I couldn’t think of a better way to “recover” from my flare-up from the first half of this summer than my series of vacations over the second half. After spending so much time housebound, I was dying to go just about anywhere, and I was rewarded with vacations to New York City, San Diego, Austin, Boston, and Rhode Island.

With so many trips back to back, I tested my endurance and have learned a few tricks to ease the strain of traveling.

I created a travel checklist that I always print and refer to before each trip. It is an exhaustive list of clothing items, accessories, electronics, and “to-do’s” like putting the mail on hold.

I start packing 4-5 days in advance–this may seem a little premature but packing stresses me out and I’ve spent too many nights prior to flights packing until midnight or later because I can’t think straight! With 4 or 5 days you have extra time to buy missing toiletries, run to the dry cleaner and do an extra load of laundry.

I suffer from plugged, painful ears upon take off on airplanes and swelling in my legs during flights. So, I come prepared with an antihistamine, Travel Tips from Kristingum, water and a cool nutrient packet called Ultima Replenisher that has potassium and other good stuff to help with hydration and blood flow.

Airplanes alternate between hot and stuffy and freezing so I bring a shawl that doubles as a blanket, soft comfy socks and wear a long cardigan I can throw off if it’s too hot. I always carry heat packs that I slap on my stomach or back to keep my trunk warm (to help with my Raynaud’s) and hand warmers for my fingers. For the all important nap, I have a fluffy pillow I can stuff in my bag.

Germs are everywhere on board, and those of us with arthritis are extremely vulnerable, so I bring lavendar antibacterial hand wipes with me and use them every chance I get. I also try to get more sleep in the days leading up to my trip.

I can’t count on food being available on the plane or on the road, so keeping snacks in my bag is essential. (The iPhone has great apps for tracking down food at airports, or in the town around you.)

I tend to forget my routine when I am in a new place, so sometimes I write down the essentials on a small index card ahead of time or each night in my hotel room. There is nothing worse than waking up without orange juice on hand and taking prednisone and my other meds with water–blech!! (And we’d rather avoid the $8 room service version.)

The GPS is your friend, but so is figuring out your plan and directions in advance. I am all for spontaneity, but when you are chronically ill you must implement some sort of schedule into your vacation. On our recent trip to Boston, all three of our GPS devices were completely confused–the blue dots just spun around and around and finally gave up on us. We spent a lot of time driving around lost and in that time I grew hungry (too hungry) and thirsty (too thirsty) and needed a bathroom. “Not so bueno,” as I say!

After returning from several trips, I found myself taking a sick day. It finally occurred to me that I needed to plan on a recovery day after my trips–a day of just resting. No errands, no phone calls; just rest. I return to work more restored and with a much better chance of fighting off viruses and flare-ups.

As I kiss summer goodbye with one final summer vacation, I am going to continue refining these practices and hope to hear your best tips. Bon voyage!