Travel Tips

Adapted from an article written by Linda J. Brown, orginally published in Kids Get Arthritis Too

Regardless of the destination you select, the following tips may help your vacation go smoothly.

Pack light. Choose rolling luggage or carry-ons for kids, particularly if you’re flying. If they use backpacks make sure they’re not too heavy for them.

On long car rides or airline flights, have your child stretch, doing exercises he or she normally does to avoid joint stiffness. Plan periodic rest stops during drives to get out and limber up or have your child walk the aisle on a plane.

Mind your medications. “Always pack more than you need,” says Jani Nayar, executive coordinator of the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality. “If you are going for 10 days, pack medication for 20 days.” She also recommends you leave prescription(s) with a friend or relative who can fax or send it to you if something happens to your drugs. Always carry medication with you when traveling, but put it in several packages so if one package gets damaged or lost you have more. If medication needs to be refrigerated, carry it in a cold pack medication container and make sure your accommodations include a refrigerator. If you travel by air and need hypodermic needles, bring a doctor’s prescription or certificate showing that you need the syringes, so you won’t get held up in the security area.

Allow for rest.
Vacations are exciting and everyone is eager to do it all, but it will benefit the whole family if you don’t over schedule. Some find find that they need to slow down on their family vacations. Time meals and snack breaks to the amount of activity you think your child can tolerate. Returning to your room to relax can also energize everyone. If you’ll be walking a lot, you may want to rent a stroller or wheelchair.

Keep it up. Incorporate daily exercises and splint-wearing into the vacation. “If you stop your regular care routine, you could potentially see an increase in your child’s symptoms, which may have a negative impact on your vacation,” says Shannon Darnell, a physical therapist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Protect. Use sunscreen liberally. And encourage your child to wear hats and protective clothing, especially if your child takes medication that increases sensitivity to sun or if he or she has a potentially sun-sensitive condition such juvenile dermatomyositis, lupus or mixed connective tissue disease. Your child should also wear supportive, comfortable shoes; not brand new, unbroken-in shoes.

Oh brother! For siblings who never want to slow down, a suggest is for you is planning activities that the child with arthritis can’t do early in the morning so their joints can warm up while the others are busy. Or split up: the child with arthritis sits and reads a book with mom, while dad takes the others for a walk.

Get insurance. Look into getting trip cancellation insurance but make sure it includes pre-existing conditions. Spending time together removed from life’s daily stresses brings families closer and forms the basis for happy childhood memories. So start dreaming up your next family getaway!


Accessibility Matters

Careful planning is required for children with wheelchairs. A travel agent, destination specialist or itinerary planner who is experienced in accessible travel can prove invaluable. If you set up the trip yourself, know exactly what you need in an accessible room, find out exact featur es of the room you’re going to book, ask to block the room (the only way to reserve a specific accessible room), get written confirmation and then reconfirm before you arrive. Speak to someone at that hotel; don’t use an 800 number for chains because you may be talking to someone who has never seen the hotel, let alone the room. Harrington’s book Barrier Free Travel; A Nuts and Bolts Guide to Wheelers and Slow Wal k ers is packed with good advice and has a chapter on children ’s travel.

Download this article as a PDF.

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