Aside from which swimming trunks you’re taking you might want to consider what to bring with you and what to leave behind. Here are our top tips.
Ever since I was a kid preparing for my first Cub Scout camp I’ve had the importance of good packing drummed into me. Of course, I would’ve been quite happy to troop off for the weekend in Sherwood Forest with nowt but my trusty penknife and a couple of Mars Bars. Fortunately, my mum stepped in and started to ask leading questions about where my inhalers were and the other assorted meds that I might or might not need. I can hear her now: “I know you’re not sick right now, but you don’t know what might happen tomorrow” It isn’t that she was negative or a pessimist by nature but she was fully aware of my vulnerabilities – far more than I was to be honest. She could’ve written the Scouts’ motto: “Be prepared”.
The basic rule of thumb is to prepare for different scenarios. I won’t say worse-case scenarios because ‘over-packing’ is also silly in that you’ll expend a lot of energy carrying your six tonne suitcase around with you. Better to pack ‘strategically’. The worse-case scenario might be, for example, a shark in the hotel pool but that’s pretty unlikely – so don’t pack your harpoon. In other words, you can’t possibly pack for every scenario but you should be aware that anything could happen. It’s about striking a balance. You might argue, quite sensibly, that ‘it’s better to have it but not need it, than need it but not have it’ but the flipside is that you can prepare against mishap and literally ‘insure’ yourself against the catastrophic.
What a great way to bag a bargain vacation! The internet means that you can book today, get a whopping discount, and go off tomorrow for a great time. Even if this is the case, there’s nothing stopping you from making some general assumptions about your destination and preparing in advance. For example, you might know that you’re going to pick somewhere hot.
Of course, your specific destination will definitely have a bearing on what you’ll choose to pack. In order to get it right it’s probably a good idea to get your reading glasses out and just have a look at the characteristics of the place you’ve chosen to go to. The hotel, for a start, needs to fit in with your needs, be they access or facility based – don’t forget tiny but important details like anti-allergy bedding (although you could take your own) or things like dietary requirements. There are loads of reviews about every hotel ever built so you’ll be able to get an idea of the hotel’s general satisfaction rating. (If in doubt, give them a ring or drop them an email to clarify things. Nobody likes a nasty surprise.)
Similarly, look into the broader area, for accessible attractions, restaurants and so on. Be aware of how changes in climate might affect you, be it the difference between hot and cold or even, if you’re going on a city break, how city smog and air pollution might affect your breathing. Altitude can be tricky. If you’re a manual wheelchair user you’ll probably have good upper body strength and a developed chest able to cope with the thin air whereas others might struggle for breath.
Think about the availability of other services such as shops, pharmacies and doctors surgeries etc. You may not need to hike all of your meds with you if they’re easy enough to get hold of when you’re away. (Check customs law in the destination country if your medication is made up of controlled substances that you need to take with you.)
One of the things you won’t be about to take with you is your entire medical case history. That will be neatly stored away in the files of your GP’s surgery. It’s a good idea then to make a note of your doctor’s phone number (and that of any specialist that works with you) just in case something serious happens. The doctor on duty in your holiday destination might need to know about any serious allergies and the like before they treat you.
A smart investment for people with a chronic (ongoing) condition is a ‘Medic Alert’ bracelet. The package includes a small steel plate outlining your basic condition and a telephone number that connects to a call centre that holds your medical details. In other words, it can talk when you can’t. The logo of a snake coiled around a rod is internationally recognised as relating to medical matters and can be easily spotted in an emergency.
If you’re going to a place where English is not the prevailing ‘tongue’ you might consider learning a few sentences that might be useful in the event of an exacerbation. For example, something along the lines of ‘I’ve got a stomach ache’ could be a good starting point. Trying to learn anything more complicated risks you forgetting the lines altogether. (It’s better than having to ‘mime’ your illness to the nurse.)
What you need
If you take medication on a daily basis or even ad hoc, it’s sensible to carry enough supplies to at least get you to your destination. Remember to carry enough supplies to cover for reasonable delays since it may prove a pain to get your hold luggage back from behind the baggage drop desk. If your meds are small enough (and vital) you might want to carry them as hand luggage since no matter how well you prepare, luggage can go missing. Most meds are exempted from airport security liquid limits etc but you will need relevant paperwork/certification from medical authorities to carry items like syringes. (Carry you meds in their original packaging to prevent them from being mistaken for contraband.)
Be generous in packing your medication since you never know when an exacerbation of your symptoms might strike. Travelling, remember, is fun but also rigorous and often tiring.
Get your shots
If you’re going off the beaten path, you may need to get relevant vaccinations (or shots). Try to get these done in good time since you may experience an unexpected reaction.
You can’t always pack for your worse-case scenario but you can always insure against it. These days, insurance is a must. You need to have confidence that your insurance will pay out a good amount of money to pay for your potential admission to a decent hospital. Finding insurance with a disability can be problematic but it’s vital to get it done, even if the premiums are high – the costs will pale into insignificance next to a hospital bill that could easily run into many thousands of pounds.
Consider what your current condition is and create your itinerary accordingly. Vacations are supposed to be about rest so make sure you build in time to relax and recuperate where necessary.
Young travellers have natural curiosity and will get excited by seeing new people and places but they also like to stay linked with home (it’s a comfort zone thing). It may alleviate potential aggravation to take along favourite toys or ‘comforters’ etc to make your child les nervous about new experiences. You might even take along their own pillow to give them the chance to get a good night’s sleep.
In the age of cheap flights, long term car parking at airports can be a real sting in the tail. It can leave you out of pocket and can sometimes place your vehicle far enough away from the terminal that you need to catch a bus to check-in. Discounts are available by booking spaces in advance (up to the day before) and are particularly advantageous if you need accessible parking or a space near to the terminal.