SDCC Countdown series

Some travel tips for those with chronic pain going to SDCC

I recently read a fabulous post by fellow Female Geek Blogger member, Kristen Kirk, discussing travel tips for anyone who suffers from chronic pain & fatigue, mainly fibromyalgia.  Check out her spot-on post!

Kristen brought up so many great ideas & suggestions, I felt compelled to add my two cents to the discussion in an effort to also help as many fellow sufferers as possible.  I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia a year ago & I have made various lifestyle changes to help minimize my symptoms.  But I didn’t let my diagnosis stop me from doing one of the things that fuels one of my biggest passions: traveling!  Since my diagnosis, I have flown across the Pacific to Hong Kong, then up to Beijing.  I took the bullet train form there to Xian & back to Beijing, before flying back to Hong Kong & back to Mexico.  I also have flown to Guatemala & Honduras.  All this required proper planning, but it was definitely doable!  I hope my tips can help fellow persons living with fibromyalgia or other chronic pain.

Photo by Isabel Gutierrez. Copyrighted 2014.

Photo by Isabel Gutierrez. Copyrighted 2014.

I am flying to San Diego for SDCC this year from Eastern Mexico, which forces me to connect through Mexico City’s international airport.  This translates into hours of uncomfortable seating awaiting my next flight.  Here are some of the things I do, in addition to the things Kristen stated in her post, to help me get through even the most grueling of flight itineraries:

Pick an Appropriate & Supportive Carry-On
My doctor suggested using a backpack over a messenger bag or anything that caused my back to be unbalanced.  With this logical advice in mind, I have found a backpack with proper back support & good straps is preferable to a rolling carry-on, unless the rolling carry-on is a 4-wheeler. Not only does a proper backpack help me limit what I am taking so I don’t overexert myself, it also distributes the weight evenly, instead of having me pull on just one side.  A good & supportive backpack can be a bit expensive, but not much more than a good quality rolling carry-on.  Since I need to take my laptop & lot of gadgets when I travel in order to teach online, I settled on this beauty of a backpack
Disclaimer: I am not paid to endorse this product, I just love it so much & felt compelled to share!

Stay Hydrated
I make sure to take my refillable water bottle whenever I fly to stay hydrated at all times. No need to have a headache on top of being fatigued during/after flying!  My bottle clips onto my backpack, so it is hands-free carrying.  When I am in the US or any other country with water fountains, I refill as needed, just don’t forget to empty it prior to going through the security check-point.  Even if I need to buy a bottle of distilled/purified water, I empty it into my refillable water bottle.  I also carry vitamin C boosters, etc. to help my system while traveling.

Comfortable Shoes are a Must
Back pain is directly related to your feet.  If your feet are not being supported, that chain reaction goes to your ankles, to your knees, & so forth.  As the song goes, “Head, shoulders, knees, & toes. Knees & toes!” So comfortable shoes are an absolute must!  Of course, comfortable shoes are not cheap, but they are less tiresome on your body & that is worth its weight in gold to me!  Comfortable shoes in combination with the compression socks, which Kristen mentioned in her post, are a double whammy of relief when traveling.

Invest in an One-Day Pass at the Airport Lounge
If you have a connecting flight with a layover of more than 3 hours, seriously consider buying a day pass for the airline lounge.  Kristen mentioned splurging on the most expensive seat you can afford, but I think that one-day pass to the airport lounge is more doable, specially if there is a long wait when connecting.  For example, the Admiral’s Club, which serves American Airlines & all other oneworld Alliance members, sells one-day passes for $50; same price for Delta’s Sky Club.

Photo credit: Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Photo credit: Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Airport lounges are similar to first-class: once you have been in one, you really dread being in the “regular” area of the airport.  Airport lounges provide you with extremely comfortable seating, complimentary refreshments & snacks, superior restrooms, plentiful electrical outlets to charge your gadgets, & other amenities such as free wifi. They will make an announcement to let you know when you need to start heading towards your gate for boarding & alert you of any gate changes &/or delays.  If you think about all of what you get, it is definitely worth the money when you are staying for hours at an airport between flights.  Sometimes you end up spending more time at a connecting airport than the actual individual flights, so this is worth the consideration.

