Pack any toiletries I probably won’t need during the flight (like a razor) in my checked bag, if I’m checking anything. Keep toothbrush, toothpaste, contact solution (this one actually goes in one of my gallon-sized ziploc bags since TSA classifies this as MEDICAL), and anything I might need for the first 24 hours after I arrive, should my luggage get lost. These toiletries (and lip gloss, lotion, etc from my purse) go in a quart-sized bag. These also have to come out for security. (In other words, when I get to security, I have three ziploc bags to pull out of my carry-on.)
-I bring an empty Nalgene bottle with me. That way I can fill it up on the other side of security without worrying about if I’m going to drop that flimsy paper cup from Sbarro’s OR what I’m going to do for liquid if I need to take a pill in between beverage service on the plane, particularly if it’s during a period of “rough air.”
Take that, $5 bottle of airport water!
-When I pack my carry-on, I make sure these items (plus wallet/ID/boarding pass) are towards the top of my bag, so that when I get to security, I just have to unzip my carry-on, pull them out from the top, and put them in a plastic bin for x-ray.
-Once I get through security, I re-arrange my carry-on so that whatever I’m reading/listening to on the plane is easier to find, which sometimes means sticking my earbuds in my pocket or wrapping them around my phone.
-I usually have a lightweight change of clothes in the bottom of my bag, and that stays in the bottom since I’m less likely to need that. That usually also lets me layer more or less if I need to. I try to stick a light sweater in there, too.
- I also keep some kind of healthy-ish snack with me- things that I know my stomach handles well. Trail mix, dried fruit, a cookie, etc. My dietary wants/needs seem to change a bit when I fly. For example, if I’ve got a layover and need to eat, I do better with really soft stuff that *doesn’t* have probiotics in it, like ice cream. For whatever reason, probiotics make my IBS flare up when I fly, either shortly before, during, or shortly after. So, no yogurt for me.
- Purse: some trips I have kept my purse separate from the rest of my carry-on stuff, but I find it’s easier to manuever through an airport if I can pack the contents of my purse in my carry-on, especially if it’s a long flight. Sometimes this means packing the purse itself in my checked bag, but keeping the contents in my carry-on.
Key things to know about flying with a chronic illness:
If you don’t want to go through those body scanners, you can request a pat-down instead. They will still use the magnetic wand on you unless you have a specific reason why they can’t (like a pacemaker). If this is the case for you, make sure you have some kind of documentation showing that you have a pacemaker. Your cardiologist should know what you need. It’s just not worth the risk! It is up to you to decide whether you want the pat down or the x-ray. Neither is really a good option for someone with Fibromyalgia, but those seem to be the options that TSA has given us.
TSA allows you to take anything through of ANY quantity, as long as it is MEDICAL.
So, if you have a dysautonomia issue (POTS, etc) and you need to keep a specific formulation of a rehydration solution with you, you can bring it through security. It does need to be in the original bottle/packaging. And to be safe with something like that, I’d have a doctor’s note, pharmacy info (from the pharmacy, if it’s an Rx) with it. As noted above, TSA considers contact solution to be a medical necessity, so you’re actually not limited to just a 3.5 oz bottle. I’ve actually taken huge containers of powdered medical food through without a problem (think 60 oz). Just a few weird looks from other passengers. Meh.
All medications HAVE to be in the original bottles. I’ve never had a problem with pills in a med planner (technically, I don’t think they’re supposed to let those through, but I could be wrong on that), but I also make a point to put the Rx bottles in the same clear plastic bag as the med planner. If you get super-huge bottles for 3-months worth of meds at a time, you can ask your doc to write a script for however many pills you’ll need during the trip + a few extra in case of emergencies. Obviously, there might be some insurance authorizations required here for extra fills. I’ve had doctors prescribe the same drug at half dose for me before specifically for a trip- that usually gets around the insurance pre-authorization/extra fills issue. It also gives me more flexibility with dosing if the normal 20mg dose of Flexeril is not enough for the added stress of travel. Just be sure that you have a conversation about that kind of thing with your doctor before your trip!
If you think you’ll be fine without a wheelchair, but then get to security and feel sick, let somebody know. TSA CAN wheel you through security if you really need it. You can always ask for a wheelchair at any point during your travel, whether you’ve requested it ahead of time or not. If you know you’ll need a chair, note that on your reservation (there’s usually a box to check), and call the night before/morning of to confirm that someone will be able to meet you with a chair when you arrive at the airport. That person will also escort you through security, at no charge. It is, however, appropriate to tip your wheelchair wrangler.
Do you have other travel tips? Let us know! Join us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/120979651274630/ *
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