Travel: What to Pack When You Have Chronic Pain

Since I got diagnosed with lupus I haven’t had the courage to go on a long trip. I have travel anxiety to begin with, and adding on the unknown of whether I’ll flare up or if I’ll have access to the things I might need has made traveling really scary to me. But, since I’ve started to heal a bit and have learnt coping mechanisms to deal with my anxious thoughts I decided to loop a vacation in with a work trip! I did a lot of prep beforehand and scheduled in things I knew would help me feel good on my trips, but the biggest challenge for me, by far, was packing.

So, since I was going on a big trip with three long-haul flights I had to be pretty strategic with packing, while still bringing everything I needed or that I knew would comfort me (see comfy outfit pictured above) on the trip. Here’s what I packed for the flights, and what I would do differently next time:

What I Packed:

  • Snacks: I was most anxious about being able to find something to eat on the plane rides and layovers. I tend to get nervous-hungry when I travel so I wanted to be really prepared. I ended up bringing:

    • Oatmeal

    • Turkey, avocado sandwiches on GF bread

    • Homemade GF muffins

    • Dried mango from Trader Joe’s

    • 3 Larabars

    • Cape Cod Whole Foods trail mix

    • Hu Kitchen chocolate bar

    • Hippeas

  • Water bottle for obvious hydration purposes

  • Laptop: I didn’t work at all, but I didn’t want to leave this in my checked bag just in case!

  • Kindle: I devour books while I travel, so I loaded up on a few different books to read throughout the trip - I ended up finishing 2 of the three I downloaded

  • Heating pads: I get extremely uncomfortable on long flights and I end up having hip and back pain around 3 hours into a flight, so I always bring the disposable heating pads with me for a bit of extra comfort

  • Travel pillow: This was actually my first time traveling with a pillow, and oh my goodness, it was life changing! It made my red eye flight way more comfortable. I don’t know what I was holding out for

  • Snuggly jacket: I get really cold on flights, so I brought a teddy bear coat with me for a little extra comfort and warmth

  • Reusable baggies: I used to travel with like a million Ziplocks to store left over food, liquids, etc., but in an effort to reduce my single use plastic usage I bought these reusable silicone baggies! Besides the plastic waste from some of the packaging from my snacks, I didn’t use any single use plastics while I was traveling, which I’m really happy with

What I’d Do Differently:

  • Roller bag: I had all of the stuff I packed in my small work backpack and a tote bag. It wasn’t particularly difficult to carry, but it was a little heavy. In the future I’d invest in a small roller bag that I can use as a carry-on

  • Snack learnings:

    • I pre-made overnight oats, but they got confiscated because its a paste consistency. I didn’t realize that it would be considered a liquid, so in the future I’ll just bring dry oats and stop at a coffee shop for some hot water to make my oatmeal

    • I brought a few tea bags to steep while I was traveling, but I didn’t bring my own travel coffee mug, so I ended up buying tea from a Starbucks. In order to reduce waste, I’d definitely want to bring my own in the future

  • For comfort: I brought the things I needed to be as comfortable as possible, but since I have such a hard time sleeping on flights I’d also bring:

    • Sleeping mask

    • Ear plugs

    • Big headphones (I only brought my airpods and they weren’t very comfy after a while)

All-in-all I’m really proud of how I handled the flights and the long trip. I feel so much more confident traveling now that I’ve taken the plunge to do this big vacation and work trip :)