If you follow me on social media – especially Twitter and Instagram – then today you’ll be seeing a lot about The Arthritis Foundation’s Advocacy Summit or #advocateforarthritis. I’ve been looking forward to this since I learned that I received one of the foundation’s travel awards back before my surgery. So yesterday I flew down to DC from Boston, today I’m busy with advocacy training, and tomorrow I have several meetings on Capitol Hill. But, of course, there’s the whole “travel” part of this thing. After 5 years of traveling from New England to Nashville multiple times a year, I’ve pretty much mastered traveling with arthritis, so today I’m sharing my tips with you.
1. Wear comfortable clothing.
If it’s skinny jeans, sweatpants, oversized t-shirts, whatever. If it’s comfortable, wear it. You have triggers like turbulent flights, potholes you bus goes over, or stress to add to your pain – you don’t need to add uncomfortable clothing to the mix.
2. Keep your medications on hand.
Make sure they are easy to access and do not, whatever you do, forget to take them. I have alarms on my phone to remind me to take my medications on time. And if you have emergency pain meds, never let them out of your sight. Ever. People might try and steal them, which is the last thing you need to deal with right now.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you need help putting your carry-on in the overhead, if it turns out that you need a wheelchair to navigate the airport, or if you need to board early, do not be afraid to ask for assistance or ashamed to give in. It is not a bad thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve arrived at an airport and realized that my gate was on the opposite side and immediately wished I had requested a wheelchair. It’s not worth it to avoid asking for help because the only person who will suffer for it is you.
4. Don’t overpack
The last thing you want is to add unnecessary weight to your shoulders or arms, especially if you’re walking through an airport or bus station. So make sure that what you’re carrying really does have to be there and see if you can use something that has wheels so there’s less pressure on your joints.
5. Be prepared for officials to doubt your condition
This is an unfortunate thing, but if you don’t look sick it’s pretty likely that flight attendants, TSA officers, ticket officers, basically anyone could doubt that you need extra help. So don’t just mentally prepare yourself: have any documents you might need to prove that you’re not lying or just trying to get special treatment If you have a narcotic or controlled substance, make sure it’s in its official pharmaceutical packaging and that you have a photo ID like a license or passport to prove that it’s yours.