“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

– Mark Twain

Growing up, my family traveled extensively.  Most of our extended family lived four states away, so there were always trips in that direction a few times a year, but we also traveled for conferences my dad was going to.  We traveled by car, mostly, but had a few flying trips here and there as well.  By the time I was 8 I’d been to 10 countries and most of the states in our country.  Since getting married I’ve traveled a little less frequently and a little less far, but we do family vacations a couple times a year, quick one week trips places not-too-far away and every so often farther off.  So I am a pretty seasoned traveler.

Traveling as a parent and as a person with RA is different than  being the kid traveling with parents, though.  I learned a lot from my parents about traveling, but some things are different when you’re less physically able to do things.

Lisa’s Travel Tips:

1.  If at all possible, bring a buddy.  These days I don’t travel a lot on my own; I usually have husband and kids or just kids in tow.  My eldest is big enough to be a great helper and my middle kid does pretty good in that respect, too.  Once a year I take a trip to a leadership convention with some friends or go to a sci-fi convention, meeting up with friends once I’m there.  But when I went to Wisconsin getting up there and coming back I was on my own and it was…well, not as pleasant as you might expect.  You don’t have anyone to carry your bag when you get tired or to take over driving when you just can’t take the pain anymore.  It’s all on you.  Hence my suggestion: take a buddy.

2. Bring a snack and an empty water bottle.  I used to carry a full water bottle with me everywhere I went, but you know what?  Those things are really heavy when you get tired and there are water fountains everywhere, or bathrooms that have sinks, and as long as you’re in a country with safe water you can refill at your leisure.   I like carrying those super crunchy granola bars with me and some dried fruit.  Lightweight & easy to eat wherever you are.

3. Ace bandages: I like to carry the wider ones with me wherever I go.  If you’re strapped for space in your suitcase, unroll the thing and kind of lay it out flat in a zig-zag pattern across the top of your clothes or shove it in your shoes.  You can use them for everything, including as a strap to tie your suitcase to your wrist to drag it if your hands get too painful to hold things (which mine did on the Wisconsin trip).

4. Ice chest: I usually travel by van, so I have a lot of room to carry a large ice chest wherever I go.  We usually fill ours with food & frozen water bottles so we aren’t trapped into eating expensive foods near the attractions we visit.  When I travel by plane, I make sure to have a small foldable ice chest with me in my carry-on bag.  You can get ones that are little bitty and fit in your purse, if you like, for just carrying your meds & an ice pack or something bigger if you want to keep other stuff there.  I have a few different sizes; a lot of times you can get them for free at health fairs (mine have come from there).

5. Planning, planning, planning.  I have checklists that I keep on the computer for various trip types and what I’m most likely to need so I can just print them out (or I did do, until the computer crash).  They include everything I need, down to power cables and pens.  I usually make sure to have real maps of the places I’m going (this time we failed in that respect, relying on Google maps; big mistake!) and directions directly from the website of the places we’re going.

6. Build breaks into your schedule.  In the case of our trip this week, we made fun stops, like root beer at Schilo’s or the Coral Reef room at SeaWorld where we could sit and relax for a while before moving.  SeaWorld had lots of shows to stop and sit at as well.  At the Capital kids museum there was a cute little room to sit and watch a movie about Texas Ranching while the kids ran around the other rooms.

7. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time after your trip to recover.  I’m talking days, not hours.