Travelling with Chronic Illness

Zach and I recently took the kids on our first family vacation to Disneyland! It was a trip we booked before I got really sick and found out that I had Lyme Disease, but we were able to make it work around my treatment schedule and limited physical abilities. Travelling with two young children is no easy feat, and neither is travelling with a serious chronic illness, but we were able to make some adaptations to avoid any big flare ups. I’m also happy to share my top favourite moments from our trip and tips for if you’re travelling to Disneyland with little ones!


Travelling Considerations


The first big thing that people are always shocked to hear is that we DROVE from Vancouver to Anaheim rather than flying. The only reason we chose to drive is because of what I’ve read from other people’s experiences flying with Lyme Disease. Flying causes considerable pain and migraines for most Lymies as the inflammation around the brain increases with the pressure changes (this happens to a lesser extent for healthy people too). The electrical magnetic frequencies (EMFs) and radiation levels affect chronically ill people much more as we cannot repair the damage that is caused to our cells and the disruption of homeostasis in our bodies is harder to rebalance. The lighting on the plane and noise of the airport is extremely overwhelming for anyone with neurological Lyme and the air quality on the plane is not ideal for an immunocompromised person. Many people with Lyme need several days to recover from the flare in symptoms and I just didn’t have the time to deal with that on our vacation. This is only a brief list on the trouble of flying for people with Lyme Disease, but I’m one to learn from other people’s experiences so that I can avoid mistakes in my own life!

The long drive wasn’t too bad because I was prepared with every toddler car activity that could be found on Pinterest! The only exception to our uneventful drive was that our kids have been sleep trained so well that Brooklyn had trouble sleeping in her carseat for the overnight portion. This caused all of us (except Caleb) to be up pretty much the whole night and I was very sick the next day with headaches, nausea, vomiting, and weakness during our time in San Francisco. On the way home, both kids were tuckered out from the exciting week and slept almost their normal hours.

 

The second big consideration for us was regarding food. I have found so much relief eating a Ketogenic Diet and mostly organic food because it has really helped decrease my systemic inflammation. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay in ketosis on this trip but I stuck with the Paleo diet and was “mostly Ketogenic”. To do this, we brought our own induction hot plate and frying pan to cook food in the hotel (hard boiled eggs, organic chicken, bacon) and did a big shop at Costco and Whole foods when we arrived to load up on lots of healthy snack food. Our go to food for the parks included: organic veggies like carrots and cucumber that we cut up, hummus, guacamole, organic apple sauce squeeze tubes, organic grass fed yogurt tubes, organic fruit like apples, bananas, grapes, organic turkey meat slices, grass fed beef jerky, organic figgy pops, cold pressed juice, and flavoured sparkling water. 

It was really nice to not worry about sticking to my Ketogenic Diet so I could eat at some of the restaurants. Disneyland is AMAZING at accommodating food allergies and I had some delicious meals that were still gluten, dairy, corn, and soy free. I would make the requests on our dining reservations and often had a special meal prepared by the chef. It was such a treat to enjoy a couple Mickey Mouse gluten-free waffles at our breakfast with Minnie Mouse where they served us a special family-style breakfast platter!


The last major difference was how we managed our time. Travelling with kids already slows the pace way down, but I knew that I personally needed lots of resting time consciously built into our schedule. So we would strategically plan out which rides we wanted to do in the morning when it was less busy in the park, and which shows we could sit and relax at for the afternoons. We would head home relatively early and make sure we got lots of sleep before the next full day. 

We planned for three days in the parks then a break on the weekend before another two park days. This turned out to be perfect because by the time the weekend hit, I was ready to crash for those two days and it was easy (but a little sad) to miss out on our planned beach and zoo time in favour of a little R&R. It can be really difficult to come to grips with the difference between reality and expectations but I’m glad that I listened to my body.

 

Top 10 Favourite Moments


Brooklyn meeting Darth Vader. She was so scared leading up to it but once she was dressed as Rey, she was pumped! She approached him with awe and reverence. And that hug!

Waiting at the gates for Toon Town opening when Brooklyn squealed with delight at the sight of Mickey! He chose to hold her hand and she walked with him all the way to his house.

When Caleb flexed his muscles for Queen Elsa and Princess Anna. “Just like Kristoff!” they exclaimed! 

When Brooklyn became a princess at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. She embodied everything about it, from the hair, makeup, nails, dress, shoes, all the way down to the kisses and waves. 

Gaston set his eyes on Belle and swept her away for a 10 minute courtship where he walked her around fantasyland, proposed, talked castle purchases, danced, and presented her with a garden leaf.

We scored prime seating for Fantasmic with a dining package and I don’t remember ever being so impressed with any show ever. I was blown away.

Meeting up with my brother, James and nephew, John. Their company was a special treat.

Having each princess come up to our table, greet the kids, and give Brooklyn a twirl at Ariel’s Grotto.

Watching Brooklyn and Caleb interact so well together. It is such a joy to witness them start to form a solid bond.

On the last night, we dressed Brooklyn as Mickey Mouse and a Dad near us said to his kids “Look! There’s Mickey!” and they got super excited. Brooklyn then turned to me and eagerly asked “Mommy, where’s Mickey?!” To which I laughed and said “YOU’RE Mickey!”


Tips for Travelling to Disneyland with Little Ones


1. Download the Disneyland app for character times so you can greet them by the gates they come out of before the line ups (ask a cast member where those are). The app also shows all showtimes and ride wait times.

2. Bring a portable charger. Or at the very least, bring your charger and eat lunch by an outlet.

3. If you do the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (highly recommend!), book a morning time to get the most wear out of the hairdo. Stop by the Boutique to get free hair sparkles each day!

4. Stock up on snacks from Costco/Whole Foods and bring a cooler bag so kids can eat on their stroller tray while you walk.

5. If you don’t have a magical morning, book your character breakfast during that time so you don’t miss out on your park hours.

6. Do the rides first thing for shortest line ups and then characters/shows in the afternoon.

7. Toon Town opens 1hr after park opening so go a few minutes early to wait for characters that come to greet and hold kids hands for the walk in.

8. Line up at the main gates early because they open them up for main street shopping usually about 30min before official park opening time. The rope at the Walt Disney Statue drops at official park opening.

9. Take your time with characters; ask them a question, chit chat, dance. You don’t have to quickly snap a photo and leave! And have a good pen for your autograph book (the book in the park has tons of pages).

10. Get a free first visit button (or any other button) by asking at any store register.

11. Pay the $10 per day to use the online max pass. Using the max pass gets you faster fast pass times and you get all the photographer photos included! You don’t have to get it for all the tickets (especially if you just want the photos).

12. Get a fast pass for Fantasmic and/or World of Color for priority viewing areas. You can hold a fast pass for these and still get fast passes for rides (they are disconnected).

13. If your kids fall asleep on the walk home, change them into their pyjamas before you leave the park so you don’t have to wake them up to change them before bed later.

14. Pick your top 3 must do’s each day and the rest is all bonus!

15. Check out Magic Kingdom Mamas for their amazing tips and photo spots (mkmamas.com)