If you have a chronic condition, such as fibromyalgia or arthritis, making the effort to travel can leave you feeling exhausted and ready to crash on a comfortable bed like you’d find in those cute little bed and breakfasts. But until recently, those with chronic illnesses often found a hard bed and few comforts of home. But this is changing fast.
If you’re like me, (I have fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis) I always sit down on the bed to see just how hard it is and that determines if I’m going to find the closest Target and buy an “egg carton crate” foam mattress that I just leave when I check out. The beds nearly always feel like a slab of cement. I avoid actually touching the bedspread (they don’t wash them too frequently) and then begin my calls to the front desk. “I need three more pillows.” If they don’t have them I try to roll up towels to prop my shoulders into the right place.
Thankfully, hotels figured out that everyone likes comfort. (Well, nearly everyone. A few have complained about “what do I do with all these pillows?”) The first “hotel bed wars” began over six years ago as Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. rolled out their Westin Heavenly Bed which became so popular guests insisted on taking it home. Then Hilton Hotels announced a $1 billion effort that includes the addition of its branded Serenity Bed, signature mattress pads, down pillows, linens, decorative bed pillows and bolsters. Their web site hiltontohome.com sells everything from The Hilton Family Exclusive Clock Radio to a showerhead (Hilton sisters not included.)
Sheraton's popular Sweet Sleeper Bed, the Four Comfort Bed is a multi-layered, “cozy cocoon.” The four key comfort points are: a deluxe 11.5" Sealy Posturepedic Plush Top Sleep System featuring a 9-inch high Shock Abzzorber(R) foundation; four large luxurious pillows including two feather/down and two Euro Square lounging pillows; a decorative and inviting cushioned duvet; and, crisp cotton blend sheets. In late 2003, free high-speed Internet access was added, upgraded bathroom products and (gasp!) complimentary bottled water.
I recently has the privilege to stay in a the downtown Denver Marriott and found 300-thread-count sheets, a feathered mattress topper, stylish pillow shams, a decorative bed scarf and (yippee!) extra pillows—I believe I counted eight. I had just purchased my travel version of the Cuddle Ewe, a special mattress for those with fibromyalgia, but Marriott’s bed felt so good I thought I’d forgo the Cuddle Ewe (until 3 a.m. when I got up and put it on the bed). But truth be told, my family makes fun of me that I am like the princess who can feel the pea in her bed under fifteen mattresses. The bedspreads have been replaced by pretty white covers which are washed and a colorful “bed scarf.” (Half a blanket that adds some color to the foot of the bed.)
And those bath supplies you can never squeeze out of those teeny tiny bottles—I actually was able to squeeze out the conditioner and took home my extras. Glancing through the catalog, displayed prominently on the bedside table, I saw I could order the 10-ounce size of Orange Ginger Aromatherapy Body Wash for just $13.50. Not bad considering it’s by Bath & Body Works®. Or if that lamp caught my attention, or even the shower curtain rings, they too could be mine for an extra charge.
Most hotels do their best to be accommodating to those with chronic illness. You can ask for a complimentary refrigerator for your room if you need it to store medication that must be kept cold. If they don’t have one available, you can ask them to store it downstairs in their own refrigeration, but you may be safer with an ice bucket.
When you make reservations, ask for a room near the elevator so you don’t have to walk too far. You may want to be close (or not close) to places like the pool, ice maker and internet “café.” If you need a disabled-friendly room, don’t be afraid to ask. You may be able to get a walk-in shower and raised toilet seat with hand rails.
Small hotels without concierge service will bring your bags up to your room as a service. And if carrying luggage through an airport is difficult, you may be interested in LuggageExpress. They provide luggage transportation services by collecting travelers' luggage from home, hotel or business and delivering it to the end destination. The baggage flies on a separate independent flight, is in the hotel room when the traveler checks in, and is returned on a separate flight to home. See www.usxpluggageexpress.com . Another new service is Avis Rent A Car System’s pilot program where customers can rent a mobility scooter and have it waiting in the trunk of their next rental vehicle or delivered to the customer’s location, the first program in the industry. The program starts in Las Vegas and Orlando.
Hotels are coming up with all kinds of interesting perks these days to lure customers to their business. For example at Cherry Valley Lodge near Columbus, Ohio you can get the “MenoPause Escape.” The package is $350 for two women sharing a double which includes a fan and cooling pillow, 30-minute massage and bottle of wine.
What do I really want? A soft bed, lots of pillows, a reading light that won’t wake up the rest of the room, something that drowns out the snoring of my guests who are sleeping soundly, and a bowl of soup that cost considerably less than $7.95. Oh, and an alarm clock I can actually figure out how to set and a remote control I can work. Until then, I’ll stick with my Cuddle Ewe, my grocery bag of sugar-free snacks, and hotels that have Starbucks nearby.
For additional travel information see the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality on the web or call 800-513-1126.
Lisa Copen is the editor of HopeKeepers Magazine, a consumer publication for people who live with chronic illness or pain and author of Mosaic Moments: Devotionals for the Chronically Ill. http://www.restministries.org