Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Traveling to Disney with Chronic Pain

In general, I’m a fairly healthy person, I do my best to eat well, and I walk 5Ks and do yoga.  However, as I’ve mentioned before on my blog, I have fibromyalgia and sometimes it’s just harder to do things than it needs to be.  One of the times that managing my condition can be most difficult is when I travel, and heading to Disney is no exception.  Traveling with a chronic pain condition can be an adventure in budgeting your resources.

I can I am always overestimating my abilities on vacation, the fact is that the transportation, seating, standing and walking at Walt Disney World is significantly different from what we have at home.  Chronic pain sufferers adapt their living environment to their needs.  On vacation it’s different and your body knows. 

Plan Ahead

If you have the time, it’s a good idea to start walking about 6 months before vacation.  You can expect to cover a minimum of 5 miles a day at Disney. If you’re not used to that, it will take its toll.  Even if you are usually a fairly mobile person, understand your energy stores, and plan ahead of time where you may need to adapt. I can go to Walt Disney World and walk a 5K, however, that may mean that I end up renting an ECV the next day at the park.  Spoonies (see spoon theory at butyoudontlooksick.com) understand that they need to store and borrow.

Do as little as possible the two days before your trip.  Getting vacation errands done doesn’t have to be a stressor, and waiting until the last minute can use up precious energy resources.  Plan to have everything done two days before you leave so that you can feel at your best the day you travel. 

Bring all your prescriptions, especially occasional pain medications.  Those “as needed” prescriptions are great for chronic pain sufferers who have occasional flares of their condition, but they won’t do you any good at home.  Pack your toiletry bag with the expectation that you will be in more pain than normal.  Make sure that you have your pain reliever of choice, as well as muscle relaxers and topical creams. If you go with your full arsenal, you can win the pain battle on vacation.

Restrictive clothing can be a hassle when pain levels are high.  I’m famous for buying new clothes before a trip, but be sure what you bring along is relaxed and comfortable.  Also make sure that your shoes are broken in and ready to walk. 

At The Hotel

Be sure to make your room comfortable as comfortable as possible upon arrival.  If you have brought sheets from home, make the bed.  Identify what resources are available to you in your room, and call for extra pillows or blankets to aid in supporting your comfort if need be.  Handicap accessible (HA) rooms are available at all Disney hotels and should be requested in advance.  I find that the HA rooms are set up for those in wheel chairs but don’t offer an advantage to me as a chronic pain sufferer. 

Relax in a hot bath or bring your swimsuit and use the resort’s hot tub.  I don’t find the hot tub in the pool areas to be hot enough to be therapeutic.  Take the opportunity to draw yourself a hot bath and relax for a few minutes to rejuvenate you.

If massage is a regular part of your health care routine, you don’t have to miss out while staying at Walt Disney World. You can make an appointment at one of the Resort Spas to take a break for your health.

Your hotel room will be large enough to stretch out in.  Some relaxing yoga poses can gently stretch your muscles and prepare them for a day at the parks.  Prepare to use your full range of motion in the morning and your body will thank you later on.  Light stretching can also be a benefit when taking a break in the Parks.

In The Parks

Guest Assistance Pass can be obtained at Guest Relations of all the Parks.  These passes can be used for a wide variety of different conditions and can alleviate the discomfort of standing in very long lines by offering you a seat while you wait for the rest of your party. 

Rent a Wheelchair or ECV –  All Disney Parks (excluding water parks) and the Downtown Disney Area offer mobility assistance rentals.  You can either get a standard wheel chair, or an electric (ECV).  I hate when people see my weaknesses, but this isn't a time to be vain.  Sometimes to enjoy vacation I need mobility assistance.  If you do too, go ahead and rent an ECV.  It can be the difference between suffering and having the time of your life.
  • $12.00 USD per day for wheelchairs at Theme Parks
  • $12.00 USD per day plus a $100.00 USD refundable security deposit for wheelchairs at the Downtown Disney Area
  • $50.00 USD per day plus a $20.00 USD refundable security deposit for ECVs at Theme Parks
  • $50.00 USD per day plus a $100.00 USD refundable security deposit for ECVs at the Downtown Disney Area

Be Prepared – Acknowledge Limits – Be comfortable – Rest – Stretch

Most important of all pain management is to acknowledge your limits. If you need to rest, then sit down and take some time for yourself.  Walt Disney World is a fabulous place to sit back and soak in the scenery or people watch.  You will find this to be most enjoyable, and your body will appreciate the brief rest.  Chronic pain doesn’t need to keep you from having a wonderful vacation.


  1. Thanks for this post! I don't have fibromyalgia and I don't have any intention of going to Disney, but my husband and I go on a lot of cruises. I was recently diagnosed with MS, and the side effects of my meds are a lot of aches and fatigue (kind of like walking around with the flu all the time). I can see how I could adapt your tips to our cruise vacations.

  2. I suffer from chronic pain syndrome related to degeneration of my spine. What my doctor advised was to take my lowest level of pain relief constantly throughout the holiday. While I am sure it masks some problems it generally means I can get through a holiday without too many problems. Of course you still have to remember to take the breaks and not to try to fill every minute of every day