Vacations are probably one of my favorite things in the entire world. I love traveling to new places, meeting new people, and also just plain relaxing. Unfortunately, traveling with Crohn’s is not the easiest and I have realized that it requires a decent amount of prep work and tolerance while you are on your journey. Between the increased activities, new foods, and often lack of sleep vacations can be a trigger for a Crohn’s flare no matter how relaxing they may seem on the outside.
To try and simplify things a little bit I compiled a list of five things that will help you have a smoother trip and actually enjoy yourself! I came up with this list after many rounds of trial and error and I finally feel like I have settled on what I like to think is a decent start.
1.Do your research
I am always super careful to research my destinations to make sure there are ample places for safe foods and things I know I will be able to eat. For those who haven’t read any previous posts or need a little background, those suffering with any form of IBD usually have some sort of dietary restrictions or “trigger foods”. For me I avoid gluten, uncooked veggies (aka salads), and other very specific certain things that I won’t bore you with. Knowing the places you can and can’t eat and having a game plan going into it eases your mind and makes vacationing a lot less stressful.
Isn’t it a saying or something that your own advice is always the hardest to take? I am living proof of that today as I am sitting here at LAX drinking a dirty chai being super pissed off that Burger King is the only freaking food option they have at 8:30am. I researched my final destinations but not the airports. This situation could have been avoided with a little research and picking up something from the Whole Foods the night before my flight. Noted.
2. Know your limits
A common mistake that I love to make is cramming my schedule with things that I think other people I am with want to do and doing everything I can to try and make sure they are having fun while completely disregarding what I need. Plain and simple you have to know your limits. If you know there is only one activity that you can handle per day and you need to spend the rest relaxing then that’s what you need to do! Don’t let others pressure you into doing things that you know you don’t have enough energy for.
3. Don’t feel guilty
This kind of builds off of number two. You know what is best for your body. This vacation is your vacation. Don’t feel guilty if you have to cancel plans because you packed too much into one day or if you have to turn in early at night so you can feel good for the next day. As long as you are communicating with your travel buddies about what the situation is you have absolutely nothing to feel bad about! I know this is a hard one to swallow but I just repeat it over and over in my head when I am feeling bad.
4. Communicate with you doctor beforehand
I always tell my doctor when and where I am going. I am known for having flare ups on vacation so we review some tips and tricks beforehand. He also makes sure I am all stocked up on my medication for the time I will be gone and this allows us to schedule my Cimzia shots around what time will be best/most effective. I love having a fresh dose to get me through traveling since it wears off towards the end of the four weeks but I do have to say my huge bruises on my stomach do require some explanation when rocking a bikini.
5. Balance is everything, so freaking enjoy yourself!
Full disclosure, I do get some shit for this advice sometimes but I can tell you that my doctor and I have discussed this at naseum and decided this is a pretty freaking good plan of attack. A mistake I have made many times before is worrying to much about getting sick on vacation that I let my anxiety get the best of me, avoid fun actives, and turn down a perfectly delicious pina colada. I could live my life not taking any risks, not trying anything new, and never having fun but you know what? I would still have Crohn’s…. So on vacation I do everything that a “normal” person would do just with some tweaks. Spoiler alert: I have drinks by the pool. I do crazy adventurous things. I stay up later than I probably should sometimes. And I love every minute of it. I also do things like still avoid my trigger foods and maybe eat a little more reserved since I know I will probably have a few cocktails and I make sure not all of those cocktails are loaded with sugar. I plan really freaking fun things to do, but also make sure I have time to relax. Most importantly I manage my expectations and don’t get disappointed if I don’t get everything done. As long as I have fun that is all that matters!
I hope this helps you all. I know that everyone has their own specifics about what works and doesn’t work for them so this is just an overview of what I have found makes my vacations infinitely more enjoyable. I would love to hear some feedback from you guys on what your tips are for vacationing!
To give a full disclaimer, let me tell you that I am still struggling to comply with my own advice. Isn't it the most difficult to take the advice you give others? I had wrote this post while in LAX waiting for my connecting flight and having a totally positive view on my upcoming stay in Hawaii. Last night I had a complete breakdown because we had a sunset dinner cruise that we had to be ready for at 4:15pm and I was running errands to get our condo set up all day and still super jet lagged. I didn't feel so great so I took an hour nap and woke up and felt even worse. They wouldn't let me reschedule our dinner cruise so I had to go with a full Crohn's situation going on or lose all of the money we spent (this thing was not cheap!). I ended up going and at first did not think I was going to make it but I actually ended up having such a great time AND they made sure to accommodate me with the most delicious gluten free dinner. While I didn't think I did a lot during the day, looking back on it, I probably did a little too much. This situation could have turned out really bad but thankfully this time it was great. This is another lesson to remind myself to take it slow and make sure you feel well enough to actually appreciate the things that you plan!
Blonde babe. Maryland native. Crohn's crushing puppy mother to two sweet rescues.
Welcome to my unfiltered commentary on crushing chronic illness in your 20's and everything that goes along with that.