Traveling with ADHD is an entirely different experience than what the average traveler has. ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s a chronic condition that consists of attention difficulty, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness all mixed up together into one big cocktail that can really make life hard at times. I should know. I have ADHD, and my daughter does, as well.
We live with the disorder every day, and we’ve managed to hammer out a schedule and way of doing things that help both of us get on with our lives in a relatively normal fashion. However, travel can be dicey. We love to explore the world together as a family, but traveling with ADHD has to be approached quite differently than it does for most people. We have to think about a lot of different angles when it comes to travel. That’s especially true of international travel.
Prep Work for Traveling with ADHD
As I mentioned earlier, ADHD makes it hard to focus on one task for any appreciable length of time, so the actual planning of the vacation can be difficult. It’s important to start out with a plan of action that will make ticking off your pre-travel list and getting the packing done manageable.
Make a List
If you have ADHD or you know someone who does, then you know the value of lists. I have to make a list for any project I do. A list is your road map when you get lost in your own head. It helps you center your mind after it’s begun to wander and helps you get back on track.
Breaks are incredibly important if you have ADHD. Those of us with ADHD have incredibly short attention spans – emphasis on short. It’s not uncommon to start out packing and end up doing something totally unrelated to the task at hand. Scheduling breaks can help keep the mind relaxed and allow for us to regain our focus so it’s easier to focus on one task until completed.
It’s important to choose the right type of transportation when traveling with ADHD. For example, flying may get your family there faster, but driving will allow you to choose when and where to take breaks for stretching legs and moving in general. It’s important to fully understand how ADHD affects you or your loved one in order to make the best decision.
Traveling with ADHD has more layers to consider than most people realize. After you’ve chosen your travel method, makes sure you choose appropriate travel clothing. Loose-fitting clothing is always the way to go on any trip. Snug clothing can quickly create a sensory overload when combined with the sounds of travel, no matter what method you choose. Always go with clothing that is comfortable, stretchy, and doesn’t feel constraining.
To some, this might seem like an odd tip. After all, people with ADHD are already easily distracted, right? Well, yes and no. It’s easy to lose focus when working on projects, for sure. However, it’s all too common for those of us with ADHD to focus on the things that trigger uncomfortable feelings within us. The inability to move as much as we’d like, loud noises, cramped spaces, and a host of other travel-related things can make traveling with ADHD difficult.
Bring along anything that can occupy the mind and body in any capacity for your trips. Hand-held gaming devices can be a good distraction. Quiet distraction toys like fidget poppers and stress balls can help provide a physical outlet for stress and pent-up energy. Even chewing gum can help alleviate some travel-related stress.
Traveling with ADHD Medications
I deal with my ADHD without medications, however, some people like my daughter require medication to help them with their ADHD. While traveling domestically should present no problem for those who take medications for ADHD, international travel may be an entirely different matter. Some countries place heavy restrictions and even outright bans on commonly prescribed medication here in the US, so it is important to know what you can and can’t bring with you on international trips.
ADHD Medication Restrictions
Unfortunately, the drugs used to treat ADHD are also now commonly abused, which means that in many countries, it takes a little bit of extra paperwork and a few more hoops to bring your meds with you. In addition, your legally-prescribed medications may be outright illegal in some countries. For example, Adderall is completely illegal in Japan, which means bringing your prescription with you breaks their law. This makes it exceptionally important to thoroughly research the drug laws of any international country that you plan to visit.
Although Japan has made Adderall entirely illegal, most countries will allow you to bring your prescribed ADHD medication if you have to correct paperwork. This paperwork is key because, in many countries, ADHD medications are considered illegal narcotics. This is particularly true in almost all European countries. Heavily regulated ADHD drugs include:
ADHD Medication Paperwork
You’ll need a letter from your doctor stating that the medication you have has been prescribed to you and what it treats. This letter should state the name of the drug, including its generic name, and that it isn’t a narcotic. Your doctor should use your full name and state the amount of prescription drug you will have with you and the number of days or weeks that it will last. The letter should also make a special note that the medication is essential and must be taken as prescribed. A copy of your original prescription is also helpful. You can never have too much information.
For safety’s sake, you should always keep your medication in its original packaging, but that becomes even more important when traveling with ADHD either internationally or domestically. You should always travel with your medications in their original prescription bottle. It has all the information right on the bottle, and it adds another layer of legitimacy as to why the drugs are with you. You’re not on trial, but the more information the better.
When flying, always pack your prescriptions separately so that you can claim them at the screening area. This helps cut down on headaches because otherwise, you have to try to cram in your pills with your carry on bag for liquids, which we all know is incredibly small.
Refilling Medication Abroad
You want to avoid this scenario at all costs when traveling, especially when you have an ADHD prescription. Unless you’re staying for an extended time period such as several months, refilling your prescription abroad is a hassle, to say the least. Even though you have a legitimate prescription, many countries won’t allow it to be filled if it originated outside of their borders. An additional note for ADHD sufferers is that some countries may not even have the particular medication needed. For example, you can’t get a refill on Adderall in Japan. As mentioned earlier, it’s illegal in that country.
If you find yourself in a country which does allow your medication but with heavy oversight, such as most European countries, you might be able to see a local doctor. At that appointment, you can explain your situation, and hopefully, get a prescription which can be refilled locally. However, even that is time-consuming and makes for an annoying block of wasted time. It is vital to your health and your enjoyment that you bring enough medication to last your entire trip if you’re just vacationing.
Ask About Alternative Medications
Of course, you don’t even want to change a medication which is working well, but you might have to ask your doctor for an alternative if you plan on visiting certain countries. We’re back to Japan again, where Adderall is totally illegal. You can’t bring your Adderall prescription into the country, and you can’t get a refill there. Which means you need to ask your doctor for an alternative solution.
I am no doctor, and I know that every patient is different, so that’s as far as I’ll go with this. Your doctor may say there is a substitute that might work, or he or she may say that you shouldn’t mess with a good thing. Whatever they say, you should always make their decision your final decision. Never risk your health for any travel destination.
Traveling with ADHD is Doable
I learned a long time ago that traveling with ADHD, while intimidating at first, can and is totally doable. In fact, as long as you know what steps to take, it can be almost as simple as travel for anyone else out there. The key is to understand ADHD and how to accommodate the feelings and sensations it forces upon those who have it. Once you understand that, you can then move on to the technicalities of traveling with ADHD like which prescriptions you can and can’t bring abroad, how much you can bring, and other prescription-related issues.
Traveling with ADHD essentially boils down to logistics, and I hope that the above information will help you get your ducks in a row and keep them there (somewhat). LOL