Traveling with Arthritis

If you had a passion for traveling before you developed arthritis, you won't want the disease to stop you. As with everything, you will need to find ways to simplify the process so you can continue traveling, if that is your desire. Whether traveling by car, train, airplane, or cruise ship, some of the helpful hints apply to all. Other tips are more specific to your mode of transportation.

General Travel Tips

Think of everything you will need for your trip. Plan ahead is the most important tip of all.

You will always need to prepare for how many days you will be gone and make sure you take medications in an organizer that will help you remember to take your pills and when to take them. This is especially important if you are crossing into different time zones.

Also remember to bring extra pills, in case you are delayed for any reason and some snacks so you can be assured you won't have to take pills on an empty stomach.

If you are not staying with family or friends, be sure you reserve a hotel well in advance and confirm that the room is accessible. People with severe arthritis would most likely be more comfortable in handicapped-accessible rooms. Don't hesitate to inquire about walking distances to and from elevators and dining facilities. Ask about anything that will put your mind at ease. Ask more than once, to be sure you are being given consistent answers.


It's very convenient and efficient to prepare a checklist of essential items you will keep and refer to each time you travel. By having a prepared checklist, you won't have to recall what you need to take and risk forgetting something when you travel.

Whatever you need at home, you will need when traveling. Do you use bathroom aids, dressing aids, extra pillows? Pack light, but remember necessities that help you manage your arthritis. Consider taking any items which would help you if your symptoms began to flare, such as a heating pad or cane. It's also a good idea to use luggage with wheels, for easier transport.

Traveling by Car

Road trips can take an extra toll if you will be spending a lot of time in the car within the span of a day. Plan for the inevitabilities associated with car travel. Be sure you have your car serviced before you travel so you won't face additional problems from mechanical failure. Just in case, keep your cell phone within reach. Plan frequent rest stops to minimize stiffness. You won't regret taking the extra time to ensure your comfort.

Have extra pillows or a lumbar cushion available so you can adjust your body position as needed. If you have difficulty removing a gas cap, purchase a gas-cap wrench, which has a bigger, ergonomic handle designed to help arthritic hands. Be realistic about how long you can drive or ride in a car — overdoing it will ruin your trip.

Traveling by Plane

Some people with disabilities fear going to the airport because of long lines and travel restrictions that have been in place since 9/11. You shouldn't have to give up airplane travel, but you do have to be well-prepared. The Web site for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will help you keep up with the list of permitted and prohibited items (, as well as other dos and don'ts.

The TSA also has a section for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions ( The information is updated according to changes made, and it's important for you to check before you travel by airplane. Current information is available regarding what disability-related equipment is allowed beyond the security checkpoint once it is screened. Policies regarding removing shoes and carry-on requirements are also updated as necessary.

Other suggestions for airplane travel which may make your trip more comfortable:

  • Book nonstop flights when possible to avoid the extra hassle of connecting flights.

  • Allow extra time. Rushing through an airport will wear you out and risk injury.

  • Request an aisle seat when making your reservation to allow yourself extra leg room.

  • If you will have difficulty walking through the airport, request an airport wheelchair or assistance ahead of time by calling your airline. With advance notice, a wheelchair will be waiting for you when you land at your destination.

Tips for Bus, Train, or Cruise-Ship Travel

As with any mode of travel, prepare in advance. As it applies, inquire in advance about the location of restrooms, bedrooms, stairs, elevators, or the accessibility of aisles. Ask if there is staff or personnel available to offer any special assistance you may require. Inquire how medical emergencies are handled. Here are some further tips:

  • Try to schedule trips that require fewer stops or less need to get off and on the bus, train, or ship.

  • Try taking shorter excursions at first to see how well you manage.

  • Travel with someone else when possible.

  • Schedule trips during less hectic or slower travel times — avoid the holiday crush.

Don't let arthritis put unnecessary fear into traveling. Planning ahead and being prepared should make you less reluctant when it comes to traveling. Try to anticipate any problems you may have and find solutions ahead of time. Don't deny that you may have special needs while traveling, because denial may get you into trouble.

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