Making Travel Choices

My husband and I really enjoy travel. We visit family, friends, and take trips to different places to see the sights, enjoy the food, and discover new experiences. I’ve felt for a long time that at least half the fun of travel is the planning, but I have to admit that there can be complications when traveling with rheumatoid arthritis.

On top of my RA, I have lifelong disabilities from the disease. This means I use a wheelchair and need accessible options for my travel plans. One of the early decisions we confront when considering travel is: how will we get there?

Considering the options

Each mode of travel has pros and cons. Of course, sometimes you just have to take what is available. But I think it’s helpful to keep in mind how various travel options have benefits (or downsides) for people with RA.


While we don’t own a car, we usually rent one a few times a year for road trips. Mostly we visit family and drive between three and six hours. If a drive looks like it may be longer than that, we’ll consider other travel options. With driving, I like having control over our timing and when to make rest stops. It can also be easier for me to adjust the seating for better comfort that other travel modes. One downside is that I can’t bring my motorized wheelchair and need to travel with a manual wheelchair that will fit into the trunk of a car.


We also fly a few times a year to places where it would just take too long to drive or if we are traveling internationally. Planes are good for going long ways fast, but I also find them to be uncomfortable for my RA. Usually, the seat is too big and tall, so I have to stuff something under my feet. Yet, I don’t ever feel like I have enough leg room. On planes I get stiff and since I can’t walk far I have to try to get a seat near the restroom (not always a pleasant location). Another downside of plane travel for me is taking my wheelchair as I have experienced a lot of breakages, which can really disrupt a trip. Additionally, security takes a long time because of my wheelchair and also artificial joints. While planes are fast, there’s now a lot of inconveniences for traveling on them.


I love the train! If I could I might only travel this way! They accommodate my wheelchair usually with no problem and I am comfortable because I can ride in a chair that is custom fitted for me. There’s Wifi, an accessible restroom, and the trips generally move pretty fast. There’s a lot to enjoy about riding the train.


Living in DC, I’ve taken the bus many times to New York City for visits. It’s economical and accommodates my motorized wheelchair on a lift. However, I’m limited by the fact that I can’t get to the restroom or move around at all (unlike the train), so have to keep these trips to only a certain maximum distance. For me, another downside is that bus travel can be exhausting because of all the movement of the vehicle. Trains and planes (or even a personal car) has less strain on my RA joints.ShipPerhaps this is the best way to travel! I absolutely love cruising! Ships are accessible with staterooms that accommodate my motorized wheelchair. It’s nice to have a comfortable room and for the ship to ferry you place to place. Additionally, there’s lots of options either for activity (like pools with accessible lifts) or just plain relaxing (hello sundeck!). There’s virtually no strain on my RA unless I plan some adventurous shore excursions.There’s a lot to consider when planning travel. Certainly, we are sometimes limited by where we are going, but it’s always a good idea to think about what mode of travel will best support your RA and physical needs to be as comfortable as possible.

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