Traveling with RA

I love to travel. I love exploring new places and new cultures. If you're also like me in that you have RA, you know that traveling can be a struggle. Dealing with chronic pain is hard; dealing with chronic pain while constantly making sure you have all the necessary medications, supplies, and equipment needed to alleviate your pain during travel is even harder. I want to provide some tips and tricks for everyone that I have gleaned from my own personal experience in traveling throughout my undergraduate career.

Travel tips for people living with RA

Planning and preparation

1. Before I even begin packing, I make a list of everything that I need for my journey. With all the different medications and support equipment-- which includes wrist braces, ankle supports, etc-- things can quickly go awry if you don't have a plan. Nothing is worse than getting to the airport and realizing you left your medication at home. Make a list and stick to it!
2. I give myself plenty of time to prepare and pack. Having RA means I don't have a lot of energy, and certainly not enough to pack everything I need last minute.
3. Along with giving yourself enough time, compartmentalize your packing and make a plan for it. Usually, I set aside one day for clothes and medication, one day for toiletries, etc.
4. Next, I make sure I have enough medication for the duration of the trip and for at least one week after. This ensures that I don't run out during my trip nor when I return home.
5. Then, I make sure to incorporate some elements of comfort sprinkled into my packing. This includes bringing comfortable shoes, clothes, and socks that will aid in traveling. This particularly goes for traveling by air. The long walks through terminals and concourses, pressure changes while in the air, and the general stress of traveling by air upsets my RA most.

During your trip, listen to your body

1. Prioritize your body. Listen to it: if you’re in pain, take breaks and rest.
2. Carry with you some pain relief medication and any support equipment you need or use.
3. Don’t force yourself to go on extra adventures and journeys. In my experience, pushing myself and my body beyond its limits has colored the trip to where I didn’t enjoy going at all. Instead, utilize the time you spend resting as time to reflect on the trip.

Rest & practice self-care

1. After traveling, your body needs to rest, particularly as someone with RA. Be sure to take the time to recover and recuperate.
2. Practice your self-care routine. If you don’t have one, create one! Remember that each body is unique, so your routine will be different from someone else’s.
3. Just as you compartmentalized your packing, compartmentalize your unpacking. I’ve usually found that I can accomplish more by saying, “today I’ll unpack my medications and clothes, tomorrow my toiletries, the next my shoes, etc.”

Traveling with RA is possible!

In my limited experience, I’ve found that my travels now have more meaning than before because RA forces me to slow down and really pick out the things that I want to see during my journey. My point is this: don’t let having RA stop you from traveling! Certainly, you will have to adjust, but you can have a fun and enriching time regardless of your condition.

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