Patient Blogs | Ankylosing Spondylitis
Planning Ahead Makes Travel Easier With AS
photo of rear view of girl on journey

Traveling with ankylosing spondylitis can be a challenge. It’s hard to know how your body is going to feel from one day to the next.

It’s one thing if you’re traveling for some fun in the sun. But what if you need to fly out to attend your sister’s fantasy destination wedding in Jamaica? And you’re the maid of honor!

For some with AS, traveling can be an anxiety-inducing experience.

Will the pain be manageable? Will you be able to find a comfortable position on the plane? What if your medication doesn’t work as well when you’re away from home?

In my case, AS has fused my upper neck joints. When I’m at the airport, I have to take extra care looking around for signs that show I’m at the correct departure gate.

It’s important to plan your travel as much as possible in advance so you can avoid potential flare-ups or missed departure gates. Here are some things you can do when getting ready for a trip:

1. Choose your destination carefully.

If you know that you’re going to be doing a lot of sightseeing, consider a destination that has good public transportation.

A few years ago, my husband and I went to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico and took a day trip to one of the nearby towns.

It was so helpful to know the bus stop was just outside the resort. I didn’t have to worry about getting lost looking for it. I don’t like to be lost in my city, never mind a foreign one. With AS, I can get anxious if I feel I’m lost because it’s hard for me to walk and look up to see exactly where I am.

2. Pack your medication, and travel with a first-aid kit.

bring my medication in my carry-on bag so I have it with me at all times. I currently take a biologic. So I have to make sure I have enough medication to last the entire trip, as well as some extra in case of delays.

I take my sharps container for used needles and bring a list of emergency contacts in case I have a flare-up while on vacation.

3. Plan your activities, and build in rest time so you don’t overdo it.

When I’m preparing for a trip, I like to see what activities are available in the area where I’ll be staying. I need to know if there are a lot of steps in a historical building or if I’ll be doing a lot of walking inside a large building. My upper back tires with extensive walking.

I also build in some rest time each day, even if it’s just for 30 minutes, to put my feet up, take my medication, or just relax.

4. Check with your doctor before you travel to make sure you’re healthy enough to travel.

If you have any concerns, it’s always best to check with your doctor before you book your trip. Get their OK and ask if there are any precautions you need to take. Your doctor knows you have AS, so they may suggest taking additional shots to help make your trip more enjoyable.

5. Make sure you have travel insurance.

This is non-negotiable for me, even if I’m just going on a quick weekend getaway.

You never know when you might need it. And if you have a preexisting condition like AS, it’s even more important to have travel insurance in case you need to cancel your trip or come home early.

When packing for your trip, it’s important to keep your AS in mind. Not only do you need to throw in the most important thing, your bathing suit, but you might also need to pack:

  • Comfortable shoes – You’re going to be doing a lot of walking, so you’ll need shoes that are comfortable and provide excellent support.
  • A heating pad or ice pack – These items can help with any pain or swelling.
  • A knee brace or another support device – You may find that your joints are unstable from all the frolicking on the beach under the warm sun!

But, no matter how many precautions you may take, you might experience a flare-up while on vacation. (Maybe you had one too many pina coladas.) If this happens, don’t stress.

There are still plenty of things you can do to enjoy yourself:

  • Make sure you’re taking your medication as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Get plenty of rest. This may mean taking a break from sightseeing in the afternoon and just relaxing at your hotel or by the pool.
  • If you’re still in pain, consider seeing a doctor while on vacation. Many resorts have on-site clinics that can help.

Don’t forget you’re on vacation, so enjoy yourself and have some fun! AS requires some extra planning, but it doesn’t have to ruin your trip.




Photo Credit: RgStudio / E+ via Getty Images

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Lovaine Cohen

Lovaine Cohen

Diagnosed since 2001

Lovaine Cohen has lived with ankylosing spondylitis for over 20 years. A chronic pain coach, Lovaine helps women reduce pain with her Holistic Healing Method program and shares pain management and anxiety tips on her blog and on Instagram. Her loves include her two children in their early 20s, a rescue husky named Stella, and her husband of 28 years. Connect with Lovaine on Instagram.

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