Hey there, I’m AJ and I love to travel. On the outside I look like a perfectly healthy traveler. In truth I have a few medical complications that can make travel a bit tricky, but totally doable. Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to make traveling easier.
First, if you are traveling with someone be upfront about your medical condition and the limitations you may encounter. For me I am always upfront with my food allergies. That way if I get tipsy my bestie or my Dad can steer me away from the chocolate tequila and mushroom risotto. Don’t be afraid to speak up to waitstaff to let them know about your food allergies. You are not a Karen and they want to ensure you have an amazing experience at their establishment. Latex is my enemy and I’ve made it a habit to scan my accommodations to ensure there are no latex products in my room. If I do find latex products I asked that they be removed immediately.
Food, Environmental, and Latex allergies are not my only complication, I also have damaged lungs. Which means I don’t breathe like you do. A pulmonary embolism with infarction is what did my lungs in, I have 70% capacity in my left lung and 90% capacity in my right. Fun fact I choke on cold air, winter is no match for me. In summer, I choke on really humid air. I can’t win, I live in Minnesota, so I can’t win. Anyways, hiking is one of my favorite things to do during the warm months. For me it takes a little extra planning as I need to look at maps to determine the route. If there are to many hills, I pass. Sherri understands that my lungs are crap and will walk ahead. She knows I’m alive because she can hear my huffing and puffing my way up the hill. She also understands that we need to take more breaks than the average person. Which is completely OK! Don’t be embarrassed if you need to stop for a rest while hiking, you are out there doing it! So pat yourself on the back.
Allergies and damaged lungs are not my only woes. My bladder likes to throw a wrinkle in my perfectly crafted plan. I AJ have a broken bladder, which means I need to self cath. At first I was afraid to travel because who wants to be that 38 year old walking around with catheters in her purse. Not to mention the first time I flew with Catheters the TSA agent flagged my bag for inspection. I spent twenty minutes explaining to the agent and his supervisor that the box was filled with self catheters and not bomb supplies. Thankfully I put the invoice for the catheters in my carryon and presented it to them. The invoice convinced them and they let me go with my box of catheters in hand.
I called Carnival Cruise Line prior to boarding our ship to let them know I would have medical waste. Normally a self catheter can be thrown in the trash. But on a ship it needs to be placed in medical waste and not regular trash. So the cruise line ensured that a red hazard container would be in our cabins bathroom. And upon arrival the container was in our cabin’s bathroom. Our room steward never mentioned it to us and it was no big deal. Carnival deals with all kinds of guests with medical needs.
I’ve gone from cruise ship, to hotel room, to camp site and have not run into any issues with the disposal of self cathing supplies. Yes! I said camp site! Don’t be afraid of camping. The majority of state and national park camp grounds have modern toilets and in most bathrooms you can find a bio hazard disposal container. It’s usually bolted to the wall. If you don’t see one, done fret. You can dispose of the catheter in the regular trash or reach out to the Park Ranger to see if there is a preferred disposal method. If anything you can keep a ziplock bag in your car and dispose of the catheters/syringes or whatever supply you have when you return home.
When it comes to necessary medications, be smart and plan for the unexpected. If you have a controlled substance make sure it’s in the original bottle and have a copy of the script on hand, just in case TSA or authorities ask for it. You can fly with syringes/needles and a small lunch bag with an ice pack if meds need to be kept cold. Ask your doctor for a letter that lists out the injectable medications and that they need to be kept cool until you reach your destination. That letter will help you fly through TSA and will ensure you make your flight on time. You most likely won’t need it, but it’s good to have a little insurance policy in your back pocket.
I always bring more medication than I need on my trips. That way if there is a delay in my travel plans, I do not have to worry about running out of medication. And I cannot stress this enough!!! DO NOT PUT YOUR MEDICATIONS IN YOUR CHECKED BAG!!! Always always put them in your carryon!! There is no exceptions to this! If your bag is lost your medications are lost and it will cause you more stress than it’s worth. And it might ruin your vacation, because some meds are hard to get in foreign destinations. Especially controlled substances and injectables. So again play it safe, pack more than you need and put your meds in tour carryon!
Lastly, don’t be afraid to travel and don’t let the thought of traveling with a medical complication scare you. There is a whole big world out there waiting for you, so go on now, go out there and explore it!!