How People With Arthritis Can Still Travel

woman in pain on plane
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Preparedness is Key!

Some people with arthritis develop a reluctance to try new things or experience activities that their physical limitations might make more of a challenge. For example, people with arthritis often become reluctant to travel. With forethought and careful planning, people with arthritis can travel too!

If traveling with arthritis is a concern, it is wise to take short trips at first and have someone along who could be of assistance if necessary. As short trips are accomplished and enjoyed successfully, longer trips can be planned with confidence. The short trips allow you to experience traveling and at the same time learn what difficulties occur that can be either avoided or planned for.

Make Your Needs Known

If a travel agent is utilized when planning more extensive trips, be specific about your restrictions and requirements. Do not assume that all will be well and all will be understood. You must make your needs known. Ask the travel agent questions that will solve your concerns. Ask about:

  • Walking distance
  • The number of stairs
  • Location of elevators
  • Handrails in tubs and near the toilet
  • Elevated toilet seats
  • Wheelchair accessibility
  • Availability of room service at your destination

The travel agent has the information and ability to put you in a setting that will address your needs.

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is the key to successful traveling. Whatever you need at home you will likely need as you travel. It is important to make sure you pack enough medications to last the entire trip. It is wise to get extra prescriptions from your doctor also, in case you are gone longer than expected. Since luggage can be lost, it is not wise to pack all the medications in your luggage. Keep some medications in another handbag.

When packing, pack light, but bring all the important items that make your arthritis more manageable. Along with your medications, bring your doctor's name and phone number in case you unexpectedly need him or his advice. Remember to bring any assistive devices/arthritis aids that you use daily, such as:

  • Raised toilet seat
  • Long handled brushes or reachers
  • Special pillows
  • Heating pads

Sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable clothing also are important items. Use lightweight luggage with wheels and/or shoulder straps to make it easier to transport. When possible ask porters to carry luggage or use luggage carts if available.

Pace Yourself

The most important tip for enjoying a vacation is to begin the trip well rested and allow time at your destination for rest. Prioritize activities and do not overdo by trying to do too much in one day. It is a good idea to alternate active and restful periods. However, even though pacing yourself is important, remember to also try new things. Allow yourself the chance to try things you may think you can no longer do. You may surprise yourself. Achieving new things or accomplishing what you thought you couldn't do boosts confidence enormously.

More Travel Tips

  • Tips for air travel: Reserve seats ahead and make requests for any special needs; allow extra time to get to and through the airport; request airport wheelchair if you have difficulty walking; curbside check-in saves on luggage carrying and long lines; check all luggage through to final destination.
  • Tips for car travel: Keep medications, snacks, maps, emergency kit, and first aid kit in the car. Consider having a cellular phone in case of emergency. For a most comfortable ride, bring along pillows, push the seat back to afford as much leg room as possible, and stop to stretch every couple of hours or as needed.
  • Tips for train travel: Once again, make reservations early and request special assistance. Request wheelchair if needed. Inquire if restrooms, bedrooms, and aisles are easily accessible. Inquire if train personnel will be able to offer assistance.
  • Tips for bus travel: Ask if assistance is available; schedule trips when fewer people are traveling such as mid-week; avoid too many transfers to other buses; bring pillow or snacks along for a more comfortable trip.
  • Tips for cruise ship travel: Ask for a cabin near the elevator and a table in the dining area near the entrance; choose a cruise with fewer stops to minimize getting on and off the ship; inquire if the ship is wheelchair accessible; take motion sickness medication prescribed by a doctor.

New Horizons

The best advice for any travel plan is to take along all necessities to make yourself as comfortable as you can be, make sure assistance is available, and don't be afraid to experience new horizons. You may be amazed at what you can still do.

The writer of this article, Carol Eustice, spent part of her honeymoon in Zion National Park and hiked on two "easy" trails (with 2 hips and 2 knees replaced, and 1 ankle fusion). The sense of accomplishment was indescribable.