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As winter unfolds its snowy wonders, imagine yourself in layers, surrounded by a magical snow-covered forest. If you’re a fabulous 50-something woman with a love for nature and solo trips, you’re in for a treat. I have tons of solo travel with autoimmune disease experience, and I can teach you tricks and tips for managing your cold weather and lupus.

Planning a budget-friendly winter trip with Lupus might seem tricky, but fear not! I’ve been there and learned a thing or two about making it both budget-friendly and pain-free. Let’s dive into the art of preparing for a chilly adventure together.

Thinking back to my first winter journey – juggling a tight budget while managing Lupus symptoms. That’s when I discovered a game-changer: homemade pillows. Crafting them became my cozy ritual, a small act of self-love in the cold.

In this guide, we’ll explore budget-friendly stays, tips for pain-free sleep, and easy homemade remedies. Join me and unlock the secrets of winter travel with open arms. We’ll make this journey not just doable but a celebration of life, love, and the spirit of the solo female traveler.

Overcoming Adversity

If you count yourself out of cold climate travel because you’re afraid you might get sick, I understand how that feels. However, I offer you an alternative perspective to autoimmune cold weather travel. 

After having traveled to cold, rainy, damp climates, where I walked 3 to 4 hours a day, I found that it’s not only manageable, but great fun! 

As long as you take the necessary steps to ensure your health and comfort, you can expect an amazing time. Furthermore, you absolutely do not have to spend a lot of money. I have plenty of homemade tricks and tips to help you snag that cozy accommodation without breaking your budget. With determination and creativity, you can travel to cold climates as the autoimmune warrior you are! Read on for further details. 

Combating Stress

Stress is the number one offender for autoimmune disorders. Stress can come in the form of worrying and fear. To combat that and ensure your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, you need to prepare for any anticipated discomfort or pain. 

Need For Supportive Sleep

First on the list is sleep. Due to my Lupus and Sjogren’s, my back, neck, and limbs need comprehensive support while I sleep. Therefore, when I’m home, I sleep with one body pillow and an average of 4 to 5 pillows a night. Clearly that’s not going to make it on the plane.

In addition, if you’re familiar with  reasonably priced hotels, especially in Europe, big fluffy pillows can be hard to come by. That’s why I have devised a system to ensure I have all of the neck and body support I need when I am traveling. 

Plenty Of Pillows

The first thing you’ll gather for your carry-on luggage is two pillowcases, preferably ones that you love, adore and sleep with regularly. This comfort of home will go a long way when you’re on the road. However, these pillowcases will serve a special purpose. You will be creating pillows out of things you’ve  already packed. 

The first body pillow you will create is out of your winter coat. That’s the one given and relatively easy item to include for packing for winter travel. This homemade body pillow made from your coat is your first body pillow. Simply fold your coat into a rectangle and place it inside your pillowcase and fluff out any lumps.

Even for me as a small person, my coat fills up the space inside the pillowcase. 

This created from your winter coat makes a great body pillow to support your spine.

For your next body pillow and sleep support, you will use any bulky long sleeves or hooded sweatshirt you have already packed.

Once you have your sweatshirt / fleece in the pillowcase, next you’ll stuff your airplane pillow(s) in as well. Personally, I use two airplane pillows and travel with ease, even in economy when space is at a premium. The pillows fill up space on my lap and my torso.

When flying, this gives me a sense of safety, comfort, and security. As a trauma survivor, this is valuable.

If you don’t want to travel with two airplane pillows, you can fold up pants or shirts to fill up the extra space. The pillowcase creates a relatively uniform surface from the sweatshirt or fleece.

Other Winter Items

Of course, you know when you’re traveling, you will want to include hats and gloves. If going to a rainy climate, I recommend either a poncho or a thin pair of waterproof pants. Similar to track pants, they don’t take up a lot of space in a carry-on, and they will keep your legs warm and dry.  

Finally it’s worth it to pack legwarmers. These work best over top of leggins. The legwarmers can be easily fitted over two layers of leggings, which work well with sneakers. Since most of your time while traveling includes walking, you need shoes that support your spine. Even better, as an autoimmune warrior, you can appeal to your doctor for orthopedic inserts. In addition to the sneakers, your body alignment will be receiving excellent self-care.

Pain Management

Another significant area of autoimmune comfort, and safety is managing pain. Sometimes room accommodations come with a mini fridge, and sometimes they don’t. Rather than overspend and feel financial stress, I have a few tips that will alleviate pain in your body and in your pocketbook. 

No Mini Fridge

 If you have a mini fridge in your room, you may not need this step. However, I have traveled to accommodations in cold weather that don’t come with a mini fridge and this trick worked very well. There are always tips for accommodations that include a mini fridge, feel free to skip ahead.

Sponges and Baggies

For this strategy, all you need is two round sponges and a seal tight baggie. These can be used anytime you experience lupus pain due to flares. The most helpful for me has been in the middle of the night when my sinuses become inflamed and painful. 

sponges lupus pain
Round sponges work well to fit around your eyes

To use this trick, you will need a room with a window that you can raise. You do have options, such as asking for a bucket with ice to create cold.  Feel free to modify the suggestions according to your needs and travel experience. I typically make adjustments each time I travel as well because every destination is a little bit different than the one before. 

