If you love to globe-trot yet feel you need to rein in travel plans because you have ankylosing spondylitis (AS), think again. While you may need to re-examine your itinerary to minimize your risk of a flare, there’s no need to give up a getaway. The next time you’re ready to pack your bags, consider these AS-friendly vacation tips and potential destinations.
Whether you travel by air, rail, or sea, keep these tips in mind:
Book your trip when you feel your best
Although AS symptoms can occur any time, research shows some people experience flares in humid conditions or when the weather changes from hot to cold. Keep your triggers in mind when planning a trip.
For example, if you know you tend to flare during the cold months of winter, a January ski trip is not the best option. If hot, humid weather is your pain trigger, avoid the Southeast and tropical climates during the summer months when temperatures soar.
Mind your meds
Take inventory of your medications to make sure you have more than enough to get you through your trip. Pack enough for a few extra days in case of travel delays.
Some AS prescription drugs are controlled substances and may require a doctor’s note to carry. Get an extra prescription order from your doctor in case you lose your meds. Verify pharmacy locations and policies in your destination city, especially if you’re traveling to another country.
Don’t pack your medications in your luggage, as luggage can go missing for days. Carry your medications with you as you travel to and from your destination.
Some medications may require an ice pack and insulated bag to stay viable.
Plan how you’ll get around
It’s a good idea to plan how you’ll get from place to place once you reach your destination. Some rental car companies offer accessible travel cars. Most hotels offer shuttle service to and from airports, train stations, cruise ports, and points of interest.
If a lot of walking will be involved, consider investing in a transport chair, or ask your travel agent or hotel concierge if a wheelchair will be available.
Take advantage of airport and hotel assistance
Airports, train stations, and cruise ports offer disability travel services. Services may include preboarding, motorized escorts, wheelchairs, and accessible seating. Contact your airline, railway company, or cruise line for instructions on how to arrange these services.
Choose a hotel wisely
Depending on how you’re feeling, you may spend a lot of time at your hotel. If you can’t book a room on the first floor, ask for a room near an elevator. Look for these additional amenities:
- a pool so you can gently exercise without stressing your joints
- a refrigerator in your room to store medications, healthy snacks, and water
- an on-site restaurant or, better yet, room service for times you’re not up to traveling far for a meal
- accessible front desk staff or concierge to help you arrange for mobility services
Don’t wait until you arrive to see what services are available. Call ahead.
Stay on the healthy-eating bandwagon
It’s tempting to throw dietary caution to the wind and indulge while on vacation, but it’s not smart if you have AS. Foods high in fat and calories also tend to be inflammatory and may lead to a flare. While it’s okay to enjoy an occasional treat, try to stick to your usual healthy eating plan. Stay well-hydrated and keep healthy snacks and water on hand.
Even though vacation is a time to relax, fight the urge to lounge by the pool for hours on end. Being still for extended periods may lead to stiffness and pain.
If lounging is on your agenda, be sure to get up and move around at least 5 to 10 minutes each hour. Take a walk, stretch, or go for a short swim to keep your blood pumping and your muscles and joints flexible.
Good places to visit
You don’t have to travel far to enjoy a vacation. Many people have attractions in their hometowns they’ve never seen. If you’re more comfortable staying close to home and sleeping in your own bed, enjoy a “staycation.” Search the internet for popular destinations in or near your town. Most offer disability accommodations.
However, if your urge to travel is strong, consider these AS-friendly destinations:
Yes, Las Vegas is known for being noisy, fast-paced, and full of life. But it’s also in Nevada, one of the least humid states in the country. And there’s more to Las Vegas than slot machines and all-night parties. Many Las Vegas resorts are all-inclusive and offer peaceful views and a relaxing oasis away from the Las Vegas Strip.
The Grand Canyon
Arizona is another state known for its lack of humidity. And it’s home to the Grand Canyon, one of the United States’ most breathtaking sites. While hiking the canyon on the back of a donkey may not be on your agenda, enjoying the spectacular views from your hotel balcony could be just what you need to rejuvenate.
A spa retreat
A spa retreat is the ultimate pampering gift you can give yourself. Most spa resorts focus on overall wellness and renewal, two factors critical to staying as well as possible if you have a chronic condition.
Spa treatments are usually offered a la carte. Choose gentle treatments such as a facial, pedicure, or aromatherapy. Use caution with massage, however. Although it’s a common AS treatment, it should only be performed by someone trained to treat the condition.
The bottom line
A vacation is something to look forward to. Don’t give it up if you have AS. With a little preparation and research, your vacation time can be enjoyable and relaxing.
When traveling, flexibility is key. Keep your agenda fluid, and let your body be your guide. Rest when you need to, don’t sweat the small stuff, and remember to enjoy the view!