The world is too big to be left unexplored. Whether you're going on safari to Africa or getting together with your family for holidays, these moments are big parts of your life you don’t want to miss for any reason, let alone because of your arthritis.

Here are some easy tips on making your holiday travel as painless as possible.


Before You Go

Packing properly for your trip is always important, whether it's sunscreen for sunny climates or a parka for northern destinations.

But living with rheumatoid arthritis takes a little more preparation than normal, so here are a few things you'll most likely want to bring with you:

  • Medication: Always bring more than you think you'll need to account for any unforeseen circumstances, such as layovers or delays.
  • Assistance devices: This includes canes, walkers, heating pads, extra pillows, or whatever else might make the journey more comfortable.
  • Necessary information: This could include who to contact in case of an emergency, or your doctor's phone number should you need advice on your trip.

Plane Travel

If there's anything synonymous with holiday air travel, it's congestion. The roads to the airport are packed. The lines to the ticket counter and through security are long, and flights are booked solid. It's an unfortunately messy means to an end, and adding in arthritis pain only makes it more frustrating.

To avoid arthritis exacerbations, try these tips:

  • Book smart. If you can, choose a flight that's less likely to be fully booked (like one during midweek), and travels nonstop to prevent unnecessary reboarding. Also, book a seat with extra leg room if you can.
  • Keep moving. Standing in line or sitting in a small airplane seat can only make arthritis pain worse. Take whatever opportunity you can find to move your joints, whether it be bending your knees in line or getting up and walking around onboard the plane.
  • Request assistance. If pain is getting the best of you, take advantage of wheelchairs or motorized escorts through the airport. Remember that you want to save your energy for your destination and not waste it all getting there.
  • Stay hydrated. No matter where you're traveling, make sure to drink plenty of water. Getting plenty of fluid helps.
  • Avoid alcohol. While a glass of wine might help the flight go by quicker, alcohol (and caffeine) can dehydrate you. Ask for cranberry juice when the drink cart comes by — it may help ease inflammation.
  • Get more legroom. Ask a flight attendant if there's an available seat with more available legroom. You never know when you'll find another passenger in the holiday spirit willing to give up their seat.

Train (or Bus) Travel

Traveling by rail offers more opportunities to be active to prevent stiffness than air travel. Unlike airplanes, there are more options for where you can sit. When booking your ticket, find out if there are seats available that are easier to access or are designed for people with additional needs.

As you board, ask the staff where key facilities are located, especially the nearest restroom. As with an airplane, inform staff members if you may need extra assistance.

Automobile Travel

Unlike other forms of travel, driving — whether you're behind the wheel or just riding — offers the greatest amount of freedom. Traveling by car offers you one big advantage: you're on your own schedule.

Leaving early for your destination gives you more time to make stops and get out of the car to stretch and move around. Take advantage of rest stops and roadside attractions.

Not only is the world's largest ball of yarn a great photo opportunity, but it's a great chance to walk around and get your joints moving.

When You Arrive

If you're staying with loved ones, make sure to tell them when and if you'll need help. This includes sleeping accommodations on the first floor to avoid stairs, a chair with arm rests that requires little effort to stand from, and anything else that can make your stay easier.

If you're staying in a hotel, inquire about a few things before making a reservation:

  • Availability of ground-level rooms
  • Presence of handrails next to bathtubs and toilets
  • Heated pools available for relaxation
  • Shuttles to and from the airport
  • Doors built with levers instead of knobs

Follow these tips to help keep your holiday travel in line with the holiday spirit.