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Are you stressed out by the question of whether it is safe to solo travel as a female with autoimmune disease? I’ve been there. Traveling with autoimmune diseases is not only possible, but very easy once you get the hang of it. I’ve completed dozens of solo trips all around North America and Europe safely, youcan too. Here is your comprehensive guide to getting started on your solo autoimmune journey with ease.

First things first is to ensure your health and safety is to practice proper planning. Here is my comprehensive, step-by-step guide for the solo female traveler with autoimmune disease. As a Lupus and Sjogren’s Warrior (and various other chronic illnesses), I travel solo with ease thanks to many experiences and strategies I’ve developed along the way. This guide will teach you how to achieve the same success for safe and healthy travel with autoimmune disorders…even road trips in camper vans!

PREPARING FOR YOUR JOURNEY

If you have autoimmune disease, you must go over and above the average traveler to ensure you’re prepared for travel adventures. Before compiling a packing list or creating an itinerary, your first priority is to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. Discuss with them your details for travel and your concerns, if any. Don’t forget about preparing your mental health as well.

Have a pencil and paper ready (or your phone notes so you always have it with you) to jot down specifics. It’s good practice since in the moment it’s easy to forget the small things. Furthermore, traveling requires so many items to remember, just trying to recall them all can be stressful! So starting with an organized list is your first line of defense to prepare and remain calm.

doctor note taking
Take notes at your office visit

MEDICATION MANAGEMENT

After discussing travel plans, and determining that your health is stable for the trip, together you’ll create a system for your meds. It’s possible nothing needs to be adjusted. However, hearing their valuable advice and input will prevent any unforeseen circumstances. So what does medication management for a solo female traveler look like?

Before the departure

First, create a comprehensive list of all the medications you take, including the names, dosages, and frequency. This list should also include any over-the-counter medications and supplements you use.

pills on file
Keep a list of your medications and allergies readily available

Example

I keep a list of my diagnoses on my phone. In addition, I recorded the year of my diagnosis, list of all medications, and dosages on my phone at all times. My emergency contact person also has the information, so keep a list of your emergency contacts on your phone in useful too.

Next inventory and ensure that you have an adequate supply of prescription medications to cover the entire duration of your trip.  I always pack more doses than I need for my trip in the event that somehow my flight is canceled or any other unfortunate timing situations.

It’s also a good idea to keep your medications in their original prescription bottles to avoid any confusion. Pack them in your carry-on bag to prevent loss or damage. Don’t store them in checked luggage in case your luggage is lost!

If you’re traveling internationally, research the medication laws of the destination country. Some countries have strict regulations on certain medications, so make sure you’re compliant with their rules. Have a copy of your prescription, and if possible, a letter from your doctor explaining your medical condition and the need for your medications. This can be helpful during security checks or in case you need medical assistance while abroad. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

If you’ll be crossing multiple time zones, talk to your healthcare provider about adjusting your medication schedule accordingly. This is especially important for medications with strict timing requirements. Finally, a small, portable cooler will be useful if you require temperature-sensitive medications. Speaking of crossing time zones, make sure you take care of your mental health at the airport.

En route

 If you have any emergency medications (e.g., EpiPen), make sure they are easily accessible. You may want to carry them in a pouch on your person for quick access. Travel can be dehydrating, so be sure to drink plenty of water, especially if your medications have side effects related to dehydration.

Example:

Three Words: Reusable water bottle. It’s likely you already carry one, but don’t underestimate the dangers of dehydration and autoimmune disease. Like ever. Especially Sjogren’s Syndrome. So my experience and advice to you is to think of your Water Bottle as your best friend. Actually, I affectionately call mine, ‘Emotional Support Water Bottle’. Yes, I gave it a name. That’s how important staying hydrated during travel is to me.

My water bottle attaches to my suitcase so I am hands-free and don’t have to worry or stress about putting it down and leaving it somewhere. Seriously, keep your water bottle as close to you as your phone, and refill it often. Airports have filling stations and once you arrive at your destination, determine what water source will best suit your needs and stick to a drinking schedule.

