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13 Strategies to Enjoy a Flare-Free Summer Travel Season

Living Well

June 21, 2024

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Photography by Luis Herrera/Stocksy United

Photography by Luis Herrera/Stocksy United

by Stefanie Remson


Medically Reviewed by:

Stella Bard, MD


by Stefanie Remson


Medically Reviewed by:

Stella Bard, MD


Having lived with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for over 10 years, I’ve made many mistakes when traveling. But nothing’s about to ruin my summer, so we live and learn, and I’m here to provide my up-to-date tips.

With summer quickly approaching, I’m busy planning summer getaways.

In addition to coordinating schedules, hotels, and flights, I have an uninvited guest — my RA, who, unfortunately, accompanies me on every single trip.

I’ve lived with RA for over 10 years now, and I love to travel during summer. Over time, there have been things I’ve learned — sometimes the hard way — about how to travel well with RA.

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1. Keep medications always at the ready

I fill all of my medications as early as possible so that I have some spare doses. I always pack these extra doses to avoid running out in the event of any unexpected changes. You can always bring extras back home with you.

If you use an injectable medication, be sure to read about how to travel with it before you do. Always invest in a hard travel case meant for this type of medication. You may need a cooler with an ice pack or another chilling mechanism, as well.

One time, an injectable medication I was using to treat my RA was crushed in my carry-on bag. It was such a hassle and so much stress to get the medication replaced. I now understand why those hard cases were created!

I’d recommend traveling with your medications in your carry-on bag. It’s a nightmare if your medications are in your checked bags and they don’t end up making it to the destination at the same time as you.

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2. Pack light

Although I love having everything I might need to feel fully prepared, I prioritize keeping my luggage as light as possible.

Dragging around heavy bags really wears on my joints and my overall fatigue.

If there’s something I can ship to my destination or purchase once I’m there, I opt for this. I often ship my shoes to hotels before I arrive and buy liquids and toiletries once at my destination.

This does also require you to ship some items back to your home. I understand that this may not always be the most cost-effective option, but it helps me to optimize my joint health during my summer travel time.

You can also do laundry at your destination and pack fewer clothes.

To keep heavy and repetitive lifting to a minimum, I always check bags when flying, even if it means paying extra fees.

3. Invest in high quality luggage that suits your needs

I’d recommend buying high quality luggage that is lightweight and wheels easily without any friction.

I also try to use lightweight backpacks or even canvas bags for my smaller carry-ons when going through the airport. They are not as durable, but their light weight makes traveling less painful for me.

Making sure my luggage is as light as possible has truly been a game-changer. I feel so much more calm and capable while traveling.

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4. Travel assistance

If you use mobility or other assistive devices, you could make arrangements for travel help.

For example, travel companies should have employees who can help you lift heavy items or get you across airports to where you need to be.

I’d recommend contacting your travel provider or hotel in advance to see what help they can offer.

5. Plan for flares

Expect the best, but prepare for the worst, and always bring your flare kit on your summer travel adventures.

My flare kit includes:

  • a heating pad
  • topical lidocaine patches
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, acetaminophen, and any other prescription pain medications
  • compression gloves
  • compression tape
  • proof of health insurance coverage, if applicable, in the event I would need to seek medical treatment
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6. Stay hydrated

When traveling during the summer, I always prioritize hydration.

I bring a reusable water bottle when possible or buy plastic bottles to have on hand at my destination. In the hustle and bustle of a hectic day of travel or a jam-packed sightseeing schedule, I make myself drink to hydrate.

Personally, I love bringing those packets of water enhancers that you pour in and mix up. They are portable and lightweight, and they help me drink more than I usually would.

7. Schedule rest

I learned a long time ago that if I don’t choose rest days, my body will choose them for me!

I always schedule time for rest, or even entire days, into any travel. I also plan to take off work the day before and after I travel to pack or unpack and catch up on laundry.

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8. Wear comfortable shoes

If you are traveling for an event where fancy (aka uncomfortable) shoes are required, such as a wedding, graduation, or funeral, make sure to pack alternative options for the other days that you’re traveling.

Comfortable shoes make a world of difference while traveling and exploring new places.

I was notorious for many decades for wearing “attractive” shoes while traveling and ending trips miserable with blisters. It wasn’t worth the “pretty” pictures.

Find out why fellow RA warrior, Effie Koliopoulos, recommends Kizik trainers.

9. Consider travel insurance

Living with a chronic illness can be unpredictable. I always consider travel insurance in the event that I have to cancel at the last minute.

Be sure to read the fine print and use a reputable organization.

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10. Consider travel health insurance

Before I travel, I used to call my health insurance provider to clarify the specific health coverage I have while traveling.

I phrase it in this manner because I have had my particular health insurance plan for over a decade, and I already know that I don’t have any out-of-network, state, or country health insurance coverage. Knowing this, I don’t waste my time anymore, but I highly recommend that you call your plan.

Be sure to get the details of your current coverage because you may be limited to your local region, your state, or your country.

If you don’t already have health insurance that covers you for your travel, ask your health plan if they offer it or find a reputable organization that does.

When shopping around, be sure to specifically inquire about medical bill coverage in an accident or emergency in the specific region you’re traveling to.

11. Learn a little bit about the healthcare system of your destination

I wouldn’t recommend trying any new health treatments or therapies while traveling. For example, if you don’t usually get massages or acupuncture, this may not be the ideal time to test the waters.

But I would try to familiarize yourself with the healthcare system of the location that you’re traveling to. It can help to have some information in case of emergencies.

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12. Listen to your body

Before I was diagnosed with RA, I was always “go, go, go” nonstop, especially when on vacation. I had to get everything I possibly could out of each and every moment I was away.

Now, I take things at my own pace, enjoy the journeys, and rest when I need to.

This can be tricky for my family to go along with sometimes. So, this might mean we do separate activities for a bit, and that works well for all of us.

13. Stick to your regular exercise routines

I try to stick to my usual exercise routines while away, and this could mean going to the gym on the cruise ship, walking on the beach, or doing gentle stretches before bed.

Whether your summer travels are very active or a whole lot of relaxation, be sure to show your body love, even while away from home and your regular routines.

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The takeaway

Summer travel with RA can present some challenges. But you don’t need to miss out on all the fun.

I hope these tips help you make the most of your summer travel. See you at the beach!

Medically reviewed on June 21, 2024

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About the author

Stefanie Remson

Ms. Stefanie Remson MSN, APRN, FNP-BC is the CEO and founder of She is a family nurse practitioner and is a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patient herself. She has spent her entire life serving the community as a healthcare professional and has refused to let RA slow her down. She has worked with The Arthritis Foundation, The Lupus Foundation of America, Healthline, Grace and Able, Arthritis Life, Musculo, Aila, and HopeX. You can learn more at her website and on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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