Travelling abroad with a chronic illness is certainly no picnic. And, although you may be looking forward to your impending travels, it can also be tinged with anxiety and, for some, even a sense of dread, particularly when considering the packing, lugging suitcases, dealing with security and the chance of flight delays.  

Add the daily reality of living with pain, inflammation and fatigue into the mix and it seems like the perfect storm. But it does not have to be miserable. In fact, we hope that our valuable tips will not only help your trip to go more smoothly on the day, but can also help you to feel more positive about it in the lead up to your departure date. 

Every individual living with arthritis deserves to have the holiday they deserve and, with a little extra planning (and always extra snacks!), it’s entirely achievable for things to run smoothly.  

Before you Go: Plan Ahead 

  • Get your medications in order: if you don’t have one already, consider investing in a cool bag with a handle, and some ice packs to pop in there to keep your medications at the right temperature. It sounds obvious, but also make sure to take enough for your holiday plus some extra days just in case your flight is delayed or cancelled*.  
  • Consider humidity: planes can be stuffy and cramped (particularly on certain airlines!), so invest in a hand-held fan and 
  • Invest in healthy snacks: keeping blood sugars level, for anyone, helps maintain energy levels and balance mood, but particularly if there any delays to your fight.  
  • Book some assistance: it is a myth that airport assistance is only for those in a wheelchair; it is available to anyone who experiences health struggles. Simply go into your booking and find the button where you can request assistance in advance.  
  • Carry a credit card: this is essential for emergency back-up, particularly when flights are delayed, and the airlines fail to compensate you for a hotel or food immediately.  
  • Ensure you have travel insurance: this will not only give you peace of mind, but may also mean you are not massively out of pocket if things go askew.  
  • Choose your travel partner(s) wisely: because it is an invisible illness, arthritis is sometimes hard to comprehend for some people. Pick people who understand and hold firm on your boundaries.  
  • Choose a flight time that works best for you: Delays, when occurring on late flights, sometimes mean not getting to bed until 3 or 4am, so avoid this risk by booking a morning or daytime flight but, equally, red-eye flights can disturb sleep patterns so book something that suits your own sleep patterns and energies.  
  • Book an aisle/emergency exit seat: to allow you to get up and move about more freely. 

*Research possible options for extra medications you may need due to cancellations or delays when abroad by contacting the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland: [email protected] 

When you Arrive at the Airport/On the Plane 

  • Engage with your assistance: straightaway find the assistance desk. You will need help with your bags, checking in, going through security and transport to your gate – the significant difference that assistance makes means you will not deplete your energy levels and will simply enjoy the whole experience more. 
  • Drink and snack regularly: hydration and good nutrition is super important to help manage water retention and to keep your energy levels sustained.  
  • Take regular breaks: you should always be able to find a seat (but if not, show someone your doctor’s letter and hopefully someone will give up their seat) or, better still, if you have a folding stick seat then you can rest whenever and wherever you need.  
  • Get up and move often: this is particularly important on long-haul flights, but also on any flight over one hour as it helps to get your circulation moving and to reduce swelling and inflammation.  

When you Get to your Destination 

  • Take your time unpacking: there is no rush. Remember that flights can zap your energy and all you need to do now is sit, rehydrate, and refuel, whilst taking in your surroundings. 
  • Avoid planning too many activities: the whole idea of a holiday is to take a break from work and life back home, so be wary of packing in too much. In fact, just relaxing and recouping at your accommodation on the first few days should ideally be your priority.  
  • Aim to move every day: this is not a contradiction to the above point - you can rest and build exercise in on the same day. Studies have shown that exercise can improve joint fluid health and strengthen supporting muscles – aim for a half–hour walk or swim each day.  
  • Pace yourself: sightseeing will be more enjoyable if planned well. Build rest days in between more demanding activities, such as visiting a particular landmark or a museum which involves a lot of standing around and walking.  
  • Research dining options: consider distances or consider a taxi and give yourself time to get there and back in time for a good night’s sleep.  

Have a wonderful holiday!