Taking a vacation from Parkinson's? Read this first.

Managing Parkinson's symptoms while traveling

You're going on vacation?? How wonderful!

What a perfect time to relax, enjoy some downtime, unwind... and completely fall off the Parkinson's Warrior wagon.

While we all need to get away and recharge, sometimes coming back to reality and facing the fact we haven't exercised in days (or weeks..) can feel incredibly defeating.

At worst, if you notice a resurgence in your Parkinson's symptoms after a much-needed vacation, it can feel like a profound setback.

Exploring the world, spending time with loved ones, and having those special moments is what life's all about.

You should be able to prioritize and enjoy them, despite your Parkinson's diagnosis... right?

Do you ever feel that way...?

... like you should be able to just live your life and forget about anything related to Parkinson's for a few days?

... like you're tired of scheduling your life around your Parkinson's symptoms?

I get it. I really do.

You absolutely have the ability to make that decision - to exercise or not - every day. Just understand that choices have consequences.

If you're willing to accept the consequences of taking a few weeks off, that is your decision to make.

You always have the ability to choose. 

On the other hand, I know how negatively that choice can impact your symptoms and your long-term health.

So, I want to challenge you to re-wire how you see exercising while on vacation:

Instead of looking at working out as an inconvenienceunderstand that it's actually an investment in your future. 

Exercise is simply a tool you use to keep you strong, balanced, and mobile enough to enjoy those beautiful moments in life. 

In order to reap the benefits of exercise, you need to stay consistent, and this includes during time spent on the road.

Even a few missed days of exercise can snowball into weeks, or even months, of inactivity which do not bode well for your Parkinson's symptoms (or future vacations, for that matter). 

Below are 4 ways you can build exercise - your Parkinson's Warrior weapon of choice - into your travel plans without disrupting or overshadowing your vacation time:

#1. Put Yourself First

Do you stop taking your medication while you're on vacation? I doubt it. In the same vein, you should prioritize exercising like it's your best medicine.  Don't be embarrassed about excusing yourself from a quiet moment (possibly when everyone's watching TV) to go do a 10-minute circuit or pole walk around the block. Look at exercise as your badge of honor and wear it with pride. You are a Parkinson's Warrior and exercise is your weapon of choice. 

The best way to make sure you don't miss a workout is to schedule it in ahead of time. If you can, get it out of the way first thing in the morning so you can play and enjoy the rest of your day without feeling guilty.

Need help getting moving? Learn more about Sarah's online Parkinson's exercise program, The Booster Program.

#2. Involve Your Family

Instead of trying to figure out how to sneak away from your family, invite them to join you during your workout! Plan a family walk or hike. Try a fitness class at a nearby gym with your kids. Start up a game of tag with your grandkids. You can even do your PWR! Moves or BIG exercises with them - they're a great workout for anyone!

#3.  Cut it Short

If you're looking to get the most bang for your workout buck, consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT). A HIIT workout typically consists of doing short bursts of exercise for 30-60 seconds at a very challenging pace with a 30-60 second rest break, for 8-10 rounds. 

You can use this interval training approach to put together a 20 minute workout while you're traveling. Some activities that make for good intervals: 

  • Walking Regular Pace (1 minute) + Walking Fast Pace (2 minutes)

  • Biking Regular Pace (1 minute) + Biking Fast Pace (1 minute)

  • Use Pole Exercises - Do each exercise for 1 minute at high-intensity with 1 minute rest between each exercise. Do each exercise 2-3 times.

  • Bodyweight Exercise (1 minute) + 30 seconds rest + Walking Fast Pace (2 minutes) - Repeat 5-6 times.

#4. Get Powerful & Creative

If all else fails and you absolutely can't separate workout time from vacation, it's time to turn your everyday tasks into BIG, POWERFUL movements. This is much easier than it sounds. 

General rules:

  • Stretch your joints as far as you feel comfortable: fingers, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, and tippy toes.

  • Stand up as tall as possible.

  • Pop out of chairs with gusto.

  • Walk at a quick, powerful pace across the room taking high, long steps.

You can apply these rules to almost anything you do during the day. By taking a moment to focus on being big and powerful, you re-connect your body with your brain. It's not as potent as getting a longer, more focused workout in, but at least you're still keeping your brain challenged in small ways throughout the day.


(from a serious pro!)

Lyn Foley, author of GO ANYWAY: Sailing Around the World with Parkinson's, offered up some of the best Parkinson's traveling tips she and her husband, Jim, discovered while sailing more than 35,000 sea miles and covering 39 countries. 

(You can read an excerpt of her book - including Jim's transition from a custom jewelry manufacturer to their terrifying first 24 hours at sea - at www.goanyway.net)

Here's what Lyn and Jim did to make it around the world:

Set Up a Communication Plan with Your Neurologist

"We set up a plan with Jim's neurologist so that we could call him anytime, day or night, no matter the time difference. We did not have to use that option very much, and we tried to respect his time, however, just having that availability gave us a sense of security. We did have to call him from Sri Lanka as Jim's re-supply of meds were lost for about 3 weeks. He was able to speak to an English speaking person in Sri Lanka to help us find meds there while we waited."

Keep A Copy of All Your Medications Close at Hand

Parkinson's Alert Card

Parkinson's Alert Card

"We kept a copy of all the medication prescriptions and medication schedule aboard the boat and with us when we went ashore. We had these copies checking into and out of any country, just in case any customs officers, etc. was wary of all the pills. Jim also kept a card printed in several languages that said something like "I am not drunk, I have a condition called Parkinson's disease" "

Grab a copy of a similar card from Parkinson's UK here

Ask for Advance Prescriptions from Your Neurologist

Lyn and Jim Foley - Parkinson's world travelers

Lyn and Jim Foley - Parkinson's world travelers

"Jim's neurologist understood our situation, and wrote prescriptions in advance to accommodate our travels. We had two different groups of friends/family at home that refilled his meds, and shipped them to us, at least 4 weeks in advance of what we needed. There were often delays in receiving the meds, so we also kept more on hand than we would have had we been in the states. I had watertight containers for them all, and those little inserts (I don't know what they are called) to keep them fresh. Dates were on everything, so I knew which ones to give him first."

Manage Jet Lag with Realistic Expectations and Rest

"We didn't really have jet lag, however, we had "passage lag". Every time we sailed offshore for any time more than a day or two, it took Jim at least an equal amount of time to recover his energy. We planned rest days in advance after every passage."

Get Creative With Your Exercise

"Staying active was not a problem, as sailing itself kept us active. We are convinced that sailing around the world kept PD at bay far longer that it would have had we stayed at home. We walked everywhere when ashore, and  rested as Jim needed. (We met a lot of interesting people that led to a lot of experiences just from our sitting in various places to rest, instead of rushing through.) Jim has had PD now for 27 years, and  only in the last two years has his condition been really debilitating. So staying active worked."

Pack Snacks 

"We carried water and or juice with us for every excursion (for taking meds and for energy). We also carried energy snacks like nuts, granola bars, fruit, when we were on longer excursions away from the boat without plans for a meal."


Thank you, Lyn and Jim, for sharing your advice and acting as a true inspiration to Parkinson's warriors everywhere.