Bipolar and Vacation Planning

June 25, 2014 Natasha Tracy

Are you heading off for a vacay this summer? I am. Actually, I’m on mine right now. I’m writing this to you from Parma, Italy while eating some of the world’s best gelato.

And while sun and gelato and gnocchi and whatnot are worth crossing continents for, there are some things to keep in mind whether you plan on vacationing in Italy, the Tropics or two towns over. Bipolar should play a part in your vacation planning.

Vacation Disrupts Bipolar Routine

I have harped on about bipolar routine before but let me just shortcut it and say that routine is critical to successful bipolar management. You need to do the right things at the right times every day in order to keep your naturally not-so-even-keeled moods in check.

But, of course, vacation is all about getting out of the routine. One might argue that the very point of heading out for some beachy fun is to not do the things you normally do at the time you normally do them. Suddenly, your carefully planned routine is thrown out the window.

I don’t recommend this. I recommend:

  • Keeping as much of your routine as possible.
  • Setting reminders (say, on your phone) for absolutely everything you have to do (like take meds) otherwise I promise, with a missing routine, you will forget.

Vacation Can Disrupt Bipolar Medication Cycles

Vacations are supposed to be fun, right? Well they can be if you plan your vacation with bipolar in mind. Check out these bipolar and vacation planning tips.For me, I have to get my prescriptions filled once a month. It’s just the crazy way we do things up here in Canada. But no matter when you fill your prescription, make sure it’s full before you head out for your vacation and that the prescription refill dates aren’t in the middle of your summer fun. The thing that I absolutely promise will make your summer very un-fun is running out of your medication.

In my case, my refill was actually due when I was out of country so I had to have the refill done before the 30 days were up. I could only do this with permission from my doctor and it took a couple of days for that to go through – so plan ahead.

Vacation and Time Changes

I am now nine hours ahead of what I was five days ago. It’s a major adjustment. And my bipolar brain doesn’t like it one bit. Sleep and I have become dueling enemies since I’ve gotten here (of course, a rock-like bed and uncomfortable pillow aren’t helping either). And, personally, I think that sleep impacts mental health more severely than almost anything else (aside from, say, railing cocaine) so it’s important. So don’t think that just because it’s sunny out, you get to live on two fewer hours of sleep a night.

I recommend:

  • Try to keep you sleep schedule as regular as possible and change over to a new time zone gradually if you can.
  • Talk to your doctor about the use of melatonin (it’s an over-the-counter supplement) to aid in resetting your circadian rhythm to a new time zone.
  • Try to make whatever new sleeping environment you have as comfortable as possible. Make sure it’s cool and dark.

Vacation and Partying

Back to the railing coke. Some people are going to want to party this summer and if that’s you, that’s your business but I really, really, really don’t recommend you start using substances that aren’t in your daily life. Don’t go binge drinking. Don’t do drugs. Try to have fun without imbibing like a college freshman. I know, for some, the idea of getting “wild” seems pleasurable but I can promise you the aftermath won’t be – and it’ll be much longer than the fun bit.

Bipolar and Vacation Planning

In short, try to choose a vacation that will enhance your mental wellness and not defeat it. Because that will truly be a relaxing experience.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2014, June 25). Bipolar and Vacation Planning, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

June, 25 2014 at 6:28 am

Have fun on your vacation.....thanks for providing such wonderful information...I'm hoping to get to a beach before summer is over.

June, 25 2014 at 5:19 pm

Oh, well I have a story for that. . .
I just got back from what I would call a vacation of sorts, and I thought I'd had everything set up beforehand. I did. But it didn't work out the way it was supposed to. Thankfully, it did work out without too terribly much difficulty. But it was all related to my meds.
My pharmacist advised me to call my insurance company about getting a vacation over-ride so that my meds could be filled for the month early as I,like Natasha, had my refills come in the middle. But, my insurance company doesn't do vacation overrides unless I'm out going to be out of the country, which I wasn't. My only other choice was if I did their corporate mail-order pharmacy. But I don't. I go to a small, local, independent pharmacy. No chains for me. Also, one of my meds I can't even refill; it has to be a new paper scrip every time, but my dr figured out that one. If I had run out of refills, I made sure to get new ones from him and give them to my pharmacist before I left. She agreed to mail me the ones I would need.
Well we had a miscommunication or something because I didn't get them when I needed them. I called the mental/behavioral health hotline for the area I was in and inquired about what I might do. They suggested the ER to get a new scrip. The next day my mom talked to the counseling office at the college where she teaches, and they suggested the ER or Urgent Care. I picked Urgent Care. So I took the empty bottles and got new scrips. Problem at the drug store, my insurance wouldn't cover it because my pharmacist back home had already filled it. I explained the situation,they had nothing to offer.
So I paid out-of-pocket for about a week's worth of meds. This was two drugs, generics, and over $100. My cocktail is five (well four psych, one neuro).
And then towards the end of that week, the meds came, Two other meds also ran out, but I didn't bother with mailing and whatnot. I just had them filled at the local pharmacy--I gave them the bottles and they called to transfer the scrips to them. That was relatively painless.
So, moral of the story, even if you think you have arranged everything as needs be ahead of time, be prepared for hiccups. Bring ALL of your medication bottles in their entirety. Don't leave even one behind. I would have been royally you know what if I hadn't had them. . .because I wouldn't have been able to get a new scrip from Urgent Care and I wouldn't have been able to get the others filled at the local pharmacy.
Also, ALWAYS bring your insurance card.
oy. it was eventful. And it found a solution in the end. Hopefully someone can benefit.

June, 26 2014 at 2:31 am

I am always hesitant to book a vacation. I never know what my mood is going to be weeks or months in the future. I have booked vacations that I never went on because I was too depressed or manic- the last one just 3 weeks ago. But I can't not take vacations, I can't assume that I will always be depressed- what kind of life is that?

June, 27 2014 at 9:16 am

For years I had suspected that I had a mental illness. Unfortunately, every doctor (from when I was age 19 to age 50) dismissed my concerns although some threw a one month supply of prozac in my direction and said there was no need to return to their office. I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 50 when I returned from a trip to Europe and described my horrific behavior to a mental health professional immediately upon my return. For some reason, this disorder is very sensitive to time changes traveling from west to east, especially long distances. Everything finally made sense and,after educating myself about this disorder, realized that my father had most likely been bipolar. Now I understand how travel might intensify my disorder and am careful to make sure I have my meds with me and to monitor my emotions carefully during travel.

June, 28 2014 at 2:23 pm

I don't book vacations either. I take camping vacations, in the middle of the week, to the middle of nowhere, so I can change plans at the last minute at no cost. Or my husband and I go see his relatives out of state, and I suck it up if the depressions isn't too bad, and have a few breakdowns on the trip. If we had to cancel at the last minute, they would't hassle (they know I have bipolar, we all get along great and I wish they lived closer).

June, 30 2014 at 7:08 am

No holiday romances!! Sure to make you manic!

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