Avoiding Chronic Illness Vacation Risk Factors

Kids at Legoland

Summer vacations with the family are fun. This time of year is all about getting outdoors and creating memories to last a life time. Even if you have a chronic illness, like multiple sclerosis, you can still enjoy these summer vacations. You just have to understand the risk factors:

Chronic Illness Vacation Risk Factors

  1. Travel Stress: Traveling for a vacation can be extremely stressful. Whether it is packing, planning or traveling, these activities are out of our normal routine and therefore out of our control.
  2. Overdoing it: Vacations bring renewed energy. Energy to stay up late, explore new places and take in new sights. There is also an assumption that because a vacation has a defined start and end date you must accomplish everything within that time frame.
  3. Overheating: Summer is a dangerous time to travel if you are not properly prepared to handle the heat. If you are going to a climate that is different than what you are used to, chances are you may not have the appropriate protection from the heat.
  4. Time Zones: Changing time zones changes your internal clock. If you travel to a different time zone chances are that you will have trouble acclimating your sleep schedule to the new time zone. Usually, you’ll be used to the new time zone a day or two before you leave, which will then mess up your sleep schedule when you get home.
  5. Eating Out: Buffets, fast foods, and other temptations await you at your final destination. When on vacation, we tend to relax any restrictions we have on our diet. This vacation eating, however, can lead to overeating, increased fatigue and digestive issues.

All of these risk factors contribute to a phenomenon that I call, Post Vacation Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS). I can always rally to the occasion for the vacation, but I pay the price for weeks when I get home. The fatigue left over from the vacation risk factors carry over into my routine when I get home.

For example, I recently took the kids to Legoland in Carlsbad, CA. In order for them to the entire amusement park within a three day time frame, I spent 10 hour days at the park, running and on my feet a majority of the time.   I had to push it to the limit but the kids and I had a blast.  After I returned home, however, my feet and legs were numb and I couldn’t seem to sleep away the fatigue.

Since I had to return to work right after our trip ended, I relied on lots of caffeine to help me get back to work. The caffeine at least allowed me to fake like I was really there, when in essence I needed to be in bed resting and rejuvenating.

I will probably be fighting this PVFS for a while because I didn’t take heed to any of the risk factors above. Eventually the numbness and tingling sensation in my legs will subside, my brain fog will lift and I will be back in the saddle again.

I have seen the flip side, however, and how many with chronic illnesses stop going on vacation and miss out on the memories. With proper planning, you can minimize the risk factors of travel so that you don’t put yourself in a position to get sick, like I did. Even though I suffered for this vacation, the memories that were made with my two boys is something that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Stay tuned for my next blog, “The Vacation Remix,” where I will get a do over and share my tips for how to prevent PVFS.


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  1. Yep, Matt, I am now undergoing PVFS after a trip to Missouri. I did really well, even driving for 20+ hours, but I am paying for it now. I will be back to normal soon, I am sure. 🙂

    • Matt Cavallo

      Vern, I’ve had a marathon week and a half of traveling. That combined with the desert heat left me with a severe case of PVFS. I’m definitely paying for it now!

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