If you're like me and you have allergies and/or eczema, you know what a pain it can be to travel. Whether you're allergic to fabric, chemicals or food... it can be a real challenge. And frankly, it can take the fun out of it!
Does this mean you should just avoid going on vacations forever? Hell to the no. Will it mean making some sacrifices? Yup. But that's okay. There are still ways to take a vacation and enjoy yourself!
All of this comes to mind right now because my husband and I are taking a trip down to Gasparilla Island to spend some time with the parents. I CANNOT WAIT. My stress level has been off the charts lately with the launch of the Health Disrupter Journal and to top it off, my hunny's schedule has been fully packed as well. Getting little sleep, having barely any mental space for free thinking and not taking enough time for oneself can greatly impact our health.
Perfect time for a vacation :-)
Since developing eczema and all of my allergies (see the full list here), vacations are definitely different.
Accepting the following changes is THE number one thing that helped me deal with the difficulties of travelling with allergies and eczema:
You're going to spend a LOT more time planning than you used to
Planning ahead is KEY. Think about what you'll be doing every day of your trip and prepare for it. Bring an extra big purse so you can carry extra things with you like allergy products or an eczema kit. If you're allergic to nickel, bring plastic silverware. Get a TSA approved kit so you can ensure the products you're bringing are the right size for carry-on. If you're allergic to propylene glycol, keep soap in your purse because you'll likely be allergic to what's in the public bathrooms. Look at the websites of any restaurants you're planning on going to, check out their menu and contact them if you need more information. Be prepared. That's numero uno.
Think twice about larger group trips where people plan to party it up
I know. This part sucks. These types of situations are a nightmare for me. There are WAY too many X factors involved and if my health isn't put as the number one priority, the trip is likely going to go south for me. What, you don't want to make your vacation all about me?! GEEZ ;-)
We'd have to only eat at places I could eat (which would take a lot of research and questions every single time and often results in me only being able to order dry salad)... I can't go out to clubs because of fog machines (propylene glycol allergy) and any other fun stuff they may spray into the air or the crowd. And I can't be too spontaneous.
I actually went to my friend's bachelorette party and she wanted to go out for dinner, drinks and dancing. Normally this would be super fun! But between the food, the drinks and the fog machines... I couldn't even last the full night. I tried to hang, but it was just NOT happening.
One of my friends had to save me, actually, because I wasn't close to home. I ended up spending the rest of the night (and morning) throwing up in their bathroom and on the train as I headed home. FUN TIMES! The last thing I want to do is bring down the vibe of the party, so I've accepted the fact that big group outings (especially overnights) aren't a good idea for me.
Choose trips which allow you to cook all your meals
My favorite type of trip is renting a cute little cabin somewhere beautiful. If cabins aren't your thing, there are hotels with rooms that have built-in kitchens. I always make sure to get on Google maps and find the closest grocery store. Usually we'll fly in and make the grocery store our first stop before checking into wherever we're staying. I like to plan our entire menu ahead of time - it's actually really fun!
Stay at The Hyatt or another allergy-friendly hotel
Seriously, The Hyatt's allergy-friendly rooms are AMAZING. I still dream about how easy it was to breathe in that room and their staff was SO good about cooking my food so it would be safe for me. Read all about that here!
Plan relaxing, outdoorsy trips which still allow you to control your environment
This type of trip allows my body to get much needed rest, which is super important for people like us with auto immune issues. Fresh air, a bit of exercise, vitamin D from the sun and getting back in touch with nature - all great, healthy things! I make sure to bring some anti-histamine for those outdoor allergens, of course. Camping may sound like a good solution, but not for me because of my eczema. I need to be able to control the temperature (too much heat makes my skin worse) and have fresh running water. I need to be able to shower and completely clean my skin up every single day.
The bedding comes too
Because of my polyester allergy, I now have to bring sheets, a blanket and pillow cases anytime I stay anywhere overnight. I haven't stayed at a single hotel with 100% cotton sheets and I've stayed in some nice hotels! I've actually been misinformed by hotel staff that they DID have 100% cotton sheets... only to show up and find out they didn't have a single 100% cotton anywhere in the whole place. So, unless I'm staying at a friend's house and they can verify their sheets are polyester-free... I'm bringing my own stuff. This means bringing an extra bag just for bedding, but hey, it could be worse. Plus, my bedding is really comfy and it's kinda nice to have that homey comfort when I'm sleeping somewhere else.
Taking advantage of shipping
If you have allergies and can only use certain products, it may not be ideal to pack your bedding, big thing of steroid ointment and various toiletries. I mean, let's keep it real: my hair is long and super thick. No way is some dinky travel shampoo/conditioner going to last. I need full size bottles if I'm going anywhere for a while. If you're staying at somebody else's home - ship all that stuff so you don't have to check extra luggage. If you're staying at a hotel, ask them ahead of time if they'll accept and hold a package for you because of your allergies.
No longer are the days of being spontaneous and flying by the seat of my pants, but that's OKAY. There are other ways to make it vacations work and they will still leave you smiling with that post-vacation glow. That's what really matters, right?
Whether it means stocking up on epinephrine auto injectors, bringing anti-histamine or having to drag along all your bedding, we can do this! And if none of my advice works for you because you're house-bound like a lot of people with auto immune issues, then a stay-cation might be right up your alley! On a stay-cation you can take lots of naps, find cool yoga instruction videos online (many of them free), take an online virtual museum tour or do something like trying out brand new recipes (hello, Pinterest!)