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The Ultimate Travel Checklist for the Person with RA

rheumatoid arthritis travel checklist

Traveling can be exciting, but it can also create chaos on the body when you live with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Between the stress of sitting for long periods of time, getting where you need to be, and making sure you’re organized enough, you may find yourself burned out before you even reach your destination.

I’ve created my own checklist to help calm the storm caused by traveling.

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rheumatoid arthritis travel checklist

1. Medications

Whether it be prescriptions or over-the-counter remedies, you should make sure you have the proper amount. And make sure you pack it in your carry-on luggage. I always touch base with my doctors for any refills and make my merry way to my home-away-from-home (Walgreens) to stock up on everything I need while I’m away. You don’t want to run out of something important and get stuck without it.

2. Comfortable footwear and clothing

I’ve always been a sucker for shoes or a cool vintage T-shirt, but since receiving an RA diagnosis seven years ago, I’ve had to find a more comfortable approach to fashion. I know if I’m not wearing something supportive for my back and knees, I’m in a world of hurt.

I usually wear a good pair of sneakers and a comfy sports bra, along with loose-fitting shirts. I also pack items that are easy to wear, like stretchy jeans, so I’m not fumbling around with buttons. Slip-on walking shoes are also a great option, so you don’t have to bother with shoelaces. I’m more of a casual dresser, so you can make modifications that suit your needs. You know what works for your body!

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3. Luggage with wheels

Packing can be easy, but carrying around luggage can be painful. The best travel investment I’ve made was purchasing a suitcase with wheels. My RA affects every joint in my body, especially my back. It’s so much better to pull a suitcase on wheels than to carry it on your back. You don’t want to hurt yourself before you even get anywhere.

4. Special pillows

I’m in love with my body pillow. I always have to sleep with it in between my legs for back and hip support. I also love my small Tempur-Pedic pillow, which I use to support my back when I have to sit for long periods of time. The more support, the better I feel. They also have pillows that support the neck and pillows that contort for your own needs. A pillow for traveling is a must for comfort!

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5. Bring healthy snacks

RA means lots of medications and a lot of side effects. It’s important to take your meds with food so you don’t feel sick. My medications mess with my blood sugar, so I always keep a few granola bars handy along with a large napkin. (I usually destroy the granola bar before I even get it out of the package, hence the need for the large napkin!) Ah, the joys of having RA.

6. Plan for a medical emergency

I usually research where the closest ER is before my trip. You never know what may happen while you’re away. It’s good to have a game plan and know where to go right away when things get a little squirrely for you.

My RA affects my lungs. Sometimes an inhaler just doesn’t do the trick, so I need to get breathing treatments, which require an ER visit. It’s good to be proactive when it comes to your illness.

Finally …

7. Find ways to reduce your stress

Stress affects the body as well as the mind. Whether it be a game of Candy Crush Saga, some music, reality TV, or a good book, find what works for you to reduce the stress of traveling. Keeping things calm will enhance a positive traveling experience. You’ll be able to enjoy yourself more. I usually bring my iPad, open up my Bravo TV app, and indulge on some “Real Housewives.” It turns my brain off and relaxes me. It’s my own slice of relaxation I like to do, especially when I’m in stressful situations.

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Living with RA doesn’t have to hinder your desire to travel. Planning accordingly and finding what works best for your situation will help you in the process of reaching your destination and enjoying the change of scenery without the added stress or unwanted flare. Create your own checklist that can keep you organized and ready for every step of your trip.


Gina Mara

Gina Mara received an RA diagnosis in 2010. She enjoys hockey and is a contributor to CreakyJoints. Connect with her on Twitter @ginasabres.

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