Another Example (because drinking water and staying hydrated are super important)…

A trick I use to keep myself hydrated is to make sure I have a manageable amount of water in my reusable bottle when I approach security. Not too much, not too little. Just enough so I know I have to finish it in line. Then I am TSA-compliant, and definitely hydrated. Funny True Story: Once, in the Ireland airport, I totally forgot this trick and had to guzzle a whole water bottle!

Setting reminders is also an excellent way to take the burden of medication management to a minimum. If your medications require precise timing, consider setting alarms or reminders on your phone to ensure you take them as prescribed. And don’t forget pain relievers! Over-the-counter pain relievers are a must for symptom management. Don’t assume the grocery store where you’re traveling has your specific otc pain reliever. Bring enough or more for your entire trip.

Example

I take Tylenol for headache and dry-eye pain and pressure due to Sjogrens.

PACKING SMART

Medical Supplies

Medical supplies such as what you’d find in a first aid kit. These include bandages, antiseptic wipes, gauze, and any specialized supplies you may need. Allergy medications are a must If you have allergies. Some solo travelers have experienced pop-up, never before allergy symptoms due to new environments and unfamiliar climates. I recommend  packing antihistamines just to be on the safe side. 

Ice Packs, Sunscreen, and Sun-Protection lip balm

Example:

To mitigate morning neck and back stiffness and pain, I apply gel ice packs as part of my morning coffee routine. However, I hate to check a bag, so they can’t be included in my packing. To get around this problem, I’ve developed a system for creating my own ice packs at my accommodations:

First, you need to pack some extra resealable sandwich bags, you’ll need them to create your own ice packs. Next, find one or two hand towels, wet them, and place them in the freezer overnight. Make sure you fold them small enough to fit in the sandwich bags. Once they freeze, they don’t bend well.

Along with the hand towels, place one or two plastic water bottles in the freezer as well. In the morning, you’ll have two flat ice packs for your back and one rounded one to place in the crook of your neck. Be sure to remove the towels and let the plastic sandwich bags stay at room temperature. If they freeze and refreeze too many times, the seams will split and leak water.

Sunscreen!!!!!

importance of sunscreen

Also, special clothing with UV protection. People with lupus must be diligent with their skin. As my doctor explained, sun protection truly is a matter of life and death. Therefore, to protect yourself from UV rays, packing these are vital to your health.  Don’t neglect your lips, which contain extra tender skin. Painful sun burn on lips can make a trip miserable.

Hats and sunglasses also add additional sun protection and can be quite stylish for any occasion! You’re on vacation so be creative with your look!

Finally, if headed to a beach destination, check ahead of time if your lodging offers complimentary umbrellas. Arrangements made ahead of time can help you avoid feeling intimidated to ask later after you’ve arrived. There are many important details for traveling to hot climates, be sure you prepare for them all.

Self-Care Items

Hand sanitizer to maintain good hygiene, especially in places where access to clean soapy water is limited. If you wear reading glasses, bring an extra pair. If you misplace yours, which can happen very easily, not being able to read small print can be extremely frustrating. Don’t assume you’ll be able to grab another pair on the trip. Supplies may differ where you are traveling to.

A small travel pillow (or two!) and blanket work well to create a cozy home-away-from-home, even on the plane. To guarantee ease and relief during travel, these tiny creature comforts go a long way to recharge your batteries. This is because travel can be exhausting for those with autoimmune diseases. 

Example

In addition, I always take my teddy bear with me for emotional support and as an extra pillow! The smiles I receive in the airport when it’s strapped to my backpack are a joy.

author's teddy bear
Two neck pillows, attachable reusable water bottle, and a 2nd pair of reading glasses…just in case

A neck pillow and eye masks promote quality rest during travel. Earplugs are helpful for managing stress and noise sensitivity. Since autoimmunes primary symptom is fatigue, I never travel without an eye mask and earplugs. Without proper sleep, I am in serious trouble with my health. 

