For many people, the holidays bring travel, whether to visit family, friends, or escape on a vacation. Nobody relishes the idea of sitting on a cramped plane, train, or automobile for hours on end, but for people with chronic pain, the rigors of traveling can become very uncomfortable.

Fortunately, by preparing ahead of time and prioritizing self-care, it’s possible to travel and have fun. Here are some tips to make life on the road a little more comfortable for those experiencing chronic pain.

1. Contact airlines, hotels, and other travel vendors ahead of time

Many companies offer special accommodations to people with chronic pain. If sitting on an airplane without reserved seating, call to request a place at the front of the aircraft, where you’ll be among the first to exit upon landing. If you have the ability to select your own seat, picking one in the front could simplify boarding and deplaning.

At the hotel, you might ask to have a room on the first floor, close to the front of the building, in order to minimize walking through hallways and up and down stairs. Even if you book through a third-party website, you should be able to call the hotel separately and request special accommodations. However, it might be best to book directly with the hotel to ensure maximum flexibility.

With car rental agencies, request a vehicle with an adjustable steering wheel to make driving more comfortable. You may also choose to reserve a roomier car, like a sedan, instead of a cramped sports car. This allows you to lie down in the back, or at the very least, have room to relax.

2. Pack accessories to maximize comfort

Special items like neck cushions, a lumbar support pad, or pillow, make it easier to relax while in the air or on the road. Bring cozy socks to keep the feet warm or a small blanket that’s not bulky but still thick enough to keep you warm.

3. Organize travel plans according to your chronic pain needs

If traveling by car, be sure to stop at least every two hours to stretch the legs and avoid cramping. This helps reinvigorate blood flow and helps to energize the body.

Similarly, if on a train, take advantage of the stops to hop off and walk around. Breathe in fresh air and do simple stretches to promote blood flow and reduce cramping.

If traveling by plane, you might book a non-stop flight, if possible, to reduce the stress involved with making connections, navigating delays, and potentially hurrying from one terminal to another amid the busy holiday travel season. In flight, it’s difficult to stretch the legs, but consider sitting in an aisle seat so you can rise and stretch the arms or walk to the restroom, just to walk.

If you typically feel pain in the morning or evening, you might even book travel plans around that, booking for those times when you feel good.

4. Prepare pills and vitamins

A week or so before leaving, count medications to ensure you’ll have enough for the duration of the trip. This gives you ample time to order refills if necessary, or buy more vitamins. Although you can usually buy vitamins on the road, some types are difficult to find, and it won’t be fun to waste your vacation searching for them. Taking enough for the journey will reduce stress and promote health on the road.

Prescriptions, of course, are more easily ordered ahead of time at your home pharmacy, so it’s best to be prepared.

5. Be selective with holiday activities

If you fatigue easily, it’s completely okay to tell family members that you’d rather not partake in a certain festivity. If there are two events coming up and you know that you’ll have energy for just one, consider prioritizing to avoid wearing yourself out.

Make sure to drink plenty of water while celebrating, even if it’s cold outside, to keep the body hydrated.

And if you’re in a new place with plans to sightsee, list all the things you’d like to experience in order of priority. If you feel tired or experience a flare-up of pain, deciding which activity to cut out becomes simpler with a prioritized list.

If you’re in the hands of an energetic relative who loves to plan long days exploring town, make sure to let that person know about your needs. You could drive separately so that if you feel the need to return home or to a hotel, it’s possible to leave while still allowing the others to continue sightseeing.

6. Maintain healthy lifestyle activities

Whatever lifestyle modifications you have adopted for your chronic pain condition, whether eating or avoiding particular foods, meditating, or exercising, try the best you can to keep these going while on the road.

Many hotels have workout facilities, and even five minutes of meditating in the morning can have a positive impact on the day.

Continuing to enjoy a good night’s sleep on the road is also critical since a solid night’s rest is a pillar of health. You might consider taking earplugs to block out unfamiliar sounds and promote a good night’s rest.

If you do enjoy new cuisines or unhealthy food, keep the portion sizes limited. Try to find the balance between celebrating and having fun with efforts to minimize pain. Not enjoying the moment and being overly militant will bring stress, but so will going overboard. That balance is different for everyone, so pay attention to your body and recognize its signals.

Generally speaking, try to eat at regular times to keep blood sugar levels even. Continue incorporating as much healthy foods into the diet as possible. When exploring and traveling, staying consistent with meal times can become difficult, but keeping a selection of healthy snacks with you helps.

In addition to snacks, bring other healthy food, such as healthy sandwiches or salads to eat on the road. Instant oats make a fast, wonderful, healthy breakfast. Airplane food and gas stations in remote parts of the U.S. tend to lack healthy options, so keep that in mind when making travel preparations.

What are your tips for managing chronic pain while traveling?

Image by Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr

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