5 Tips for Exercising With Rheumatoid Arthritis
How to Travel with Arthritis
Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation in one or more of your joints. It affects a person's ability to function and move, often leading to activity limitations. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in adults in the U.S.The two most common symptoms are joint pain and stiffness. These can affect your ability to enjoy traveling.But having arthritis doesn’t mean you need to avoid travel. It simply means you need a bit more time to find places suitable to your arthritis and develop secondary plans should a problem arise. By preparing for your trip in advance and exploring your destination at a leisurely pace, you can travel with arthritis.
Getting Ready for Your Trip
Recognize arthritis-friendly environment.This may be the first time you’ve gone on a trip with arthritis. Some places may be better than others for accommodating your condition, depending on how advanced your arthritis is. Figuring out what environment is best for you can help you identify an optimal vacation spot. It can also ensure that your trip is enjoyable and minimize the risk of arthritis flare-ups.
- Identify places that allow you to move without too much effort. For example,you might not be able to go hiking through mountains in places like Switzerland or Austria, but scenic bus trips might be a good alternative.
- Think about the weather conditions in which you feel your best. If you have difficulty in the cold or damp conditions, winter destinations may not be optimal. Likewise, if heat and humidity make your arthritis worse, Southeast Asia or the Caribbean may not be good choices for you.
Recognize accessibility concerns.Things such as ramps and levers can make traveling with arthritis easier. In the United States, there are laws and regulations that protect travelers with disabilities such as arthritis. But not every country extends these rights.Recognizing this can help you choose places where travel may be easier and more comfortable for you.
- Contact the Transportation Security Administration’s toll-free helpline for travelers with disabilities at 855-787-2227 for questions about screening at policies at airports. Organizations like Mobility International can help you find disability organizations abroad.
Compare different destinations.The world is getting smaller and there are probably spots you’d like to visit. Once you have figured out which environmental conditions are optimal for your arthritis, compare a few destinations on your wish list. This can help you make a final decision on where to go. It can also help ensure that you enjoy your trip to the fullest.
- Check travel guides and websites designed for travelers with disabilities. These can show you what amenities your chosen destinations offer. Agencies such as the United States State Department and groups including Mobility International also have information on how to prepare and travel with arthritis.
- Contact airlines, transportation companies, and attractions to find out about their accessibility for persons with arthritis.
- Read online reviews from other travelers with arthritis to help you decide the most enjoyable and accessible places to travel.
- Use mapping technology to view different travel spots. Tools such as Google Maps and Google Street View can help you scope out attractions, hotels, and the local area.
Making Your Travel Arrangements
Book arrangements in advance.Arthritis can present mobility problems and pain, which can make travel difficult. Book your travel arrangements as far in advance as you can. This can ensure that you have accessible amenities guaranteed for your trip. It may also prevent uncomfortable situations on the day of travel.
- Consider booking through a travel agent who specializes in travel for persons with disabilities such as arthritis.
- Make reservations by phone or in person. If possible, speak to a supervisor or person who specializes in travel for persons with disabilities such as arthritis. This can ensure that you get accommodations specific to your needs.
- Book with major companies and chains if possible. Companies such as Lufthansa, British Airways, Sheraton, and the Four Seasons fly and have locations all over the world. They are more likely to have amenities and make accommodations for people with arthritis.
Ask about special accommodations.Many places have special accommodations for persons with disabilities including arthritis. These may include elevators or larger rooms with accessible bathrooms. Ask about special amenities or service a company offers to disabled guests when you book. You may need the following on a trip:
- Wheelchair or ramp access
- A service animal
Read travel policies for those with disabilities.When you book, ask about any requirements or regulations you may encounter during travel. This may include having a doctor’s note to carry medicine through security or even the right to priority boarding. This can make your travel pain-free and as effortless as possible.
- Contact TSA Cares if you are traveling by airline in the United States and have questions. This division supports people with disabilities or medical conditions. Call 855-787-2227 or email before you travel. Local embassies and consulates of your home country can also provide valuable information about travel condition in certain countries.
- Recognize that most travelers with disabilities, including arthritis, are exempt from regulations on liquids in carry on-luggage. You may need to provide proof of need for the medication from your doctor.