Example

I have slept 15 hours on a vacation in order to re-calibrate my body after a flight delay. In addition, I also pack melatonin to help me fall and stay asleep. I bought headbands that I use as eye masks, and double them up. The extra layer and material help secure my ear plugs and block out noise even better.

head bands for sleep
These headbands serve as eye masks to maximize sleep
earplugs to promote sleep and health
These earplugs came in a box of 300 from Amazon and have lasted for over a year

 Clothing

Example

orthopedic inserts

Nutrition

Example

 

carrots for good health

Technology

Example

CHOOSING A DESTINATION

Climate Considerations

Example

When traveling to National Parks, many times the area is so vast, the forecast loses its accuracy. Check with local predictions or call the facility or accommodation and ask how they rely on forecasts

Healthcare Facilities

Example

Take a Deep Breath – Gentleness Break

gentleness break

PLANNING YOUR ITINERARY  

Example

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Trip Cancellation: Reimburses you for non-refundable trip expenses if you have to cancel due to covered reasons, such as illness or unexpected events.

Trip Interruption: Covers costs if you have to cut your trip short due to covered emergencies.

Travel Medical Insurance: Provides coverage for medical expenses, including doctor visits, hospitalization, and emergency medical evacuation while traveling.

Baggage and Personal Belongings: Reimburses you for lost, stolen, or damaged luggage and personal items.

Travel Delay: Compensates you for additional expenses incurred due to unexpected travel delays, such as accommodations and meals.

Emergency Assistance: Offers 24/7 support for medical or travel-related emergencies.

The cost of travel insurance policy varies depending on factors like your destination, trip duration, coverage level, and your age. You pay a premium for the coverage you select..

The claims will process  unexpected events that occur during your trip. You’ll need to contact your insurance provider to file the claim, including providing documentation of the event and the associated expenses.

Check into whether or not the policy covers travel assistance. This would grant you access to a 24/7 assistance hotline. 

It’s important to carefully read and understand the terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy, as coverage can vary widely between policies and providers.

Example

I needed to cancel a trip to a country that began to experience civil unrest and terrorism. Because my trip was insured through my credit card, I received a full refund. However, with travel insurance, you may also be able extend coverage for your medical expenses. Research the insurance that’s best for you.

NURTURING YOUR WELL BEING

In addition to many of the self-care essentials mentioned before, let’s discuss what nurturing yourself on the road looks like.

Body Wellness

yoga and breathing for calm
Check in with your body and soul in the morning before starting your day

While it’s essential to explore and have fun, don’t overexert yourself. Allow for downtime and naps as needed. Embrace activities that promote relaxation, like gentle hikes or yoga. If you need a mental health boost and have wifi, maybe do an online therapy session.

 In addition, incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine. Take moments to meditate, breathe deeply, and appreciate the beauty of your surroundings. This can help manage stress and boost your emotional health.

Example

I have an app with meditation music readily available. An app is sometimes more reliable than you tube since wifi may not be accessible. Also, to preserve your phone battery, apps work best.

Another way to ensure proper rest is to choose accommodations that prioritize comfort and relaxation. Look for places with comfortable bedding, quiet surroundings, and amenities like hot tubs or spa services for extra pampering.

Example

One thing I do when checking in is to ask for the quietest room they have available. Since I usually feel shy, I always smile and add, “I know you probably don’t have anything but it doesn’t hurt to ask.” Most times I receive excellent, noiseless rooms and the front desk clerk gets to be a hero. My philosophy is that people take pride in providing excellent customer service. And most importantly, with this strategy, you get the necessary rest your body needs.

Embrace the unpredictability of travel with a positive mindset. Sometimes, plans may need to change to accommodate your health. Be open to adjusting your itinerary as needed.

By embracing these self-care practices tailored to your love for nature, self-healing, and empowerment, you can enjoy a fulfilling vacation while safeguarding your health. Remember that your journey also serves as an inspiration for others looking to embark on solo travel adventures, promoting physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental well-being. You never know who might say to themselves about you, “If she can do it, so can I!”