Your first step is to wet the sponges with cold water and leave a little extra water in the baggie. Take out most of the air, and seal the baggie. Place it on the windowsill, or if you have a bucket of ice, put it there. The cold air combined with the water in the sponges will create a nice cool pack to calm down any pain or stiffness. Although it is not quite as cold as a refrigerator or freezer, it is nonetheless refreshing on your 98.6° body temperature. Especially if it is in the middle of the night when your body temperature and skin is more sensitive to temperature change.  

I’ve used this during a winter trip to London and it worked perfectly. My hotel was cozy and friendly, but since it was London, affordable did not include tons of extra amenities.

Once your body has transferred heat to the sponges and they are no longer as cold, place the sponges back in the bag to dip them in the cold water again and repeat the process. 

Water Bottles

Another way to capture cool on the road and you don’t have a refrigerator or freezer is to simply place two disposable water bottles in your carry-on. Keep them empty so they’ll be very light and not  take up much space. One will be 8 ounces while the other will be 12 or 16 ounces.

water bottle pain mangement
Any 12 oz water bottle works well

The way to make use of this strategy is to run cold water into each bottle and place it on the windowsill overnight. Water bottles are the perfect size for neck stiffness and headaches.  

water bottle pain management
An 8 oz water bottle fits snugly for sinus relief

Remember you have makeshift pillows to support the cold pack water bottles and to maximize placement.  One last tip, don’t forget to request at least one extra pillow upon check in. Once when I asked for an extra pillow she gave me too. You never know.

 The larger water bottle can be placed behind your neck and head in that perfect little crook. The smaller water bottle can be used to soothe the muscles between your shoulder and your neck. It will stay in place when you prop the pillows around it. 

Another perfect place for the small water bottle is on your eye sockets. Again it is not as cold as a refrigerator or freezer, but it is cool and refreshing. You will find relief from discomfort, and it will calm you knowing you have what you need for your health. 

Accommodation With Refrigerator

Here is a trick I learned when I was on a trip in Barbados. It involves making your own ice packs. All you need is a hand towel, a seal proof baggie, and a freezer.


This is a pretty simple and straightforward and worked great when I was in Barbados. All you need to do is take one or two hand towels and run them underwater. Place them in the baggies, and then place them in the freezer. In the morning of course they will be kind of stiff, but once you place them on your body they will soften up and provide relief for stiff joints. This is great because most gel ice packs must be in a checked bag, and since my health can cause fatigue, I prefer carry-ons. I am usually exhausted at departure and arrival from a trip, and waiting for a checked bag is too much for my body.

Heating Pad

It’s always a good idea to make space for a heating pad when traveling. They are easily transportable and are simple for pain relief for lots of body part stiffness.

Other Basic Essentials

Dress in layers to regulate body temperature and protect yourself from the cold. Pay attention to breathable fabrics to avoid overheating.

Cold weather can be dehydrating, so be sure to drink plenty of water. Hydration is crucial for overall health and helps support your immune system. My all time favorite water bottle is Nalgene. I use the narrow-mouth, 32 oz because I love that the spout is not too big. In addition, the screw top opens and provides a convenient carabiner-like device to attached to my backpack and luggage. Finally, when I refill it three times I know I’m done.

author's teddy bear

10 Quick Tips For Cold Weather Travel And Lupus

  1. Pack nutritious snacks and meals to maintain a healthy diet. Include foods rich in vitamins and minerals to support your immune system, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

2. Engage in gentle exercises like stretching or yoga to keep your body moving and reduce stiffness. Walking all day, sleeping in a bed different than your body is used to, there are so many reasons an autoimmune disorder can experience stiffness. Stretching out your muscles is excellent self care.

3. Practice mindfulness, meditation, or deep breathing exercises to manage stress, which can be a trigger for autoimmune symptoms. Make an intention to practice patience with yourself and others.

4. Cold weather can be harsh on the skin, and autoimmune conditions may increase sensitivity. Use moisturizers and sunblock to protect your skin. In addition, wind can be the most damaging for skin.

5. Tailor your travel activities to your comfort level. Enjoy the beauty of the cold climate at your own pace, and don’t hesitate to take breaks when needed. Even if it is just sitting down for a rest.

6. Before engaging in outdoor activities, perform warm-up exercises to prepare your muscles and joints for the cold conditions. Since there are factors such as walking for hours or not sleeping in your own bed, autoimmune joints might be extra stiff. Gentle stretching is the best prevention.

7. Make your living space cozy and comfortable. This can positively impact your mood and contribute to a sense of well-being. I always travel with my teddy bear, and the response from those around me is totally heartwarming.

8. Don’t leave your mental health self-care at home! Pack your journal and if you have inspiration, do a therapy session.

9. Get ready for a winter adventure full of budget wisdom and self-care warmth!

10. Remember to listen to your body, be flexible with your plans, and prioritize self-care throughout your journey. Safe travels.

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