Traveling for an extended period of time can take a toll on anyone, but especially on those who suffer from chronic pain due to illness. However, an expert at Baylor College of Medicine says the key to a pain-free vacation is to create a plan for the trip ahead of time.

Plan ahead

“When planning a trip, it is key to communicate your travel plans to your physician as early as possible,” said Dr. John Harrell, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Baylor. “If you are on pain medications, appointment and refill schedules may need to be adjusted to ensure that you have the medications you need throughout your trip.”

It is also important to talk with your doctor about your specific health condition and which forms of travel might be best for your particular situation, Harrell said.

Pack accordingly

In addition to discussing your trip with your physician, Harrell suggests following these tips to help make your travel easier.

  • Bring at least one week worth of extra medication.
  • Have prescriptions or pharmacy bottles available in the unlikely event that medications are questioned by customs or security.
  • Investigate airline and customs regulations for items such as a cane, walker, braces or other medical equipment.
  • Be sure to carry your physician’s contact information should an emergency occur and local medical staff needs to know more about your medical background.

Travel pain free

Whether traveling by car, bus or plane it is important to take any breaks necessary to alleviate pain. Planning for breaks during travel, as required by your individual condition, is key to having a positive travel experience.

“If you know your back hurts when sitting more than 30 minutes, then you need to plan to take a break in driving or get up and walk the airplane aisle at regular intervals. On airplanes, you will need to work around the ‘fasten seatbelt’ light so try not to ever miss the opportunity to get up when you can,” Harrell said.

Consider what you are able to do in your normal daily life when planning your vacation. If you suffer from either fatigue or increased pain with activity, it is not a good idea to plan a full day of sightseeing or hiking while traveling. In fact, this is a recipe for a miserable trip, he said.

“Also, if traveling with a group, I encourage my patients to seek travel partners who will be understanding of their limitations and needs,” Harrell said.