SPOILER ALERT: The answer to the question how to plan a day trip successfully when you have an autoimmune disease is … Plan ahead!
As Autoimmune Sisters, traveling even when we’re not in a pandemic can be challenging. Restaurant limitations, medication needs, the extended disruption to our day-to-day routines … All of this can make vacations more stressful than relaxing, not to mention flare-inducing. But a day trip, which by definition is a journey away from home that lasts no more than a day, mitigates the disturbance to our body’s systems and provides the respite we’re seeking. In a manner of speaking, it’s like having the best of both worlds. It just takes a little work.
How to Plan a Day Trip
So how exactly do you plan a day trip If you’ve been living with an autoimmune disease for awhile, you may already have your own tried-and-true methods for road tripping. But for the benefit of the newbies in our community, I’ll share a few of my best practices:
- Research your destination in advance. Google is your best friend. Find out what’s open and what safety regulations are in place. If you plan to eat out, search for allergy-sensitive restaurants ahead of time so you have options.
- Map out your travel route. Identify (clean) bathrooms and safe places to stretch your legs. Long car rides can increase joint stiffness and muscle pain. Plus, if you’re anything like me, you’ll need a few bathroom breaks thanks to all that water you should be drinking.
- Pack medication. If you take medication later in the day, be sure to bring it along. Set a timer on your phone so you don’t forget to take it while you’re out having fun. Pro tip: I’m a “just-in-case” kind of girl, so I like to bring extra just in case we get stuck somewhere or decide to stay overnight.
- Bring plenty of water. Staying well hydrated is a must for staving off dehydration, inflammation, joint stiffness, and mood swings — especially in the summer heat. Use reusable glass or aluminum water bottles (there are plenty of affordable options online) and bring extra gallons of filtered water for refills.
- Pack plenty of healthy snacks in non-toxic containers. Bring a cooler with non-toxic ice packs and stock up on your favorite healthy snacks. Use glass, aluminum, or beeswax to store food and beverages [Side note: I love these organic, antibiotic, antibacterial, antimicrobial beeswax wraps sourced locally by a small business in my hometown.] And don’t forget your bamboo or stainless steel utensils and cloth napkins, too. [To reeducate yourself about the importance of detoxing your system and not using plastics and/or other chemicals, read these earlier blog posts: Green Living for Autoimmune Health, How to Do a Gentle Detox, and Love Your Liver, Love Your Thyroid.]
- Wear compression socks (at least in the car). Long car rides can create muscle and joint pain, edema, and a host of other issues. Find a fun, colorful pair to rock and crank up the A/C in the car (compression socks can be hot!). Personally, I like DocMiller and Go2Socks, but you do you! There are tons of great options online these days.
- Stop often for brief walking/stretching breaks along the way. This goes hand-in-hand with mapping out your travel route. It’s helpful to identify safe spots along your journey in advance, especially if you have little kids who will most likely need to use the bathroom frequently, or just get cranky and squirmy.
- And of course, create a road trip playlist! Music really does set the mood and there’s nothing better than blasting great tunes while driving. Bonus points if you’re driving in a convertible (with the top down, of course)!
Day Trip Ideas
Day trips are mini adventures. But you know what the best thing about day tripping is? You don’t have to choose just one activity. You can string a bunch of these day trips together to create a full week of vacation fun, or you can pick a few and spread them out whenever you need a break from the real world … All sans hotel costs. Depending on your interests, activity level, stage of life, and whether or not you have little ones to bring along, here are just a few day tripping ideas to try while the weather is still warm:
- Explore your nearest city like a tourist. Hit all the famous spots that you wouldn’t otherwise visit unless an out-of-town guest was with you — and be sure to take photos.
- Spend the day at the beach or lake. Lather on your sunscreen, pack up the cooler, and grab your towels and chairs for a day of fun in the sun.
- Hit the water. Find a nearby lake, pond, or stream for a restful day of fishing, kayaking, tubing, or canoeing. You can even just search for tadpoles and frogs. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch, too.
- Hike a new trail. If you’ve already exhausted all those near you during your state’s sequester period, drive to one further away and log those steps. Look for kindness rocks along the way, or paint some with your kids beforehand and leave them for others to find.
- Bike to a neighboring town, then reward yourself with a treat. Window shop, find a handmade ice cream shop, or eat lunch al fresco at a new restaurant. Heck, do all three!
- Visit a “pick-your-own” veggie and/or fruit farm. This is a great way to make healthy eating fun and educational for kids. Plus, think about all the great treats you’ll come home with to eat, cook, grill, and bake over the following days.
- If you’re lucky enough to live near public gardens, spend a day wandering and appreciating the summer blooms. Slowing down can be a nice change of pace. As the saying goes, stop and smell the roses even now and then.
- Go to the zoo. Many are reopening again, and who doesn’t love to see the monkeys swing from trees?
- Rainy day? Get lost in a museum. It can be an art museum, science museum, or even a kids museum. And if there’s a planetarium near you, those are super cool, too.
- Create your own winery/microbrewery/spirits tour (assuming you have more than one near you). Of course, this is an adults-only activity. Just be sure to assign a designated driver.
- Create your own bar crawl-style pizza or ice cream taste test tour in your hometown. Naturally, this one can involve the kids; Just be sure you scope out allergy-free options in advance (or be prepared for the expected fall-out).
- Design a surprise “choose-your-own-adventure” trip. Set a distance or amount of driving time and go. Stop when you hit your preset limit and explore the town.
- If you need a day to yourself to be fully pampered, and you have childcare, find a local spa for a full-day retreat. Book treatments in the morning, order in lunch, and follow up with more treatments in the afternoon before returning home in a blissful state.
- Search Groupon for more local ideas. You’ll score a great deal and may even find a new favorite activity or place to visit.
If you’re open to new adventures, the opportunities really are endless. Just be sure to plan ahead. Spontaneity is fun, but for those of us with autoimmune diseases, preparation is essential to really enjoy our time away. And if you do it right, how you plan a day trip can be almost as fun as the trip itself.