Vacation Planning Tips for Those With HIV
Well, it's that time of year again -- time to think about vacation, and for many, traveling with HIV. My aim in writing this article is to provide you with some good-sense tips to help make your vacation travel a little bit easier. One thing is certain: there are deals to be had whether you lock in your plans early or wait until the last minute. You most assuredly will pay less than ever before for your vacation with just a little bit of planning.
If you are disabled to the point where waiting in a long line poses a significant hardship, call in advance and find out if the airline can make accommodations for you. Hours in an airport check-in line can be unbearable on someone with severe neuropathy, among other conditions, and you shouldn't have to undergo such discomfort. When calling the airline, try and get the name and extension of the person with whom you are speaking. This can be particularly helpful when the airlines on-site staff is not as willing to help you as the telephone representative was.
Phoning in advance can often get you whisked right through the line if your situation warrants such treatment. Also, when calling, be sure to ask the airline to explain their policies on any medical equipment that you may need to bring with you, such as canes, walkers and wheelchairs. You can save yourself a lot of headaches simply by calling ahead and requesting information. It is also helpful to inquire about other special needs you may have. If you are scheduled to be in flight during the time you normally take your medicine, and you need to take it with a meal, but one isn't offered, inquire. Often, accommodations can be made for you as long as you plan ahead and request such things in advance.
If you are like me, you probably pack for a month if you are going away for a week. While all of your major fashion and "can't live without" items can go into your checked luggage, there are some do's and don'ts that pertain to carry-on luggage.
Medicines: Bring more than you will need, and bring them in the original prescription containers, especially if you are traveling out of the country. The last thing you need is for some over-zealous customs agent or security guard suspecting you of being a pill-pusher or smuggler. Keep in mind that there are more delays than ever and you may need your evening meds while you are still in line waiting for your flight that was due to board four hours ago. Don't forget any OTC (over-the-counter) medicines that you may require such as aspirin, cough medicines, eye drops and anti-diarrhea medicines.
Food: Most people with HIV need to take at least some of their medicines with food, so bring along a bottle of spring water (or purified water, if you require it) with some non-perishable food items such as peanut butter crackers or non-refrigerated lunch packs, such as the type that schoolchildren sometimes take for lunch. Fresh fruits are also a good idea, but watch out for grapefruit as it can interact with certain HIV medicines. I sympathize with those of you who would much prefer a nice gourmet meal with their meds, but let's be practical!
Non-Essentials: Use your own preferences, but for me, I can't stand in a three-hour line without a good book or magazine, Palm Pilot loaded with games, and a cell phone with an extra battery. A Walkman or MP3 player can also help pass the time while you are waiting for your shoes to be searched. Those who may have occasional problems with diarrhea may want to consider a fresh pair of underwear and some baby wipes in their carry-on bag -- you may not need it, but will wish you had brought it if you do! I've found that a small bottle of cologne and some breath mints or chewing gum can come in very handy when waiting in line. As anyone who has ever ridden on the subway knows, not everyone has the best hygiene and some fresh scents can go a long way to make your wait on line much more bearable.
Dangerous items: Under no circumstances should you bring certain items such as nail clippers, scissors, or bladed shavers into an airport carry-on bag unless you want to lose them, get arrested, or both. Check with your airline to be sure, but I believe that these items must be relegated to checked luggage only.
Marijuana: While many people with HIV depend on marijuana to relieve the symptoms of nausea and to help them eat, it remains illegal, at least by federal law, in the United States. Speak to your health care professional about trying Marinol, an alternative that you may find helpful if nausea and lack of appetite is a problem. The last thing you need is to have a trained dog sniffing at the dime bag you've hidden in your crotch and getting thrown in jail in the process. Remember, the old rules no longer apply, even for domestic flights.
To have the most hassle-free trip possible, also be sure to give yourself plenty of time for airport check-in, and try to lock your flight well before your departure date. I know that you can save money waiting until the last minute, but more often than not that entails accepting "stand-by" tickets, which basically means that if they sell out at full price, you're bumped. For me, it isn't worth the hassle, but for others, the allure of a cheap fare is enough to spend a day "vacationing" in the airport. The basic rule of thumb is that the more flexible your travel plans are, the better fare you will get.
Steve McMahon is a freelance writer living in New York.
This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.