Today is your day. You’re off to great places; you’re off and away! What excitement to travel somewhere new and unknown to you. New sights and smells, new people and places, and a new shock to your thyroid. It’s an awesome adventure until your symptoms flare up because you ate something weird or your sleep schedule is off-kilter or you weren’t prepared for the cool weather.
Traveling can create challenges and become stressful for people managing chronic illness. If you have hypothyroidism and are planning a trip, let us offer a few precautions to help your travels go smoothly and keep you feeling your best.
5 tips for traveling with hypothyroidism
Consider your symptom triggers
Be honest with yourself about what factors affect your health, and design your travel plans based on what’s least likely to interfere with the routine and conditions you need to manage your symptoms.
If getting less than eight hours of sleep triggers fatigue, for example, then you’ll want to book your flights at times that won’t interfere with your nightly rest, even if that means you have to do a little less sightseeing. You might also consider booking separate sleeping arrangements instead of cramming ten friends into a two bedroom rental, if sharing a room could negatively impact your sleep.
Also, take into consideration the climate and average temperature of where you want to visit. Warmer climates are likely better vacation destinations, since many people with hypothyroidism experience cold intolerance. Try to visit seasonal climates during a warm season to maximize your comfort.
Bring extra medication
If you take thyroid medication, keep it with you at all times in a purse, backpack, or tote bag -- whatever you carry with you while you’re out. While flying, opt to keep medication in your personal carry-on over your checked bag, in case it’s lost. Or, if you want to double-up on preparation, carry your meds in both your hand and checked luggage. That way you’re set if either goes missing. Extra medication might also come in handy should your flight home be delayed or you extend your trip.
Bring a copy of your prescription with you in case you need to refill in a pinch or security has any questions.
Plan food options in advance
Many hypothyroid patients use special diets to help manage their symptoms. You can use sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor to identify restaurants at your destination with menus friendly to your diet. You don’t have to plan out every meal in advance, but having a list of restaurants suited to you will help make deciding where to eat easier in the moment.
If you’re traveling to a non-English-speaking country, use online translation tools in advance of your trip to learn how to communicate your diet restrictions.
Once you reach your destination, head to a grocery store and buy thyroid-healthy snacks. People with hypothyroidism are prone to fatigue and weakness, so eating at regular intervals is especially important. Carry fruit, nuts, protein bars, or other snacks that are nourishing (but not high in sugar) to snack on between meals and keep your energy up. And stay well hydrated! Carry a reusable water bottle to make sure you’re drinking enough water to boost energy levels and avoid constipation.
Pack a flexible wardrobe
Temperature regulation can be a challenge if you struggle with hypothyroidism, so it’s a good idea to bring options when you travel. Wearing layers can be smart, too. Too hot? Take a layer off. Too cold? Add a layer. Maintaining a comfortable temperature will help you keep your symptoms from spiraling.
Even if you travel to a tropical destination, make sure you pack clothes to keep you warm. While your travel mates might not need sweaters or jackets for warm weather, you might! To optimize the space in your suitcase, roll instead of fold! (Bonus: this helps keep your clothes better organized, and crease & wrinkle free.)
Be prepared for the unexpected
Make sure that those who you travel with are aware and educated of your thyroid disease and symptoms. You may consider sharing the specifics of your medications, dosage, schedule, travel insurance info, etc. with one person traveling with you, a loved one back home, or even the hotel front desk. Should an issue arise, they’ll be prepared to take action.
Have a fun trip!
Once you’ve prepared for the worst, let go of worries and enjoy the best parts of your trip! Traveling can be as meaningful and fun for people with hypothyroidism as it is for everyone else.