Vacation with Arthritis

If you suffer from arthritis traveling may be a challenge. Carrying luggage, added walking, and extended sitting may make you uncomfortable and cause discomfort.

The following suggestions may make your vacation experience more enjoyable.

Plan

  • Plan your trip and be realistic about what activities you can do. Although you love to scuba dive or hike, with your arthritis you may not be able to take the vacations you used to.
  • You can find a lot of information about travel on the Internet. Most search engines have a travel category, and you can usually search by location or activity. This is a great way to see the possibilities available. If you do not have Internet access, your local travel agency specializes in finding vacations; spend time with an agency exploring your options. If you do not have a travel agent, ask friends and family for recommendations.
  • Traveling by train, bus, and automobile may be more comfortable but they typically increase the amount of time it takes to get to your destination.
  • Traveling by air offers the advantage of arriving at your destination more quickly. When you make reservations, request an aisle seat or the bulkhead, which will give you more room to stretch your legs. During your flight occasionally walk through the aisle to keep your joints from stiffening.
  • Cruises can be particularly relaxing. If you tire easily, select a cruise that has fewer stops or stay on-board and enjoy the many activities available. Eat a well-balanced diet, as it is easy to over indulge, which may affect your arthritis.
  • Most importantly, pace yourself and plan a realistic itinerary.

Talk With Your Physician

  • Before you depart, talk with your physician. Your physician can offer advice about what to do if inflammatory arthritis flares and can review your medications. If you have a joint replacement, your physician can provide you with a patient identification card, which may be needed to go through security at the airport, as your implant may set off the alarm.
  • Your doctor may have vacation destination suggestions that other arthritis patients have taken.

Hotel Accommodations

Several things can be done to make moving around easier when joints are sore or swollen. Some include:

  • Select a hotel that is close to the area where you will be spending much of your time. If you will be shopping, see how close you are to the shops and restaurants you’ll visit often. If you enjoy the beach or pool, ask for a room closer to these hotel amenities.
  • Find out if the hotel has a shuttle. If it does, find out where it goes and how often it operates.
  • Reserve a room that has bathroom handrails to make getting in and out of the shower/bath tub easier.

Rental Cars

  • When renting an automobile, request a vehicle that has power steering, power brakes, power locks and windows, cruise control, and power side-view mirrors. Most vehicles come standard with these options, but it is wise to double-check.

Packing

  • Pack your belongings in luggage that has wheels.
  • Pack comfortable walking shoes.
  • Pack plastic bags to make ice packs and a heating pad to relieve flare-ups.
  • Pack a raised toilet seat and a long-handled grabber if you use these items at home. It may be easier to pack these items if you travel by car.
  • Pack your pillow to make your sleeping environment more familiar.
  • Use fanny packs and bags with straps. It is suggested that bags with straps be carried across the chest.
  • Carry small bills to tip those who assist with your luggage.
  • Pack more than enough medication to last you through your trip. You may want to take copies of your prescriptions, your doctor’s name and telephone number, a brief medical history, and a list of your medications and how often you take them. This will be important if you need medical care during your vacation.

Traveling Through the Airport

  • Allow plenty of time to get to your gate.
  • Courtesy shuttles and wheelchairs are also available at airports to reduce your walking distance.
  • If you are walking, frequent rest periods can help.
  • Check your luggage through to your destination with the ticket agent. Only carry on the airplane the things that you need. If you have to carry luggage, you may find the luggage carts beneficial. These are typically inexpensive, and at some airports, if you return the cart to a “cart station” you are refunded the cost of the cart. There are usually baggage carries or porters at airports that will carry your luggage for you to the ticket counter. Be prepared to tip the porter, usually about $1 per bag. Take advantage of curbside check in, which further reduces how far you will need to carry your luggage.

During Vacation

During Vacation
  • Whether you are sightseeing, cruising, shopping, or laying poolside, it’s time to relax and enjoy!
  • If you have flare ups, follow your doctor’s instructions, which may include using an ice pack or heating pad or taking medication for relief.
  • Call your doctor if you experience unusual symptoms.
  • Most importantly, do not over-do it. Take breaks and enjoy the scenery. Remember you’re on vacation!

Other Patient Education List

  • American Medical Association
  • American Society for Surgery of the Hand - ASSH
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons - AAOS
  • American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
  • North American Spine Society - NASS
  • American Association of Hip & Knee Surgeons - AAHKS