Thanksgiving Travel Comfort Tips: 4 Strategies for Managing Arthritis on the Go

woman on plan for thanksgiving travel
woman on plan for thanksgiving travel

Thanksgiving marks a time of gratitude, family, and, for many, travel. However, for the 50 million Americans living with arthritis, travel can present a unique set of challenges. The prolonged periods of sitting in cars, trains, or planes, carrying luggage, and planning stress can all exacerbate joint pain and stiffness, turning what should be a joyful journey into a strenuous ordeal.

Whether it’s your first time traveling with arthritis or you’re looking for more efficient ways to manage your symptoms on the go, this guide is designed to help you navigate Thanksgiving travel with ease and comfort.

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Planning Ahead

woman using handrail during thanksgiving travel

Embarking on your Thanksgiving travel doesn’t have to be daunting if you plan with consideration for your joint health. Here’s how to prepare for a smoother trip:

1. Check the Weather Forecast

Arthritis can become more bothersome with cold and damp conditions. Before you pack your bags, take a look at the weather predictions for your destination. This way, you can pack appropriate clothing and any additional items that can help mitigate pain triggered by the cold, like warm compresses or a cozy blanket for extra warmth.

2. Choose the Right Mode of Transportation

Your comfort during Thanksgiving travel is important. When selecting your mode of transport, consider which options provide enough legroom and the opportunity to stretch regularly. For instance, an aisle seat on a flight or a train will allow you to extend your legs or take brief walks up and down the aisle.

3. Book Accommodations for with Accessibility Features

Where you stay can have a significant impact on your comfort levels. Look for hotels or places that prioritize accessibility. Features such as elevators, ramps, handrails, and even in-room accessibility (like a shower grab bar) can make a big difference in managing your arthritis pain and ensuring a restful stay.

You can read more tips here.

Packing Essentials For Thanksgiving Travel

To ensure your Thanksgiving journey is as comfortable as possible, it’s crucial to pack with intention. Here’s a list of essentials that will help make your journey smooth:

1. Heat and Cold Therapy

Heat applications, such as heat wraps or hot water bottles, can relax muscles and increase blood flow, making them ideal for stiff, aching joints after a day of travel or during chilly flights. On the flip side, cold therapy, through instant cold packs or reusable gel packs, plays a crucial role in reducing inflammation and numbing acute pain—offering a quick, drug-free method to manage flare-ups. When packing for a journey, it’s wise to include both options, as alternating between heat and cold can provide comprehensive relief, helping to ensure that joint pain doesn’t put a damper on your Thanksgiving travel plans.

2. Supportive and Comfortable Shoes

Footwear can make or break your travel experience, especially when dealing with joint pain. Choose shoes that provide ample support, cushioning, and are easy to slip on and off at security checkpoints. If swelling is a concern, consider adjustable shoes or those with a bit more wiggle room to accommodate changes in foot size.

3. Travel Pillows and Cushions

Long periods of sitting can exacerbate joint pain, so having the right support is key. Ergonomic travel pillows and cushions can help maintain proper alignment and provide comfort during your journey. Inflatable options are particularly handy as they can be adjusted for firmness and won’t take up too much space in your luggage.

With these items checked off your list, you can focus on enjoying the festivities and family time, knowing you’re well-prepared to manage your arthritis symptoms during your Thanksgiving travel plans. You can read more tips for flying with arthritis here.

During the Journey

suitcase with travel pillow for thanksgiving travel

1. Take Frequent Breaks and Stretch

Whether you’re driving or flying, make it a point to take regular breaks to stand, walk, and stretch. Gentle stretching can reduce stiffness and improve circulation, providing relief to achy joints. Plan stops on a road trip every 1-2 hours, and if flying, take advantage of the aisle space to move around.

2. Use Assistive Devices

Assistive devices aren’t just for everyday use; they’re your best travel companions. Items like foldable canes, travel-sized joint braces, or ergonomic neck pillows can offer support and alleviate stress on your joints during long travel periods. Custom orthotics or insoles can also provide additional foot support for walking comfortably.

3. Practice Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques can help reduce pain, especially on long journeys. Deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, or meditation apps can help create a sense of calm during your Thanksgiving travel. This mindfulness approach can reduce stress levels, which in turn can lessen inflammation and pain sensations.

Arrival and Destination

Grandmother enjoying family time outside after thanksgiving travel

1. Request Special Assistance if Needed

Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it. Many accommodations offer special assistance services to make your travel experience smoother. This might include shuttle services, assistance with luggage, or even priority seating arrangements. Using these services can help you conserve energy and avoid unnecessary strain on your joints.

2. Modify Thanksgiving Activities to Minimize Joint Stress

Activities like standing in the kitchen for hours or playing touch football can add strain to your joints. Consider modifying these activities to be more arthritis-friendly. For example, prepare a dish that requires less prep time, or suggest a seated game that includes everyone. Do what you need to allow you to join in the fun without exacerbating your joint pain.

3. Prioritize Rest and Recovery

Between travel fatigue and the excitement of holiday gatherings, it’s easy to overlook the need for rest. Make sure to schedule downtime to recover from the Thanksgiving travel. If you experience increased joint pain, don’t push through it; allow yourself the time to rest and recover.

Ready To Get Help With Physical Therapy?

As the holiday season unfolds, bringing the warmth of Thanksgiving traditions, you shouldn’t have to endure the added discomfort of arthritis.

We understand how arthritis can impose on your joy and mobility, but it doesn’t have to be your constant companion. To begin your journey toward a more pain-free life, click here to fill out this form and tell us more about what’s going on, and our team will be in touch. You can also give us a call here: (360) 474-3274

Andrew Vertson