Many of us love a good theme park vacation, even those of us who suffer with a chronic illness. Several people in my family suffer from auto-immune conditions and they power through family vacations that sometimes leave them exhausted. I am currently going through auto-immune testing myself. We don’t have to miss out on the fun! Here are 7 theme park travel tips for those with a chronic illness.
My daughters and I recently had a wonderful time at Universal Studios in Orlando. The experience was more enjoyable because I called ahead and found out important health and safety information.
They informed me that there are trained medical staff to help those with chronic conditions. There are also First Aid Stations all around the park. I made a note of those just in case I needed them. They also have wheelchairs for those that need them and lots of areas for sitting. I also brought along my own foldable chair to use in crowded areas where seating was full. That came in handy.
If you have dietary or food allergy restrictions, Universal Studios, Disney and most theme parks have chefs and culinary staff that can accommodate your needs.
Always consult with your doctor before traveling as well. They may be able to give you useful tips, doctor’s notes, or inform you of hospital affiliations that they are linked to. Also, program ICE (in case of emergency) numbers into your cell phone. Also, keep a copy of your doctor’s info with you at all times.
Avoid Peak Times
Most importantly, traveling with a chronic illness means not visiting theme parks during peak times. I always plan my dates wisely. Times of the year such a spring break and holidays are a no go for me. We visited Universal Studios in late January when students were back at school. Visiting during a week day (when parents have to work) is always a thumbs up too! This means that the parks are less crowded more enjoyable.
Another thing to keep in mind, Universal and Disney are located in states with mild temps during the winter months. People in cold weather states flock to theme parks to escape the chill. Theme parks are also more crowded during this time with international travelers. A lot of them spend a month at a time at these locations in December and January.
What to Pack When You Have a Chronic Illness
Everyone wants to pack those cute outfits that you just got at the mall right? When traveling with a chronic illness it’s best to include some other important items in your luggage as well.
On the top of my packing list are comfortable shoes, a hat to block out the sun, spray misters (for hot days), sunglasses, and a light sweater or jacket. I’m always freezing inside of the park restaurants.
I also bring along plastic sandwich bags. You can get ice all around the theme park. Fill the bags with ice and use for a cold compress when needed. My backpack is always full of snacks such apples, nuts, protein bars, and other healthy options. Theme parks usually have bag checks before entering. None of the workers have ever stopped me from bringing in my own snacks.
Don’t forget your medication. You do not want to be stuck on vacation without your meds. I always pack extra and place it in my carry on bag just in case a pill falls down the sink or your luggage is lost.
A backpack is crucial too. I load mine up with water bottles (to stay hydrated), ginger mints (just in case you get queasy after rides), a mini-first aid kit, and any other item that you need to make you feel better.
And don’t forget the disinfectant wipes! I always get stares as I wipe down common areas. Just ignore the onlookers! Your health is most important and you want to make sure that your immune system is protected.
Plan a Route
Theme parks are large and getting bigger each year. Most people with a chronic illness suffer with fatigue. Keep this in mind when planning your route.
I plan multiple days at the park so that I am not exhausted trying to fit everything into one day.
Every theme park has a park map. Take a look ahead of time and circle the rides that are most important to you. See parts of the theme park in sections and use their transportation system to get from one area to another.
Most of the larger theme parks, like Universal Studios has an official app. Be sure to download it on your cell phone. It will be very useful to see the latest wait times, access park maps, locate restrooms, and much more. The Universal app also has a “Meals on the Go” option where you can order your food before you arrive at a dining location. This creates less wait times and comfort in knowing you can replenish and eat when your body needs to refuel.
I know it’s hard to take a break when you are travel with your family. They are overly excited to be at the theme park. You don’t have to ruin their fun. Go ahead and take a break for yourself!
My daughters are in college and are old enough to enjoy the park alone. I take advantage of this and will take the park transportation back to our hotel. I use this time to refresh and relax for a couple of hours. I kick my feet up and watch a little television, or read a book by the pool, or just take a nap. Park hours are long and you will need breaks to retain your strength.
Another important tip is that our family always stays at the theme park hotels. I always look for a sale on their vacation packages. It’s so convenient for those with chronic illness. Being nearby means you can get back to your hotel quickly if you are not feel well and need to rest.
If you can’t leave your family at a theme park unsupervised, then take the entire family back to the hotel. Everyone can take a break together or relax by the resort pool. Another option is to travel with a group of other adults. That way you can have people you trust stay with your kids while you take a restful break.
Food Options & Tips
There are many food options for travelers with a chronic illness. Most of the dine-in restaurants have healthy selections. I always order a salad with my meals. Theme park restaurants also have things on the menu like salmon, turkey burgers, oatmeal, steamed veggies, and much more.
I do enjoy one park treat each day while I’m there. After all of the walking and healthy dishes, it’s good to enjoy a little something-something!
Enjoy Yo’ Self!
Fresh air and good times are good for chronic illness suffers. Don’t limit yourself from enjoyable trips to theme parks. I am both a Disney and Universal Studios fanatic! I don’t want to deprive myself or my family. You shouldn’t either!
If you have suggestions that didn’t make the list. leave a comment below so everyone can see. I can also answer any questions you have or feel free to DM me on Instagram @twentyfivesmiles and I’ll be happy to help!
If you need more travel ideas be sure to check out these blog posts here!