Traveling with Fibro

The idea of jet-setting anywhere might be the last thing on your mind. But imagine lounging poolside at a Hawaiian resort, shopping and sightseeing in a historic town, or simply visiting special friends. When you're sick, a vacation getaway can be just what you need to alleviate your stress.

Having fibromyalgia doesn't mean you have to stop traveling. It simply means you'll need to plan carefully so you'll remember your medications and any other special devices you use. It means strategizing, so that you don't overdo it and tire yourself out. It might also mean adjusting your vacation plans a bit so that you don't sap your energy. Belinda, for instance, began making plans for her trip months in advance, knowing she wanted to go hiking.

To celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, Belinda and her husband chose to go to Hawaii. She knew she wanted to go hiking. To prepare her body, Belinda began doing some gentle weight training with a skilled trainer, who knew about fibromyalgia. But she also knew that she'd have to conserve her energy if she wanted to survive the hike.

She resisted the urge to stop in California and spent the first two days in Hawaii recovering from the flight. And when she got home, she made sure to schedule nothing the first few days, except a hot stone massage.

As Belinda demonstrates, you can enjoy traveling, so long as you plan ahead. Plotting for a successful trip can make all the difference in how you feel before, during, and after your travels.

Travel by Plane or Train

Traveling is easier than ever in this day and age. But for someone with fibromyalgia, it may seem daunting. If you're planning to fly or take a train, make reservations early. Consider requesting your seat assignment when you book the flight. Ask for seating that provides more legroom, such as the first seat or one in an exit row. If possible, avoid peak times of the day, like the morning or late afternoon, when airports and train stations are busiest.

Also, try to book a nonstop direct flight to avoid the inconvenience of transferring to another plane in an unfamiliar airport. If you have no choice, find out how long it will take you to get to your connecting flight. Then request additional time between your flights when booking your ticket or make arrangements to get there by way of an electric cart.

When traveling, always dress comfortably, especially when it comes to footwear. Long lines are common at airports. If possible, arrange to preboard the plane or train. Most airlines will allow passengers with disabilities to board in advance. Ask your doctor for a letter if you think you'll need to convince airport personnel of your disability. And don't hesitate to ask for help. Some airports provide electric carts or trams that will take you to the gate.


Steer clear of water in airplane bathrooms. Studies by the Environmental Protection Agency have found that the water from the tap of an aircraft bathroom is contaminated with disease-causing organisms. So carry a bottle of drinking water with you in your carry-on luggage. After using the toilet, wash with soap and water, and then apply an antibacterial gel.

On the flight or train, always keep medications and other personal items with you in the event there is a delay or your luggage is lost. Also, be sure to bring along some food and a bottle of water, especially if you need it to take your medications. That way you're not stuck relying on the airplane attendants to serve you when you need to take your drugs. You're also not forced to navigate a bumpy train to get in line at the cafeteria car.

No matter how you travel, make time to get up and walk around. Do some simple range-of-motion exercises if you can. Booking an aisle seat can make this much easier.

Travel by Car

If you do wind up driving to your destination, be sure to build in time for rest stops. Don't sit in a car for more than 30 to 60 minutes at a time, depending on the severity of your condition. Pull over at rest areas, picnic parks, or gas stations, and walk around.

If you do drive, make sure to adapt your vehicle to maximize your comfort. Install special wide-angle side and rear-view mirrors to increase your field of view without having to twist and turn around in the driver's seat. Use a cushioned seat belt for more shoulder comfort. Cover your steering wheel in sheepskin so you can use a looser grip. If you're renting a vehicle and can afford it, choose a van, so that you can get up and move around periodically.

To provide added support and pain relief, use pillows and cushions. Cervical collars can help lessen neck pain, while a lumbar pillow can provide lower back support. You can also use cushions for sore hips and backs.

Strategies for Any Trip

Whenever you travel, research your destinations, and zero in on the activities you want to do. Call the hotels ahead of time and find out the kinds of amenities they have. For instance, if you enjoy water exercises, you might want to find out if they have a pool or whirlpool. You might also want to find out whether they have a blow dryer, laundry facilities, or other amenities, so you don't need to pack anything extra.

Always travel as lightly as possible. Plan to do laundry on your trip and to purchase some items at your destination so you can minimize your packing. Lightweight luggage on wheels is a must, as it is easier to transport in busy hotels and airports.

Before you take off, be sure to let your traveling companions or hosts know that you need time to rest and relax upon your arrival and throughout your trip. Be honest about how much activity you can really handle. Always take time to rest. The last thing you want is a fibro flare-up to ruin your excursion.

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