The Dos and Do Nots of Traveling With Narcolepsy
Last updated: September 2023
Hello and welcome aboard flight number 7899 with service to your favorite vacation spot. Thank you so much for choosing to fly with us today. As your flight attendant, I am here for your comfort, but more importantly, I am here for your safety.
Okay, let me be a bit more serious. My name is Alyssa, and I am a flight attendant with narcolepsy. Traveling can be an extremely stressful process, and I want to share some helpful tips I have picked up over time while traveling leisurely and professionally.
The 'dos' of traveling with narcolepsy
Ask for assistance
Every airline has accommodations for those in need. I recommend the use of wheelchair services in the airport. This airport service could be used by people with extreme cataplexy and for those who experience worse symptoms during stressful situations.
A wheelchair can prevent injuries from falls and can relieve travel stress by including a personal guide. This guide handles your plane transfers and baggage. Navigating a new airport can be stressful, so please consider the airport wheelchair services.
Plan for naps
I have an unfortunate habit of thinking that naps are only for children. Even though my doctor recommends a nap, I will admit to refusing to take one.
When I am planning a vacation, I pencil in nap times. I stick to 30 minutes or less because anything over that causes me to wake up more tired. I usually set my own alarm on my phone, but you can also utilize the wake-up call systems at a hotel. Ask the front desk clerk of any hotel, and they can set up a time to call you.
The 'do nots' of traveling with narcolepsy
DO NOT leave your medicine behind
The most frustrating thing that happens to me while traveling is forgetting my medicine. If you are lucky, some medication can be refilled at any pharmacy; however, in my experience, that is never the case. My medication is highly regulated and monitored by pharmacies in order to prevent misuse of the drug. The option to refill at anytime is not available.
In order to never forget your medicine or necessary items, try creating a short mental list and double-checking for these items before you zip up your luggage. My mental list includes my medication, cell phone, work iPad, and work badge. Things left behind like lip gloss or a toothbrush can be easily replaced. I also keep necessary items in the same area in my bag, so I will know straight away if it is missing.
DO NOT leave your medication out in the open
When traveling, I keep my medication with me in my carry-on. I never leave it in a checked bag because it could become lost or stolen.
When in a hotel room or hostel, I place my medication in a safe or lockbox whenever I am not in the room. For overall safety purposes, I also use other safety gadgets — for example, a door lock which prevents the door from opening at all, and a door stopper alarm that makes noise whenever someone tries to open the door.
Other dos and do nots
Keep your refills in mind and expect delays
Sync your trip around your medication refills, and DO NOT forget about possible delays. I once booked a 10-day vacation to London, and a week before my trip, I realized that I would run out of medication in the middle of my stay. Luckily, I was due for a refill on the day of my flight; however, I have always had trouble with this medication being delivered late to the pharmacy.
I called the pharmacy and gave them my sob story in hopes that the medicine would be there in the morning so that I could pick it up. The morning of my trip, it did not come to that pharmacy. I had to drive to a pharmacy 30 minutes away in order to get this medicine.
The moral of this story is to make sure you plan your trips around a refill so that you won't have to be without your medication on vacation.
Drink alcohol responsibly
Alcohol affects people with narcolepsy more than the average person. Take more time between your drinks. DO NOT stress. Leave for the airport early and always try to have a plan A and B.
What are your best tips for traveling with narcolepsy?
On behalf of Sleepy Airlines and this flight crew, it was a pleasure having you on this flight. I hope the turbulence wasn't too bad and that this advice will be helpful in your future travels.
Do you have any dos and do nots that I haven't mentioned? Let us know in the comments!
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