Schedule an appointment with your doctor.It’s important to visit your doctor before you leave on your trip. This may minimize any discomfort you experience or prevent an emergency during your trip.
- Provide your doctor with the trip details. The doctor may offer tips or coping techniques for long flights or dealing with limited medical facilities at your destination
- Ask your doctor for a signed description of your arthritis needs. Keep it with you at all times. In an emergency, you may not have a lot of time to describe all of your needs.
Staying Comfortable During Travel
Plan your daily route carefully.It’s common for persons with arthritis to experience pain during the day. This is especially true if you are walking a lot or doing other physical activities. Making a detailed plan for your daily travel that includes transportation, accommodations, fun activities, and places to rest can ease the day and may minimize the risk of an arthritis flare up.
- Write as detailed a daily plan as possible. This can ensure that you have access to every place you would like without exacerbating your arthritis.
- For example, break down each day: “Sunday, January 5: Fly from Tampa to Berlin at 6pm. Economy plus seat and airline transfers with cart booked and confirmed. Pickup by car at Tegel Airport in Berlin. Transfer to Adlon Hotel, accessible room booked. Guided walking tour of Berlin on Monday. Built in plenty of stops to rest.”
Carry emergency information at all times.Even if you are thoroughly prepared, it’s a good idea to carry a list of emergency information such as medications and the phone numbers of local doctors. This may help other travelers or a doctor get you proper and prompt care.
- Keep a list of your medications and any medical allergies you may have.
- Carry phone numbers for your doctor and other emergency contacts such as family members or the local embassy.
- You may consider keeping the number of a local doctor or hospital at each location.
Take a comfort kit and extra medication.Make sure to have a kit of things to keep you comfortable. You should also have extra prescriptions for any emergency you may encounter during travel. This can prevent pain, unwanted visits to a doctor, or even immobility because of broken equipment.
- Bring gear to repair any devices you need such as a wheelchair or cane.
- Pack extra supplies of hot and cold therapy to relieve or prevent discomfort and stiffness. A comfy travel pillow may also ease discomfort during flights or train trips.
- Take extra medication with you. It could be difficult to get a prescription from a doctor who doesn’t know you. This can also ensure you have medication if you lose any of your supply.
- Check if your insurance covers travel. If not, buy travel insurance that covers potential medical expenses while you’re away.
Confirm reservations and accommodations.Before you leave, confirm any reservations and special amenities you arranged. This can ensure that everything runs smoothly between your home and final destination.
- Contact transportation, hotels, restaurants, and tours 24-48 hours in advance to ensure they are prepared for your arrival.
Enjoying Your Destination
Explore at a leisurely pace.Movement is a great way to prevent stiffness and pain. Taking the time to explore your destination at leisurely pace can help you enjoy your trip without the discomfort of arthritis.Be sure to allow yourself to rest at regular intervals so that you don’t get tired or inflame your arthritis.
- Don’t schedule too many activities. Instead of packing a day full of tours or museums, see one or two things that you don’t want to miss.
- Allow ample time in between activities as well as time to rest. For example, if you are in Paris, consider taking time to sit in the Tuileries Gardens between visiting the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. People watching can be just as fun as running from site to site.
Select foods carefully.Many people with arthritis follow diets to decrease inflammation.In some cases, traveling can keep you from following your diet because there aren’t a lot of options available. By selecting your foods carefully and taking snacks with you, you may be able to minimize any inflammation from your arthritis.
- Drink plenty of fresh and clean water throughout the day. Limit how much alcohol and caffeine you have.
- Try foods such as fresh fish, fruits and vegetables cleaned in fresh water, beans, and nuts.
- Avoid processed foods as much as possible.
Plan for the unexpected.You may encounter a problem such as lack of working elevators or difficult walking terrain while traveling. Develop a backup plan if you recognize your original plans don’t work out. Ask local authorities or your accommodations about sites that may be easier for you to see. This can ensure you have a good time without making your arthritis worse.
- Consider activities that are close to one another. For instance, if you are in Paris and there are lines to visit the Louvre, sit in the Tuileries gardens and enjoy some people watching.
Video: Traveling with Arthritis: Don't Put off Your Dream Vacation
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