How to Travel With Bipolar: Tips for Going on Vacation With Bipolar
Vacation: just the word is enough to make me giddy. It makes me think of far-off destinations, exotic foods, sleeping late, trying new things, suntans and partying.
Most of my vacations are a little tamer; I have a partner, two children (both still in grade school), and a limited budget. We live in the Netherlands, and the reach of our vacations extends about as far as we can drive in a day.
Less is better because the kids don't do well on long car trips. Neither do I, sometimes.
This year we've planned a vacation to one of my favorite parts of the world: the Eiffel region of Germany. I grew up there, and it's not just nostalgia that makes me yearn to go back as often as possible.
It's rural and quiet, and practically unchanged in the 25 years since I left it. The people are unfailingly friendly, the food is delicious, and the area is brimming with beautiful scenery, untouched nature, astonishing gothic cathedrals, ruined castles, and so many other amazing places to visit.
My familiarity with the local customs and language is something I treasure and do my best to pass on to my children whenever we visit.
Booking our vacation this year got me thinking about some of the odd things I have to keep in mind when planning a vacation. Being bipolar, stability is both a daily challenge and a tremendous reward.
Vacations, especially longer ones, can really throw off the daily rhythms I've built up at home, which can, in turn, upset that precious stability I've worked so hard to build.
They also present plenty of opportunities to overeat, spend too much, and drink too much. But with a little careful planning (not too much, there's still room for spontaneity!), we can avoid some of those stumbling blocks and keep our vacations healthy and happy.
Take Your Meds
If you take medication to help manage your bipolar symptoms, remembering it while on vacation (and bringing enough along) can be challenging. Some medications might require special letters or 'passports' to allow you take them out of the country, or may even be banned in some countries.
To help prevent some surprises at the airport or border, check with your doctor or pharmacy ahead of time if you're traveling out of the country. Get all the information you need about traveling with your prescription(s), and make sure the right forms and letters are prepared ahead of time.
Bring extra along if possible — having some stashed back at your hotel is always a good idea in case a bag is lost or stolen while you're out.
As far as remembering to take your meds regularly while you're taking in the sights, a simple digital watch is one of the best helpers available. Your phone might get lost, broken or stolen, but an inexpensive watch with basic alarm functions is much less likely to meet any of these fates.
This means you're less likely to forget your medication, which means you're more likely to stay healthy and stable.
Go to Sleep
Consistent sleep — and enough of it — is key to bipolar stability. For me, it's the foundation on which everything else is built.
When my sleep rhythm changes too drastically or for too long, everything else starts to unravel on top of it. No matter how fun it might be to go out clubbing late into the night every night while on vacation, too much of that kind of behavior will ruin that lovely stable sleep routine.