Thursday, September 12, 2013

Traveling To Disney With Sjögren's

I have decided that to take blog vacation. This means that after today I will not be accessing my blog or my Facebook blog page so if you leave comments please be patient because they need to be moderated before they appear on the blog. This is a bit of a big deal for me because in the three and a half years I have been blogging, I have never taken a planned break. On the occasions where I have been away from home, I have still checked my blog via iPhone. The reason for this was simple. I have worked so hard at developing Thoughts and Ramblings and my readership that I was afraid to not be on top of things. I didn't want to lose momentum. However a lot has gone on recently with the publishing process of my first book, Tales From The Dry Side: The Personal Stories Behind The Autoimmune Illness Sjögren's Syndrome, the Kickstarter funding project, getting married, and dealing with new health issues. I think overall I have done a good job in keeping up with my blogging/writing as well as the numerous e-mails and other correspondence that has resulted from all of this. But it's time. Everyone needs a vacation.

I will be off the Thoughts and Ramblings grid until about October 2nd. During that time I will be going on our eight day honeymoon to Disneyworld which is the subject of today's blog entry. I have only been to Disney once and I was about twenty-one years old. I was in college and three of my friends and I (hi Tina, Lauren, and Ellen!) drove there for spring break. We stayed at a Red Roof Inn somewhere off the Disney property and endured the very long ride both ways. We were young and relatively broke but none of that mattered. We had a great time.

A lot has changed since that Spring Break trip all those years ago. There are new attractions at Disney; a whole new park even as Animal Kingdom was not built back in the early 1990's. New resorts, new restaurants; a whole different experience probably. A lot has changed for me since then as well. I'm twenty years older and let's face it, not in the best of health.

Traveling for me is difficult. Since I got sick in early 2008, I have only flown once and it was for a two day trip to Ohio; about a two hour trek. I ended up in the hospital within two weeks of coming home. The rest have been car ride getaways. The longest was about five days and that was one time while a few others have been two-four days. I can say that in the last five years I have never taken a trip that has not made a negative impact on my health in some way; some bigger than others. But I plan as well as I can and just take the risk. Life is too short not to.

This trip is a biggie for someone with Sjögren's. Longer time in the air flying. Have I ever mentioned how dry airplanes are?? Lots of physical activity since it is Disney. Loads of food restrictions to deal with. Heat and sun since it is Florida. Standing in lines. Traveling with a ridiculous amount of medications, supplements, and medical supplies. However I have done quite a few things in preparation for this trip that I think will work to my advantage on this amazing honeymoon that we have planned. They are as follows:

* The single most important thing we did when planning this honeymoon was to not book it for right after our wedding. I was a little concerned that going on our honeymoon four months after our wedding would take some of the magic or fun out of it. Absolutely not. I am extremely excited for this trip. Weddings are exhausting no matter who you are. I am a million times more rested and ready for this trip now than I would have been back in May. We had gone away for a few days to a bed and breakfast in our home state after the wedding but that was MUCH different than this Disney trip. Plus we didn't do much while we were away in May. My full attention is on the experience we are going to have on this trip rather than reliving all the memories and details of the wedding. I would strongly suggest doing this to any bride and groom, not just to those who have to deal with chronic illness. I was married before and had a honeymoon right away so I do have a basis of comparison. Do it the way I did this time around. It will be better, I promise!

* We booked a hotel on property at Disney. Besides the fact that it is just a cool experience in itself, it cuts down on travel time to and from the Disney parks, attractions, etc. and it saves on having to walk from the parking lot to the parks and back.Staying at a Disney property also makes you eligible to use their luggage service. You check in your luggage at your home airport and you don't see it again until you get to the room at your resort. Same for the trip home.

* Pre-booked many of our reservations, especially dinner reservations. While this is typically suggested for anyone wanting to eat at Disney, it is also important for someone with food restrictions because it gives the restaurant a heads up as they were told about the restrictions when the reservation was made. We were also careful not to overbook so that we had some flexibility in case I was struggling with my physical issues.

* Got a letter from my rheumatologist stating that it was difficult for me to stand for periods of time and difficult for me to be in direct sunlight or excessive heat. There is something at Disney called the Guest Assistance Card (GAC). The GAC card alerts the cast members of your limitations so that appropriate accommodations can be made. For example, if there is a long line for an attraction, they may have me wait in a shaded area without losing my place in line. You DO NOT need a doctor's note to obtain a GAC card but I thought it helpful in case they need clarification on what to put on my card as they are not all the same.

* Got a letter from another doctor stating that I need to be allowed to bring prefilled syringes on the plane. I also bought this awesome small, collapsible cooler bag for my carry-on to keep the syringes cool as they need to be refrigerated. It will also be helpful to store my refrigerated eye drops in it.

* I sucked it up and rented a scooter for the week. There is a previous post on this from last week if you'd like to read it. I will be curious to see how much I use it. The scooter gets delivered and picked up right to your hotel.

* Starting what will hopefully be a short course of prednisone in preparation for my trip and during it as well. I am looking forward to it. My rheumatologist felt that I should have been on it five months ago.

* I have never used a scooter before so I went to Target and practiced on one of theirs. That was an excellent idea and I highly suggest it if you rent a scooter for the first time. Better to crash into a display at Target than someone's leg at Disney!

* There are several grocery stores in Orlando that offer delivery service. I submitted an order with Orlando Grocery Express and it will be delivered the morning we arrive. The great thing is if we are not there, our hotel will keep it for us until we arrive. I did this for several reasons but mostly because I drink an obscene amount of water so I ordered a few cases along with some drinks my husband likes. I ordered some gluten-free snacks and breakfast items as I am not a big breakfast person. I also came up with the idea to order some toiletries, such as shampoo, soap, and face wash, so there is less to pack in the suitcase. Less toiletries equals more room for medical supplies.

* Speaking of, I raided the trial size bins at several local stores. Target has the best selection and amount of trial size items.

* We have one tour at Disney that promised to be challenging for me physically, the Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom. I almost said forget it and then that little voice in me said "go for it, you only live once." However we booked it for early morning the day after we get there. I didn't want to wait until later in the week when there might be a chance of feeling more exhausted.

* I did a lot of planning via books and online. You would be amazed at how much is out there in the internet world about traveling to Disney with a disability. A special shout out to my friend Kristen at Sjoggie StAHMer. She has Sjögren's and has traveled to Disney with her husband and young daughter. She had some excellent advice!

* Booked our honeymoon for one of the least busiest times at Disney. This will mean less crowds and most likely, shorter waiting times.

* Booked airport parking with a company that handles your luggage for you on and off the shuttle bus. I am traveling with someone but he only has so many hands.

So that is pretty much it. I think the most important thing to remember when planning a trip like this is to use whatever means are available to you to protect your health. The more energy you can conserve during the trip, the more likely you are to enjoy it. Those of us who live with any type of autoimmune illness or chronic disease tend to have less opportunities to travel than many people so it is important to make the most out of our trips. Especially honeymoons!

I am thrilled beyond belief and feeling blessed that my husband and I have this opportunity. As excited as I am, I am especially excited about the opportunity to spend EIGHT whole days with my husband. No work, no commitments, no places that we have to be. Eight days with no medical appointments or afternoons on the phone arguing with insurance companies. No bed to make in the morning. No dishes to wash.

Just him and I.

1 comment:

  1. There is so much to think about when planning a trip, it's almost mind boggling. Thanks for giving us some very useful tips. Enjoy your honeymoon, and I hope you have a wonderful vacation.