 Dietary Considerations

When you’re a traveler with autoimmune disease, paying attention to your diet is essential to manage your condition and maintain your health while on the road. Here’s a brief description of dietary considerations tailored to your focus on self-healing and empowerment as a nature-loving woman:

Prioritize a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish like salmon. These can help reduce inflammation, a common issue with autoimmune diseases. You may discover native fruits and vegetables you’ll love! One benefit is that these foods often cost less, too!

Gluten and dairy can be an issue for individuals with autoimmune diseases who find relief by eliminating gluten and dairy from their diets. When traveling, research restaurants that offer gluten-free and dairy-free options, and be sure to communicate your dietary needs to the staff.

healthy eating

If you include grains in your diet, opt for whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats. These are often better tolerated by individuals with autoimmune conditions.

If you have specific dietary requirements, consider staying in accommodations with kitchen facilities to prepare your own meals. This gives you greater control over what you eat.

Example

At a BnB in Ireland, the Inn Keeper generously offered use of their entire kitchen as a perk. Not only was it super convenient and healthy, the social atmosphere made it extra special. 

 Identify trigger foods that exacerbate your symptoms and avoid them during your travels. Carry a list of these foods to remind yourself when dining out. In addition to carrying that list, you’ll also want to carry healthy, travel-friendly snacks. For example, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, or gluten-free energy bars. These can be lifesavers when you’re on the go and don’t have access to suitable food options.

 Don’t hesitate to communicate your dietary needs with the people you meet during your travels. Many are willing to accommodate special dietary requests.

By embracing these dietary considerations, you can maintain your health and vitality while traveling, aligning with your commitment to self-healing. It’s important to listen to your body and make choices that support your unique needs as you explore.

Staying Connected

Staying safe and connected as a traveler with an autoimmune disease is of utmost importance to ensure a successful and enjoyable journey. 

In order to stay connected, make sure you have a reliable means of communication, such as a smartphone with local SIM cards or international roaming. Install emergency apps and have a list of important phone numbers readily accessible.

Establish a regular check-in system with family or friends. Share your itinerary, and let them know when and how to expect updates from you. Connect with online communities and forums for travelers with autoimmune diseases. They can provide valuable advice and support, and you can share your experiences.

If you’re traveling alone, make connections with fellow travelers or locals. Join group activities or engage in conversations with people you meet. This fosters a sense of community and can combat any feelings of loneliness.

Don’t forget to also stay connected with yourself! Consider documenting not only your feelings on your journey, but also your experiences. This can one day be used to inspire and guide other women with autoimmune diseases. 

woman journal

Example

Journaling has always played an important role in my life. It keeps me connected to me! The more you stay connected to yourself, the more in touch you are with your emotions. Consequently, the better you can meet your needs. Share your challenges, triumphs, and self-care practices to empower and inspire others.

 SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

Travel wisely by using reliable transportation methods and consider accessibility when planning activities and accommodations.

Carry a card or wear a medical alert bracelet that contains essential information about your condition, allergies, and emergency contact details.

If you’re traveling to a foreign country, learn a few essential phrases in the local language, particularly those related to your condition and medical needs. Consider using translation apps for assistance.

 EMBRACE THE ADVENTURE

You didn’t come this far to ruin your vacation by worrying and losing the magical moments. Here is the best part- celebrating your accomplishment by acknowledging this victory. How to do that? Read below.

Explore Mindfully

Exploring mindfully as a traveler with an autoimmune disease can help you have a fulfilling and safe journey while managing your health effectively. Here’s a brief description of how to explore mindfully.

Example:

In addition to managing autoimmune diseases, I am also a trauma survivor. My mental health has been impacted by the effects of complex PTSD, including anxiety and depression. Traveling to destinations that embody nature, quiet landscapes, and peaceful beauty automatically reset my physiology. Specifically, deep breathing an listening to bird song, wind through trees, gentle lapping of waves (or even rainfall) all balance my central nervous system. Use nature as a tool to nurture and support you. It works.

is it safe to solo travel as a female with autoimmune disease

Learn to practice deep self-awareness. The first place to start is by understanding your body and its limitations. Recognize your triggers and signs of a potential flare-up so you can act proactively.