Once on the Plane, Settle in.
I truly settle into my airplane seat.  My unpack/packing may seem a bit much, but it is so routine now that it doesn’t take much time at all & is completely worth it.  There is definitely a method to my madness!  I typically choose to fly in the window seat, because while you lose a bit in the leg room, you don’t ever have to get up for someone else to go to the bathroom, plus you get wonderful vistas as you fly.  Of course, the flip-side is that you have to be the one asking other people to get up so you can go to the bathroom.  This is not such a big deal because I fall asleep as soon as possible on the plane. I actually acquired this trait in my early years due to getting air-sick, but I have found that I am less fatigued & in less pain overall if I sleep for a large portion of my flight(s). I have a little pillow for lumbar support as well as a neck pillow, one of those U-shaped ones. I use a small space saver bag to flatten my travel pillow, along with my travel fleece blanket, so it easily fits into my carry-on backpack; my little neck pillow fastens onto my backpack & weighs nothing.

Carry-on essentials

My carry-on essentials for good sleep: laptop backpack (to store stuff), my neck pillow, my lumbar pillow, my light fleece blanket, eye mask, & ear buds. [Not pictured: space saver bag, essential oil of lavender, iPhone, & refillable water bottle.]

Once I am seated, I settle in.   I place my little pillow in my lumbar & position my neck pillow.  Next, I unfold my light fleece travel blanket & set it on my lap for easy access.  I take a small vial of essential oil of lavender, which I then dab on my temples or even my blanket sometimes to help me relax & avoid any unpleasant “airplane” smell.  I take off my shoes & place my feet on top of my laptop bag, since my legs are a bit short to relieve the stress on my knees.  I put my earbuds in my ears to help block out the engine noise during take off.  I set my iPhone on airplane mode & its Pod on a timer to start approximately 20 minutes into the flight, to ensure we are at the appropriate altitude once it starts playing, with a custom playlist cued to help keep me relaxed.  In order to really get some rest, I use an eye mask to block out light, which in conjunction with my earbuds block out as much as possible.  Basically, create my own sleeping, relaxation pod.  As we are taxi-ing to the gate upon landing, the packing commences. I just pop my travel pillow in my space saver bag, sit on it to get all the excess air out, & voila! Back in my carry-on it goes with everything else.

So there you go, my travel tips to minimize fatigue & pain while traveling.  See you in SDCC!

If you have any other tips, please share them in the comments!

4 thoughts on “Some travel tips for those with chronic pain going to SDCC

  1. Skye

    I have a couple different kinds of pain that are episodic rather than chronic, and the kind of thing that flares if I push myself wrong. I always think of it as “easier” to travel if I don’t “bring so much stuff” but I have learned that it’s a lot easier to bring it and use it all, and do what I need to do, rather than grit my teeth and suffer during the event itself.

    So if that means bringing my own food and huge refillable water bottle and tea and vitamins and lots of meds just in case, so be it.

    If that means carrying a less cute backpack instead of a shoulder bag, so I can have everything with me on the plane instead of checking it all and not having it for hours when I need it, so be it.

    And YES to your point about comfortable shoes!

    Reply
    1. Izzy Post author

      Thanks for sharing, Skye! Thanks for your added tips. I concur that it seems counterintuitive to bring the things you need, but as you stated it is the best course of action. I love my backpack because it really is just the right size to handle all of my stuff without being overbearing, but still counts as my “personal item” for carry-on purposes. I used to carry the same amount of things in a huge shoulder bag, which was insane. I still take a rolling carry-on, if needed, but try to not rely on it as much as before.

      I completely agree about bringing your own food, too. I have additional dietary requirements, so I always have my snacks on hand.

      Reply
  2. Kristen K

    Great tips Isabel and thank you so much for the shout out! I love hearing about your on board the airplane routine, great tips! I can never seem to sleep on a plane, but I’m going to take some of those tips and see if they add to my comfort level. Especially the lumbar pillow and essential oil!

    29 day until SDCC! I can’t wait!

    Reply
    1. Izzy Post author

      Hi Kristen! Thanks so much for checking out my post & commenting. Definitely try the lumbar travel-sized pillow & essential oil, it will completely change your experience!

      So excite about SDCC!! See you at the FGB Meet-up!

      Reply

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