I’ve traveled a lot this year, so much that I now have 1K status on United Airlines. It’s a bittersweet feeling: on one hand, the perks are definitely nice, but on the other hand, it’s a constant reminder of how much time I’ve spent in the air.
Regardless, I still have Neuromyelitis Optica/NMO, and this makes traveling sometimes more worrisome. Traveling takes a toll on the body: the jet lag, the recycled air, the discomforts of being displaced for X days (or, in my case, even weeks). I must say, I’ve become a pro traveler by now. A tee-shirt dress and leggings are my travel uniform, as they offer a pulled together look that’s more importantly comfortable. Always wear slip-on flats or boots that will be easy to take off and on at security checkpoint. Carry a lightweight tote with lots of pockets and compartments to stash sunglasses, wallet, phone, hand sanitizer, lip balm, thin sweater, headphones, and white cane. I just wish I could be more efficient with my packing. I’ve heard of a certain fashion editor whose wardrobe is entirely black and white and gray, so she never has to waste time coordinating outfits. This is smart, but in spite of my vision impairment, I still need some color in my life.
Anyway, with the holidays just a few days away, to ensure safe and happy travels, here is my advice for those traveling with NMO.
1. Stay hydrated.
Traveling dehydrates you. I can tell because my skin gets out of whack every time I fly. Not only are you dealing with the recycled cabin air and pressure on planes, you’re tired from dealing with the crowds at airports and unfamiliar environments when away from home. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated. I often carry an empty bottle with me and fill it up once I get past security.
2. Travel with meds.
I’m one of the lucky few patients with NMO that doesn’t have to travel with a ton of meds. I myself receive the Rituxan infusion, so I only carry medicine for acute symptoms that may arise while traveling. In my small pill jar, I have ibuprofen for general headaches and an over-the-counter sleep aid just in case I’m traveling overseas and need a little help changing up my sleep pattern. As for prescriptions, obviously bring meds you need to take on a regular basis, but don’t forget ones like painkillers or anything else you might need for acute symptoms. I’ve even traveled before with a “just in case” 5-day course of oral steroids (which had proven useful ONCE when I was in Ethiopia and had an onset of transverse myelitis). Don’t forget to carry these meds with you in your carry-on!
3. Schedule plenty of rest time.
Take naps, and don’t apologize for them! You know your body best. I have to admit, this last advice is the hardest one for me to heed myself. I work hard, and I like to play hard, so my rest and sleep are often sacrificed. But I ain’t no spring chicken no mo’, so sometimes, I’ll make sure I get a full eight hours of sleep at night while traveling. Its’ hard, though, because I feel like I must take advantage of a new city by exploring everything it has to eat and so on. But I’ve noticed that I enjoy my travel experiences better when I’m well-rested after a full night’s slumber.
Those are my three main tips for traveling with NMO. Should you unfortunately experience a NMO attack while traveling, I would direct the medical staff to the Guthy Jackson website for more information on NMO, and hopefully you have a great primary neurologist whose staff you can reach at any time to get treatment support.
Safe travels this holiday season!