10 Tips for Traveling with Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Proper Planning Makes for Healthy Travel
    Take a few minutes to imagine your perfect getaway. Are you lying on a beach with a book, studying the culture of an ancient city, or having an exotic adventure? Your rheumatoid arthritis (RA) shouldn’t hold you back from your dream vacation. Advance planning can keep your trip healthy and safe.


  • 1. Visit Your Doctor First
    Make an appointment with your doctor four to six weeks before your trip. Talk with him or her about your destination and any vaccinations you need or other special health concerns. For instance, you have an increased risk of developing tuberculosis in some countries, which could be especially risky if you’re taking certain medications for RA.


  • 2. Do Your Homework
    Investigate the medical care options at your destination, especially if you’re traveling to another country. Know where to go and whom to call if you need treatment. And ask your insurance company what services they’ll cover, including emergency transport. Select credit cards also offer limited overseas health emergency benefits.


  • 3. Buy Travel Insurance
    If you have a major flare-up or come down with the flu, you may need to shorten or even cancel your trip. Travel insurance, which you can purchase independently or access through many credit cards, can provide a refund. Be sure to read the fine print to ensure your policy covers preexisting conditions.


  • 4. Book the Best Room
    Research prospective hotels online and call the hotel directly. Consider what you’ll be doing most—whether it’s visiting the pool or sightseeing—and ask for a room location that makes it easier. Request an accessible room, if you need one, when you make your reservation.


  • 5. Wear an ID
    A piece of medical identification jewelry is the perfect traveling accessory. The ID jewelry will enable medical personnel, wherever you are, to know about your condition and the medications you’re taking. New, high-tech versions of medical ID jewelry even allow you to bring your entire medical record on a small USB drive. You can also securely upload important health records to the Internet for quick, global access.


  • 6. Don’t Weigh Yourself Down
    Pack your suitcase with only the things you need. Use a roller bag or small carry-on for easy transport, especially if you’re flying. If you need help getting yourself and your baggage to and from the plane, call ahead and ask your carrier for assistance.



  • 7. Take the Essentials
    Although you’ll want to travel light, there are a few things you shouldn’t leave off your packing list. These include a first-aid kit, the names and phone numbers of your doctor and pharmacist, your insurance card, duplicate copies of your prescriptions, and immunization records.


  • 8. Carry Your Medications
    Always take more medicine than you think you’ll need. Divide it between two bags in case you drop or lose one, and carry it on if you’re flying. If you take shots, bring a doctor’s prescription to show security personnel, so there’s no concern about your needles.


  • 9. Keep Moving
    On long flights, stand up and walk the aisle periodically when it’s safe to do so. Be sure to keep adequately hydrated during air travel. If you’re driving, stop frequently at rest stops to limber up. Pace and perform stretches to prevent or reduce joint pain, such as making circles with your arms or hips.


  • 10. Schedule Downtime
    Walking and other physical activities can both help you enjoy your destination and ease your symptoms, especially if you keep active at home. But leave yourself time to slow down, too. And be flexible—if your joints flare up, you may need even more rest than you thought.


10 Tips for Traveling with RA

  1. 8 Tips for Pain-free Travel. Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/pain-management/tips/pain-free-travel-tips.php
  2. Medical Alert Devices to the Rescue. AARP. http://www.aarp.org/health/doctors-hospitals/info-11-2010/medical_alert_systems.html
  3. Exercising with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/exercise/how-to/exercising-with-ra.php 
  4. Blumentals WA, et al. Rheumatoid arthritis and the incidence of influenza and influenza-related complications: a retrospective cohort study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2012 Aug 27;13:158.
  5. Vacation health care. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001937.htm
  6. Rheumatoid Arthritis. American College of Rheumatology. http://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Rheumatoid-Arthritis
  7. Immunocompromised Travelers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2016/advising-travelers-with-specific-needs/immunocompromised...
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Last Review Date: 2019 Aug 6
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