I love to travel. For me, travel is something that’s been a part of my life since before being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). So many things change because of RA, but travel doesn’t have to be one of them.
Thankfully, I have been able to travel domestically and internationally without having any RA problems. I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline rush of being somewhere new, a change in climate, or dropping the stress and grind of daily life, but I’ve found that my RA typically behaves itself when I’m traveling.
That being said, I’ve found a little prep work helps to ensure a smooth trip. Here are some of my best travel tips:
- Plan breaks. Whether you’re traveling by car, touring the streets of New York City, or enjoying the magic of Disney World, make sure to build breaks into your schedule. Get out of the car and stretch your legs. Take a sightseeing bus tour midday so you can get off your feet. Appreciate one of the Disney performances or take the train around the whole park. You’re still taking in new sights and being part of the fun, but you’re giving your body some downtime and your joints a rest. And don’t forget my favorite piece of RA advice: Take a nap if needed!
- Wear comfortable shoes. Marilyn Monroe supposedly once said, “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” Monroe probably had a different goal in mind, but I believe the right shoes can make any travel plan possible. I find my supportive tennis shoes can take me almost anywhere. They may not be the most stylish fashion accessory, but they keep my feet and knees happy so I can keep going. I also love my hikers. They’re great for trails or city walking and you can wear them all day. I usually pack one pair of flats for dinner to enjoy dressing up and being out on the town.
- Eat healthy food. I find that staying hydrated and eating healthy helps my body adjust to travel and makes me feel better. My joints are less stiff and I feel less fatigue. But I do splurge on meals and eating food unique to the area. It’s a vacation, and that means indulging in some of the things you can’t enjoy at home. Have that dessert or your favorite cuisine, but balance it with plenty of water and healthier choices for other meals.
- Vacation in place. Once life gets back to normal post-COVID-19, you might think about taking a cruise. Cruises are a great option for people with RA because all the activities are in one place. You can rest when you want to, enjoy delicious food prepared for you, and visit different places without the hassle of packing and unpacking. A cruise can offer a great adventure with less movement than a traditional sightseeing trip. And you can go almost anywhere in the world.
- Pack extra medicine. When traveling, I always pack a little extra over-the-counter pain medications -- pills and topicals -- along with some prescription steroids. I have a little cooler and ice pack that fit in my pocketbook for my biologic medication, which needs to remain cold. (The pharmaceutical company will likely send one especially made for your biologic.) As soon as I reach my destination, I put it in the refrigerator until needed. Always remember to pack all your medicine in a carry-on bag if you’re traveling by plane! You don’t want it getting lost in the process.
- Plan YOUR itinerary. Finally, plan what YOU want to do on the trip. You may not be able to keep up with your family or tour group every day, and that’s OK. Pick the destinations or activities that are most important to you and make those happen. It’s OK to skip a tour or show so you’re rested enough to enjoy the things you want to do. Make a Top 10 “can’t miss” list and stick to it.
Now choose a destination, pack a bag, and send me a postcard. Bon voyage!
Photo Credit: Virojt Changyencham via Getty Images