Preparing for Vacation With Macular Degeneration

I just spent my morning packing for our family’s upcoming vacation to the beach. I’ve found myself sitting here chuckling because I have an entire bag dedicated to ‘eye necessities'. It’s really one of those ‘you have to laugh or you’ll cry’ type of situations if I’m being honest... Like who does this? Well, the answer is me! I do this.

The sun

The fifth wheel on our family’s summer vacation this year is the sun. Don’t get me wrong, I love sunny summer days and our family is in desperate need of some time away at the beach. However, as I am here today packing, my family’s eyes are at the forefront of my mind.

You see, my family hasn’t had the opportunity to visit the beach in a decade. So this is the first time I’m packing us all up with the knowledge I’ve learned along the way about the potential harm the sun can do to our precious eyes. My sons are ten and thirteen now and are extremely excited to spend entire days swimming in the ocean, exploring beaches, and taking boat rides.

What many take for granted

You see, something I think many people who haven’t yet experienced macular degeneration don’t worry about, or don’t know the importance of, is just how powerful the sun can be, and how damaging that can be for our eyes.

In general, I think it’s well known and accepted that the sun does significant damage to our skin. The sun can also be extremely harmful to the naked eye, even in short periods of time. It’s less known that our eyes can get sunburned as well. Interesting, right? But, it makes total sense if you think about it. That means the sun harms the inside and outside of our eyes if we don’t take the proper precautions.

Extras to pack

That being said, I’m packing up everything we need for our trip including a long list of items that will help us to enjoy our time safely. I’d like to share my list with our amazing community just in case it can be helpful for someone else as well.

My list of ‘eye’ protection items to pack looks like this:

  • Sunglasses (for all four family members, my oldest son has transition lenses on his glasses but he is also wearing contacts more and more as he gets older).
  • Swim goggles with UV protection (for the kids - I’ll be in the ocean, but I won’t be swimming like the kids will be, so my sunglasses and hat will do).
  • Bucket hats (for all four family members, this is to protect our eyes from the sun that can reach them over the top of the sunglasses and adds an extra protective layer)
  • Beach umbrella (to help block the sun when we aren’t in the water)

Why it's important

Okay, okay I know... It’s a short list. But it’s an important one. Look, the goal here is simple. Keep the sun away from our eyes. Sunglasses are one of the easiest and most important ways that we can keep the sun’s harmful rays away from our eyes. The sun reflects powerfully off of water. So, even if we are under an umbrella or even if we have a bucket hat on, the reflected rays can still reach our eyes.

The umbrella and the bucket hats are there to protect our eyes from the sun that can creep in from over or under our sunglasses. This is why I have UV-protected goggles for the kids to swim with while they’re in the ocean.

Other eye necessities

You may be wondering what else is filling up that bag. Well, three-fourths of our family wear corrective lenses, including glasses and contacts. So, my ‘eye necessities bag’ is packed full of many other things like glasses (and cases), extra contacts just in case something happens to the pair I will be wearing (the other two wear disposables, but my extremely high prescription doesn’t allow for that yet), eye drops for dry eye and allergy relief, contact solution… The list goes on. I just have to chuckle because... It is what it is.

Teaching eye healthy habits

We all know that my eyes are fragile and need extra TLC, but as my sons are growing and becoming more independent it’s becoming increasingly important for me to teach them how to care for their own eyes properly as well. This will give them the tools they need to care for their eyes properly for their entire lives.

If you or anyone you know is visiting the beach this summer, it may be beneficial to take a little extra time to make a list (and prepare an extra bag) for the many things we need to pack just for our eyes.

Andrea Junge

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