Plan your itinerary carefully. This means being proactive and planning your daily schedule. It may seem to lack spontaneity, but the payoff is less stress. Leave a day or two open to express your carefree whims if that appeals to you.

Example

Whatever time-sensitive details I can complete before the trip, I do. Having it done ahead of time alleviates anxiety which means less stress. Booking tours in advance, writing out my day-to-day, etc all translate into calm, task-free time. Therefore, when I arrive, all I have to do is feed myself and have a great time!

Another way to explore mindfully is to practice moderation. Embrace the concept of “slow travel” and avoid overloading your itinerary and allow for downtime to rest and recuperate.

 Self Healing and Empowerment

Using self-healing and empowerment as a traveler with an autoimmune disease can be a transformative and enriching experience.

Even before you leave for the airport, set intentions, not expectations. When you begin your journey with a clear intention of self-healing and empowerment, the message to the universe is loud and clear. When setting intentions, define what you hope to achieve and how you want to grow as an individual throughout your travels.

Take your self-care rituals on the road with you. Whatever you do at home, do on your trip. Don’t make your self-care a “chore” that you want a “vacation from”.

Example

Every morning while sipping my coffee I meditate. It is easy to make an excuse and skip it when I’m traveling because I tell myself I’m already relaxed and calm. However, these moments contain amazing insights that I would otherwise miss if I skipped my meditation that day.

meditate with coffee

When traveling, explore mindfully. This means paying attention to your body’s signals and responses. Be open to adapting your plans to accommodate your health needs, allowing for flexibility.

Make use of the healing properties of nature. Whenever possible, immerse yourself in the elemental healing of earth, water, fire (sunshine) and air. Healing from the earth includes mineral baths, hot springs, mud baths. Water healing properties can found in sea salt in the ocean, hot or cold springs, and refreshing glacial lakes.

Sunshine, provides vitamin D and boots serotonin levels to improve mood.

Healing properties of air include negative airborne ions. Ions are invisible charged particles in the air – either molecules or atoms. The human body receives positive effects from these ions that affect health and the feeling of well-being. These ions enter the body mainly through the respiratory and skin pathways, and help the exchanges between cells and the penetration of oxygen into the lungs. So soak up all that fresh air knowing you’re practicing self healing.

Spend time in natural settings, whether it’s hiking in National Parks, walking on the beach, or camping under the stars.

Example

On a trip to Portugal, I luxuriated in the mineral hot springs as a last minute decision. My body loved it! The rest of the day I enjoyed a burst of healthy renewal. Another time I took a chance and tried the spring-fed pool in Shoshone, California. The water was chilly and slightly greenish, which initially deterred me. Wouldn’t you know the runny nose and sneezing that developed from the climate shift immediately went away afterwards. Never underestimate the healing power of nature, even when it’s unfamiliar and “different”. 

Empowerment

Learn and Grow: Use your travels as an opportunity to learn about the history, culture, and geology of the places you visit. This knowledge can be empowering and add depth to your experiences.

Facing your fears is the heart of courageous living. Embracing your journey as a means to confront fears and limitations is what that looks like. You stepped out of your comfort zone, you demonstrated to yourself and others that challenges can be overcome.

face fears courage sign

By incorporating self-healing and empowerment into your travels, you can make each journey a transformative and healing experience. As you continue to explore, you not only strengthen your own well-being but also inspire others to embark on their own path of self-discovery and personal growth.

Empower Through Example: Serve as a mentor and example for women of all ages looking to embark on solo travel journeys. Show them that physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental health can be enhanced through self-healing and empowerment.

FINAL NOTE ON SAFE SOLO TRAVEL WITH AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE

Remember to tailor this list to your specific autoimmune condition and personal needs. Consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice, and don’t hesitate to ask for any additional recommendations based on your condition. Your health and well-being are top priorities during your solo travels. Have a fantastic and safe journey!

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