Advice for Travelers with Rheumatoid Arthritis: It Is All in the Planning

By D. Z. Stone
Social Media and Editorial Director

Relax—take a vacation. It is advice that’s often easier said than done. Travel can be stressful in the best of circumstances. So how can someone with a chronic illness such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) manage to travel and actually enjoy the experience? We asked CreakyJoints members for their tips. The consensus: it is all in the planning.

You can’t start careful planning too early; choosing a destination that will meet your needs can be an impor­tant first step. Laura Jonas McGaffick recommends all-inclusive resorts and cruises for convenience: “You don’t have to worry about finding places to eat, and you can get room service!”

Susan Equinista Van Dusen has loved her time at wellness resorts: “Temple Gardens Mineral Spa Resort in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and Manitou Springs in Watrous, Saskatchewn, have these amazing mineral water pools that feel so good for the joints.”

Whether you are jetting off to exotic climes or tak­ing the great American road trip in your flip-flops via Route 66, planning ahead for respite time, the central ingredient for well-being, is key. Kathy Carter Carroll recommends a complete break from the demands of your calendar: “First thing: shut down your calendar and really rest and pamper yourself,” she says.

For Suzy Bones, planning comes into play to help ensure a good night’s sleep while traveling to combat jet lag, which can really wreak havoc on the immune system. She plans by packing her yoga mat if she needs an alternative to a subpar mattress: “Remember when Lucy and Ricky sunk into a lumpy hotel bed on their Hollywood road trip? Same thing happened to me in Florence, Italy, on my honeymoon. That’s why I always travel with my yoga mat.”

When it comes to flying, CreakyJoints featured blogger Sandi Davis recommends planning ahead with the airline: “Even airlines that like to make passengers wait until the last min­ute to claim a seat or pay extra to get one early will confirm a seat for you at no charge when you make reservations if you tell them you are disabled and need extra time boarding.”

Lisa Chandler offers additional air travel tips: “If flying, pay the extra fee and check the bag,” she advises, “and call your airline for wheelchair assistance.”

Margaret Heiberg Kollitides echoes the advice: “Request a wheelchair. It saves you walking miles through the terminals. You will be taken right to the gate and can board first.”

When interacting with the airlines, having a note from your physician can also be helpful, says Brenda Kleinsasser: “If you have to wear an aircast, be sure to have a note from your physician verifying that it is impossible for you to take the cast off when being checked by the TSA. With the note, Brenda says, “All they have to do is swab the aircast while you remain seated.”

CreakyJoints co-founder Seth Ginsberg thinks a healthy dose of vigilance is necessary prior to any departure. Recently, shortly before a planned vacation to the country­side of France, Seth’s ankle started acting up: “I hit the panic button,” he says. “Immediately, I was sitting in the podiatrist’s office, then get­ting the X-rays and ultrasounds that would uncover the tendinitis and weakening ligaments in my right ankle. So with the right steroids, anti-inflammatory medicine, and a special little soft brace, I was able to bid farewell to American shores, knowing I was probably going to be okay. Probably.”

To stay on the safe side in case she has a flare while in another country, Heather Dietrich-Cook recommends making sure you have all the necessary medications along: “Get a prednisone taper pack from your doctor before you go, in case you need it.”

Finally, when home, consider tak­ing a vacation from your vacation, as Emilie Briggs suggests: “Make sure to take off a few days after return­ing from vacation to let your body recover from activities. Going right back to work immediately can be exhausting.”

D. Z. Stone is social media and editorial director for CreakyJoints, the nonprofit arthritis advocacy and support organization with 70,000 members, and, according to Facebook, the most popular arthritis community in the world. She has published numerous articles in the mainstream media, including the New York Times and Newsday. To become a member of CreakyJoints and receive education, support, and advocacy and participate in research—all for free—go to

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