Essential Guide for Summer Travel with Chronic Pain

Summer travel is exciting, but if you have chronic pain, you know it can be a struggle as well. Read our comprehensive guide to traveling with chronic pain.

guide for summer travel with chronic pain

Summer travel season is the perfect occasion to take time off from work and head out to find some fun. For those suffering from chronic pain, however, it’s not always that simple. You have to plan out medication, treatment options and forms of traveling that won’t aggravate your condition. That’s why we’ve put together a guide for summer travel with chronic pain – and just in time for your Memorial Day adventures!

Get yourself ready before you hit the road

Maybe you’re headed out on a road trip. Or maybe a cruise ship is in your sights. Wherever your adventures take you, there are crucial steps to take before traveling with chronic illness and painful medical conditions. 

Between planning your trip and then making sure your kids, home, work and everything else is organized before you leave, things can get very stressful. You don’t need to plan months in advance, but a little preparation can go a long way.

Here are some ideas to help you get organized: 

  • Pick up personal items from the store and refill prescriptions well in advance.
  • Start packing a few days in advance. Remember to pack a support pillow for the road (or for the long flights) and your travel insurance paperwork.
  • Commit to some extra stretching and workout routines to feel your best before you depart.
  • If you’re traveling by air and need assistance in the airports, call the airline ahead of time to ensure you will have wheelchair access.
  • If you’re booking hotels and car rentals, ask about accommodations better suited for people with chronic conditions. 

Summer Travel with Chronic Pain woman on plane with support pillow

All you’ll need to do is zip up your suitcase before you head out, and you’ll be ready to begin your adventure!  

Keep it light

Packing light is a critical component of our guide for summer travel with chronic pain. Vacation travelers have an overwhelming tendency to overpack before a trip. Remember that you’ll have to carry, push or pull every bag you pack at some point. Even wheeled suitcases can cause challenges for those living with chronic pain. They may have to be placed in overhead compartments, lifted upstairs and so on.

For this reason, it’s all comes down to packing efficiently. The general guideline for smart packing is to bring enough clothes for one week—if you’re traveling for that amount of time or longer. For shorter trips, you can be even more economical.

Consider these tips to help you keep it simple:

  • a couple of pairs of shorts or pants
  • 3-4 t-shirts or tanks 
  • a windbreaker or light jacket
  • 1-2 nice outfits for evenings out
  • 2-3 pairs of light, comfortable shoes (include crossovers that work well in both casual and more formal settings)

Summer Travel with Chronic Pain ideas for summer travel packing

Hack air travel to be more comfortable

These days, traveling by plane can be pretty unpleasant. The security process alone can be stressful to even the most seasoned travelers. Then you have to squeeze into tiny seats and not move for hours at a time. Even if your travel accommodations are in the most comfortable areas, “certain pressures and forces from awkward positions can result in restricted blood flow.”

There’s no way around these things, but there are ways to increase your comfort level:

  • Wear loose-fitting athletic wear to travel. It’s comfortable and adapts well to the cold environment on the plane.
  • If you’re flying coach, book an exit row seat for extra legroom. If you can’t get an exit row, a window seat will provide you with at least some extra room.
  • Bring a neck and back pillow with lumbar support.
  • Get up once an hour to stretch and move your legs. You can even stand in the galley for a few minutes, provided you don’t get in the way of the flight attendants.
  • Make sure to stay hydrated. Skip the in-flight cocktail or cup of coffee and ask for a bottle of water instead. You can also keep your energy up with convenient and nutrient-dense snacks like almonds and fruits.

Summer Travel with Chronic Pain woman with bag in airport

Prep your prescriptions

You don’t want to run out of prescription medication while traveling. That’s why it’s best to double up before you leave. The best assumption is that you won’t be able to access your prescriptions while traveling—at least without a doctor’s appointment or a trip to the hospital. Instead, make sure you have enough for your trip in advance.


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