For years I have traveled by plane, cross-country, from LA to NY. From NY to LA, From LA to Chicago, LA to Florida, LA to Dallas, mostly for television shows. I never thought of plane travel as anything but a means to get to my work place. It was basically easy. That was then; today plane travel is a totally different animal. Add to that dealing with RA or JA and you have a wild animal that needs constant care and attention.



So as I sit in my airplane seat, halfway to NY I am thinking about all the things I do to make travel easier as well as to make it RA/JA friendly. It’s a different world and a unique disease that does much better when you address the issues.


First, packing. The lighter you pack, the easier it is to handle your luggage. Start with lightweight luggage, nylon bags are by far the lightest and they even come with wheels, and wheels are an essential, preferable four wheels for easy pulling. You don’t need to take a lot of stuff. Buy travel size or go to your local beauty supply and buy the small plastic bottles and jars and put all your necessities in these. You will take up a third of the space in your bag and lighten your load. And you just refill them for each trip.


When it comes to clothes, black, navy and dark brown are your best friends. Stains don’t show, need I say more. Nobody remembers if you wore the same pants or skirt if it’s in a dark basic. Take blouses or shirts that can be worn twice, once alone with a vest or jacket and once under a crew or V-neck sweater. The key to making your outfits look different is accessorizing. Women, change your earrings, bracelets, necklaces and add colorful or patterned big scarves. Men add V-neck sweaters or vests over your shirt for the second wearing. Kids, wear lots of prints and plaids so stains don’t show.  Wear dark colored shoes instead of light. Wear layers instead of bulky items.


When it comes to shoes, you only need two pair, one for walking and one for dress. Keep them basic and comfortable. Save your newest or favorite shoes for at home.


At the airport, arrive early, check your bags, and carry on only a very lightweight bag. Kids get one nylon backpack or nylon bag filled with healthy snacks and books or games for the plane. Overhead bins and heavy bags aggravate joints. Travel will aggravate them enough without this addition. Everyone take that early time and walk the airport, standing and moving will keep your joints lubricated and ready for the rest on the plane.


For men and women if you have vein or blood clot issues get a pair of support, compression socks or nylons at your local medical supply store or online. They are expensive but your legs, feet and veins will thank you. Wash them out by hand for the trip home. For kids, make sure plane clothes are not binding or tight and everything is comfortable.


On the plane get up and walk the isles, I don’t care if everyone stares at you by the sixth time down the isle, your circulation and movement is far more important than what they are thinking. While at your seat wiggle your legs, move your arms around. Let kids stand in the isle and stretch and walk. Sitting in one place for a long time aggravates joints and swelling.


If you have neck issues, carry a neck pillow. Back issues carry a back pillow. Both can be found in lightweight blow up form that fit in any carry-on.  Dress in layers for plane travel. Sometimes the cabin is too cold and sometimes it’s too hot, be prepared. I always travel with a big scarf that can wrap around my neck and or shoulders. It has been a lifesaver many times. If you have problems with your hands or finger joints wear a pair of black padded, fingerless workout gloves. They support hands and make carrying, opening, closing and lifting easier. They even look stylish by today’s standards.


Take a bottle of water, size depending on flight time and drink, drink, drink to keep hydrated. Coffee, tea and soft drinks will not do the trick, think WATER.


If foods aggravate your arthritis, pack your own or buy at the airport.


Take your medications on time. Carry them with you just in case your luggage goes missing for hours and take them as needed.


And when you land, walk until your luggage arrives. You’ve been sitting for a while, stretch those limbs and joints and get them moving again, before you have to deal with luggage.


iPads, iPods and laptops will keep everyone entertained and make the time pass, just don’t forget to get up and walk. If you have a new Apple Watch, it will remind you to get up every hour. If not, set a timer on your phone or take a timer with you.


Between comfortable clothes and shoes, getting up and walking, drinking lots of water and eating healthy snacks you will be amazed how much better you will feel at the end of a long trip. If you travel by car, stop often. Yes, it might take more time but your joints will thank you the next day. Dealing with RA and JA means changing your life, and all the changes want to work in your favor, not against you.


Make your travel fun, not stressful by allowing plenty of time.


Remember how you travel will affect how you feel when you are at your destination. Travel safe and healthy!


Has RA kept you from taking traveling long distances?