Last month I slipped and fell, thanks to plastic heels on a pair of used, supposedly high-end leather boots. The result? A broken ankle. Treatment was 10 – 12 weeks in a medical boot, with no weight on the foot the first 6 weeks. I broke it November 15, and our family Christmas trip was planned for Dec 20-28 – putting it right in the middle of my time on crutches. I had been mostly home bound since I couldn’t drive with a medical boot on my right foot. I was going to be sitting around regardless – so why not in the tropics with an amazing view and plenty of sun? I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a week of my healing time. Sign me up.
I had a role model to follow. When I was 7 years old my mom had surgery on her knee. We went to Mexico with her on crutches and in a full leg cast. I have vivid memories of negotiating bus rides into town, treks to the beach, and flight delays at the airport. There was no stopping her – she took it on with energy and great humor. She showed me that travel was always worth it, even with challenges. Now it was my turn.
There were some things about this trip that made it particularly doable. I’d been to Zihuatanejo multiple times, including a trip earlier this year to create a website for our favorite hotel (resulting in a free stay in trade). I’d already experienced the day trips into town, the beach hikes and ocean explorations. I was perfectly happy to spend my time lounging poolside, talking to family and eating great food. And of course we booked our flights with miles, making it a very affordable trip.
Our hotel, Puerta Paraiso, is the perfect size for someone with mobility challenges. Only seven units, right on the beach, with a pool and restaurant on site. The restaurant’s talented chef provides delicious breakfasts and lunches – and whips up the fresh catch of the day each night (Mahi Mahi with lobster anyone?). It’s never overrun – with limited visitors from town each day. I had 11 family members plus friendly staff to help me with whatever I needed. I took the plunge and it paid off – the trip was wonderful.
There definitely are things to consider if you decide to travel while recovering from an injury. I’ve included some of my top tips in the list below. Sometimes skipping the trip makes the most sense – but if it seems feasible, go for it. Rest, relaxation and a change of scenery do wonders for the body and mind – helping the healing process. Be smart, be careful – but take a chance. I certainly was happy I did.
- Consult your doctor. You definitely want to get the medical green light before you go. My doctor let me know what I could and couldn’t do – for example, I could get in the pool but was not allowed to walk on my injured foot in the water, or swim.
- Pack the right gear. For me that was my medical boot, my ankle brace for in bed, and my crutches. I brought a small backpack since carrying weight on only one shoulder is a bad idea. I also decided to have fun with my medical boot – dressing it up with fun covers by Flaunt Boots. Who says you can’t look stylish in medical gear?
- Get disability assistance. Call or email the airline ahead of time to arrange for assistance at the airport. If you have limited mobility due to your injury, get a wheelchair (which usually means shorter lines for security and customs). I also decided to pay for preferred seating at the front of the plane. Airlines typically will provide this for free, but during the busy holidays I didn’t want to take any chances.
- Pick the right lodging. If you have mobility issues, you’ll want an easy place to stay. Reserve rooms with accessible showers if needed and/or request a shower stool. Let people know early what your needs will be so they can work to accommodate them. If you have to change hotels or lodging to be more comfortable and safe, it’s probably worth it.
- Have money for tips. People will be helping you navigate the airport, shuttles and taxis – and will be giving you extra service at hotels. Be ready to show your gratitude for the extra help. Win-win all around.
- Give yourself extra time. Build in extra time for the airport and trip activities. The last thing you want to do is hurry, which could put you at risk for re-injury. Also give yourself extra time for pre-travel prep and packing. I found it challenging to get myself and the house ready for our time away – and was glad I gave myself an extra day or two.
- Practice exquisite self care. Be careful. Ask for help and move slowly. You are in healing mode and need extra care. Let people help you. Pack snacks for travel days and trip excursions (suggestions in this post about eating healthy while traveling). Be good to yourself.
- Be realistic. I probably wouldn’t have taken a trip to Europe or New York City with a broken ankle. Too much walking and too much I’d have to miss. The tropics felt much more reasonable. And if you do travel, lower your expectations. You’ll do less than normal and that’s ok. Bring books and nap more. With an injury, it’s all about rest and relaxation.
Have you traveled with an injury? I’d love to hear about your experiences, and any additional tips you might have. Please leave comments below!
Photo credit: Will Austin