Living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can feel like an obstacle course between managing medications, therapy, flare-ups, and pain. A vacation away from it all may be just what you need. However, when you plan your summer vacay, you may feel limited by what you can do and where you can go.
Don’t think you can’t soak up that summer sun. Here we’ve listed eight RA-friendly vacation ideas specifically with you in mind. Let’s get going!
1. Try a hike at a national park
It’s no surprise that staying active can help with RA symptoms, so why not get moving with a stunning view? Hiking trails can bring you up close and personal with the beauty Mother Nature has to offer. Plus, walking provides an RA health benefit. While you walk, your body compresses and releases the cartilage in your knees to help nourish joints and remove inflammatory waste products. Fit for any level, this vacation idea is one for making your own mini-journey.
Find it local: You don’t have to travel to the peak of Mount Everest to have a gratifying hiking trip. Search your area for local walking or hiking trails, pack a picnic, and go enjoy the fresh air.
Go exploring: But if you do want to venture out, national parks like the Grand Canyon, Glacier National Park, or Yellowstone National Park are great places to visit. Pick out trails that fit your intensity level and enjoy the new part of the world you’re entering.
Pro tip: Take a walking stick or wear other supportive gear to help maintain your balance.
2. Test your golf skills
For an outdoor sport that’s less rugged but still full of challenges, golf can be a great vacation activity. The sport provides you with a mental challenge in a relaxing setting, allowing you to de-stress. Walking the 18-hole course and swinging the club may give your arthritic joints and muscles a workout, so remember to listen to your body if it needs a break.
Find it local: Call your buddies together and visit a local golf course for a day out in the sun. Pair your tee time with lunchtime for a tasty reward postgame. No matter your final score, your day can feel like a hole-in-one!
Go exploring: Why not turn one day of golf into two or three? Visiting golf resorts like Pinehurst, Kiawah Island, or Pebble Beach have everything you need on site. The only commute you’ll have is between your hotel room and hole one.
Pro tip: Try lighter weight clubs for easier swinging. Ride in a golf cart if walking begins to aggravate your RA.
3. Relax at a yoga retreat
When it’s time to slow things down and get re-centered, a yoga retreat may be the vacation you need. Easy on the joints, yoga may help reduce your symptoms and improve flexibility and physical function while also reducing tension. Don’t worry if you’ve never tried yoga before. After all, vacations are about new experiences!
Find it local: Try a class or two at a yoga studio and see how you feel about the experience. You can also make it a date for you and your significant other, too. Practicing yoga together can actually strengthen your relationship.
Go exploring: With options from a short weekend to longer than a week and destinations across forest wilderness to sandy beaches, you’re sure to find a retreat the fits your style. With so many options, it may help to think first about your preferred destination and then pick your yoga retreat.
Pro tip: Tell your instructor about your RA so they can modify the positions to best fit your needs.
4. Sail on a cruise
For a truly off the grid, obligation-free vacation, get your sea legs and journey cruise-style. With RA causing onset fatigue and joint inflammation, taking breaks between activities may be needed to help manage your condition. There’s no better place for a little rest and relaxation than a cruise. Whether you’d like to unwind at a spa, hit the gym, or go dancing, everything is just a platform level away.
Find it local: While you may live near a cruise port, the definition of a cruise vacation is anything but local. That doesn’t mean you can’t reap the inclusive-like benefits. Instead, create your own staycation. Go off the grid by turning off your devices, surround yourself with your favorite foods and self-care goodies, and make the weekend your own!
Go exploring: Europe, the Caribbean, or North America? Pick your port and go! Cruises from a long-weekend to two weeks or longer can give you options for any timeframe.
Pro tip: To manage rest with play, plan out your activities and break times for a balanced schedule.
5. Soak in some hot springs
Heat is a great way to relieve joint pain, reduce stiffness, and relax the muscles. And though heat packs are day-to-day lifesavers, you can also treat yourself to a soak in some “healing” waters. Hot springs are places where hot water naturally flows from the ground into pooled areas.
Find it local: You may not have a local hot spring in your town, but you can still find heat-relaxing activities. Treat yourself to a spa day and get pampered with a hot stone massage to relax your joints.
Pro tip: Speak to your therapist or doctor about any other heating techniques that would be beneficial on your trip.
6. Lay by the beach
Sometimes just simply spending a day on the sand makes for a fulfilling vacation. Take in the summer heat and relax with a good book or even meditate. If you’re feeling the need to get moving, take a walk along the beach to keep your joints active. Plus, listening to the water and looking for shells is a great way to feel present in the moment. When the heat gets too hot, go for dip! Swimming is a great nonimpact joint activity.
Find it local: If you live near a coast, take a day trip or even a weekend getaway to your favorite beach hotspot. Bring some games, books, and maybe even plan for some outdoor grilling to make the most of your time.
Go exploring: Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas, Key Largo — just listen to the Beach Boys for some exotic destination inspiration. Think outside the box and take on some new experiences at the beach, like snorkeling, sailing, or even parasailing!
Pro tip: Pack an ice pack and first aid kit just in case something feels a little crabby while basking in the sun.
7. Explore a city
Whether a small or large city, exploring a new place leaves no room for a dull moment. Think of the delicious restaurants, quaint shops, and illuminating tours! All that walking you’ll do is sure to benefit your joints. If the hiking idea seems a little too outdoorsy, there’s no reason you can’t get your steps in going from shop to shop.
Find it local: While you know your town, try visiting the next town over or even a couple hours away. You never know what pocket of culture you’ll find.
Go exploring: Pick a city and go! If you’re at a loss for where to fly but are looking for some adventure, check out KAYAK’s explore feature. Enter your dates and price range and it’ll show your destination options.
Pro Tip: If you’re flying and your medications need refrigeration, pack them in your carry-on using a small cooler or baggie with an icepack.
8. Take a food tour
Diet is important when it comes to managing RA. Why not have fun learning new ways to cook your favorite foods? Eating anti-inflammatory foods like fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce your chances of flaring up. Finding food tours or signing up for cooking classes that fit your healthy diet can even be part of a larger, epicurean-themed vacation.
Find it local: If you can’t find a local food tour or cooking class, gather some friends together and plan out a few fun dishes you all want to cook. You can also make your own food tour. Pick three restaurants: Visit one for appetizers, another for your main course, and the last for dessert and drinks.
Go exploring: Cities like Chicago and New York are great hubs for good food and offer a wide variety of food tours. You can even venture to partake in culinary tours all over the world for some foodie fun!
Pro tip: When booking these excursions, make sure to tell the company any special dietary restrictions to not worsen your symptoms while on vacation.
Don’t let your RA hold you back from taking the summer vacation you want. Learning to manage your condition can make your options limitless. With just a few adjustments, you can start crossing places off your bucket list.