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As I’m packing for my various summer travels, I notice how different my suitcase looks now that I have to think about all of the medications and gluten-free food I have to pack for my journeys.  With a chronic illness, it takes a lot of preparation to be adventurous.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to my next two months of traveling — starting with a family wedding in Lake Geneva, WI this weekend, followed by Disney World next weekend and then a long week in Vienna, Austria in July.  I have all of my sun dresses and flip flops for warm weather and beautiful scenery all over the world!  But it’s just a drag when you have to think about what I will need for a 4-day weekend — or even worse, a 10-day adventure in Europe — because of my RA and food allergies…so I thought I’d share some of the tips of learned along the way.

Tips for the G-Free Traveler

To help in the gluten-free department, it’s best to bring as much of your own food as possible.  That way friends/family don’t have to worry about finding you gluten-free options when a hunger pain starts at any given point of the trip.  So I stocked up on some g-free granola, crackers and Larabars — all are easy to pack and because they are dry food, they can easily get through Customs.  Having a granola bar in my purse is always helpful during those emergency moments when you just can’t find a restaurant that has options for you.

It’s also good to look in advance for gluten-free restaurants in the places you are traveling.  Sites like Gluten Free Restaurants can help you search for g-free certified restaurants for your destination.  Or gluten-free restaurants have been increasing in the news and on blogs as well.

Packing the RA Meds

But then there is packing the various medications, which is a lot more difficult.  Most RA medications are administered through a needle or have to be refrigerated, so you can imagine the hassle.  I currently have 2 medications that have to be refrigerated, which means I have to pack them up in a little lunchbox with ice packs to carry on the plane until I get to a refrigerator.  It’s not so hard to do that for a short plane trip to Florida, but when you’re talking about a 14-hour flight to Austria, it just isn’t going to happen.  The best thing to do is to schedule your weekly injections on a day that you don’t typically travel — so I have scheduled mine for Fridays.  And for my long trip to Austria, I will have to take a dose early before I leave and then one late when I return to the states. (The Austrian wine will work in the meantime.)

I originally was worried about taking the needles on a plane, since I’m not checking my luggage for my weekend trips — but good news! TSA allows people with disabilities or medical needs to carry on needles and small liquid medications, as long as they are capped.  If you feel like you need to have them inspected, they will gladly do that, but it’s not required.  You can just stick them in your toiletries container and carry them right on the plane.  If the liquid-medication containers are more than 4oz, then TSA can manually inspect them — so don’t forget to bring your prescription bottle along with you as proof that the prescription belongs to you.

And it’s always important to make sure to refill all your prescriptions before you go on a long trip (especially out of the country, like mine).  So I have sent in all of my orders to make sure that I have enough of my medications for the long journey.  Plus, I have my Mary Poppins purse to carry all of these medications and granola bars around with me on my travels.

Oh — don’t forget a medical wrap, some Aleve and your comfy walking shoes too!  Just in case.

All of this is a lot to think about when packing for an exciting getaway or long vacation.  But I’ve learned that it’s better to be prepared for all your chronic illness needs, rather than having to figure it out suddenly when you’re enjoying the sun on the beach or hiking in European back country…bon voyage!