I’m sure many of you are wondering how on earth it’s possible to do something as daunting as travelling with chronic pain. But don’t worry, it really is possible!
I have Crohn’s Disease as well as other autoimmune issues and chronic illnesses, which means that chronic pain is a big part of my life. But even though pain is a constant companion, it doesn’t have to stop me from living my life to the fullest-including travelling.
I travel internationally between 6 and 8 times a year, and in between I take as many road trips and staycations as I can.
In this guide, I’ll share some tips and tricks that help to make my trips a lot easier.
So whether you’re planning a holiday abroad or just taking a road trip around the country, read on to find out how you can enjoy your trip and manage your pain at the same time.
You might also like:
- 28 Mindful Gifts for People with Chronic Pain
- How to stay healthy while travelling
- What it’s Really Like Travelling With a Chronic Illness
- How to Manage a Chronic Illness Flare Up When Travelling
- Chronic Illness Travel Essentials: 21 Must Have Items
- What is a Spoonie: Explaining the Spoon Theory to Family & Friends
FYI: I’m not a doctor! These are just some of the tips that help me when travelling with chronic pain and shouldn’t be used as medical advice. If you have any concerns, always speak with your doctor before you travel.
Full disclosure! See those links below? If you happen to click on one of these and purchase something I recommend, I’ll get a small commission (wohoo). Don’t worry, this is at no extra cost to you (in fact, often I’ll have some discounts you can enjoy!). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying sales. You can read my full disclaimer here.
- Can you travel with chronic pain?
- 10 tips for travelling with chronic pain
- What’s in my carry on
- Conclusion: Travelling with Chronic Pain is Possible!
Can you travel with chronic pain?
Yes, you most certainly can travel when you have chronic pain! In fact, there’s no need to let your condition hold you back at all.
Chronic pain doesn’t have to stop you from living your life and seeing the world.
Of course, it’s not always easy. There can be many challenges to face, such as finding accessible accommodation, managing pain medication and dealing with flare-ups.
10 tips for travelling with chronic pain
With a little bit of planning and preparation, I won’t say it’s easy but you can help to manage your pain and make the most of any trip. Here are 10 tips to help you travel smarter with chronic pain.
Tip #1: Do your research and plan
Before you book anything, it’s important to do your research and make sure that your chosen destination is somewhere that will be welcoming and accommodating to your needs
If you’re unsure about whether a place is going to be accommodating, get in touch with the tourist board or accommodation providers and ask them about things like wheelchair access, step-free entry, quieter rooms, etc.
Check out the Lonely Planet’s free ebook – Accessible Travel Online Resources – which provides information on accessibility at airports, lists of chronic illness travel bloggers, and other useful resources.
Figure out how you’re going to get from the airport to your accommodation before you land. I don’t know about you, but the number of times I’ve landed and been in severe pain, only to have to struggle with finding transport…
I now make sure that I either have a friend or family member coming to pick me up, or I arrange a hotel transfer or Uber in advance.
Tip # 2: Treat yourself
Now I know not everyone has the budget for additional expenses when travelling, but I include the cost in my budget. So if I can’t afford to treat myself, I generally don’t go!
Firstly, pre-book your seat. An aisle seat is much easier if you need to get up often or if you have pain that gets worse when sitting for long periods of time. It’s also great for anyone with IBD – Crohns or Colitis – who might need to use the facilities more often than others.
If your budget allows, consider flying business or first class. The additional legroom and space can make a big difference, especially on long-haul flights. You can often use your miles to upgrade without having to pay any extra, so keep an eye out for these kinds of deals.
Also, direct flights are the way to go. Don’t try to save a few bucks by going to for two or even three different flights to get to your destination.
Book an airport lounge if you don’t get free access (many credit cards offer complimentary access to lounges so be sure to check yours!). This is a great way to relax before your flight and avoid having to walk around the airport or sit on the uncomfortable chairs at the gate.
Tip #3: Have your medical information with you always
Make sure you have all your medical information with you, including a list of your medications, in case you need to see a doctor while you’re away.
If you have a flares or an emergency, it’s also helpful to have a letter from your doctor explaining your medical condition and what treatments you’re currently taking.
I also like to keep a list of useful contacts – my GP back home, my GI doc, etc. – in case I need to get in touch with them while I’m away.
If you’re flying, make sure you pack your medication in your carry-on just in case anything happens to your checked luggage.
Tip #4: Have medical insurance
It probably goes without saying that we need to have medical insurance when we travel, but it’s especially important for those of us with chronic pain conditions.
Unfortunately, many insurers don’t cover pre-existing medical conditions but I’ve found that Bupa Global and Allianz Travel Insurance are two who do (be sure to check all the fine print to make sure yours applies).
Tip #5: Pack smart
Make a packing list of everything you’ll need for your trip, including your medication, and then check it off as you go.
It’s not always possible to pack light, so when you can’t, make sure you have a good bag that’s easy to carry. I like to use a small roller bag as my carryon. It means I don’t have to carry it and it slips onto the handle of my larger checked luggage so it’s easy to transport.
Keep reading to find out what’s in my carry on to make a flight or long public transport journey more comfortable.
Tip #6: Request assistance
Even if you don’t need to use a wheelchair or mobility aids day to day, if you’re travelling with chronic pain it’s worth considering requesting assistance at the airport.
This can make getting through security and boarding the plane a lot easier, as you won’t have to stand in line for long periods of time.
You can also request assistance when disembarking the plane, which can be helpful if you find walking long distances difficult. Some airports are HUGE and making your way through them when you’re experiencing pain can be tough.
Tip #7: Pre-board
You know when they say ‘anyone who needs assistance may board the plane now’? Do that.
It’s much easier to find a place for your carry on and get settled in your seat when there aren’t 100 other people behind you trying to do the same thing.
Let the flight crew know about your health issues so they can keep an eye on you and make sure you’re comfortable during the flight.
Tip #8: Research medical in the area
Before I go anywhere, I research what medical facilities are available in the area I’m visiting.
This is important so you know where to go if you have a flare or an emergency while you’re away from home.
I also make sure I have all the information I need – like my insurance details and policy number – readily available so I can get help quickly if I need it.
Tip #9: Don’t over plan activities
When you’re travelling with chronic pain, it’s important to pace yourself and not try to do too much in one day.
It can be tempting to want to make the most of your time when you’re on holiday, but if you overdo it you’ll just end up exhausted and in pain.
Instead, focus on a few key activities and build in some down time so you can rest and recuperate. If I’m going to be away for more than 5 days, I usually pick a day in the middle where I don’t plan any activities. It’s for chilling and recuperating!
Tip #10: Be prepared for pain
Even if you do everything right, there’s a chance you’ll still experience pain while you’re away from home.
That’s why it’s important to be prepared and pack any medications or treatments you might need.
I also like to keep a pain journal so I can track my pain levels and triggers, and see if there’s anything I can do to manage it better while I’m travelling.
What’s in my carry on
While I would love to pack light, I prefer to have everything I need with me to keep comfortable and pain free while I travel.
Here are some of the things in my carry on when I fly:
- Medication (enough for the duration of the flight, plus a little extra just in case)
- Travel (pain) journal
- Heat pack / Ice pack
- Foot Sling
See a full list of my carry on essentials here.
Conclusion: Travelling with Chronic Pain is Possible!
Chronic pain doesn’t have to stop you from travelling the world and seeing all that it has to offer (although a few extra precautions may be necessary).
With a bit of preparation, some helpful tools and tips, and by staying positive, you can explore new places and enjoy your travels – chronic pain and all.
Do you have any tips for travelling with chronic pain? Share them in the comments below!