Traveling With a Constant Companion of PsA
Traveling can be stressful and challenging but there are things you can do to make your travels easier and more enjoyable. We had the opportunity to sit down with Clasina a.k.a. “Seenie” Field, an avid traveler who happens to also have psoriatic arthritis, and discuss her best tips for traveling:
Were you leery of traveling with PsA?
I have been an unstoppable traveler for all of my adult life. Unbeknownst to me, I traveled for several years with PsA without knowing what was wrong. Once I was diagnosed, I understood why travel had become so difficult and so tiring for me, and why it was becoming less and less enjoyable with each trip. Unfortunately, my diagnosis came only after serious damage was found in my feet. That diagnosis forced me to change the way I travel: It was either change or stay home. Fortunately, I can still stand and walk for short periods of time, but I now have to travel on a mobility scooter. Getting my head around that change, and working with it, has made travel enjoyable and enriching for me again.
Like with anything else, the severity of your disease will determine what kind of adaptations you will need to make when traveling. But adapting your travel to take your PsA into account can be done, and if you are really smart about it, travel with a disability can, in some ways, be even better than it used to be.
What are your must-have items (for PsA) when traveling?
Here are my ground rules for travel with PsA:
Accept that you have limitations.
You cannot travel like you used to, do you hear that? If you try to ignore your PsA and carry on traveling like you did before you were “gifted” with this miserable disease, you will travel tired, in pain, frazzled and frustrated. You will not have fun and you will be wishing that you were at home in bed. If that’s the way it’s going to be, you may as well save your money, your effort, and that of your travel mates and…well…stay home in bed.
Do whatever you need to do to squeeze your micro-wardrobe into one small suitcase. Your life will be greatly simplified, your hands will thank you, and your traveling companions won’t be shackled with your heavy luggage.
Swallow your pride. Get aids. Use them.
You’re going to argue but ask for wheelchair assistance at the airport. JUST. DO. IT. Exhausted and in pain is no way to get your travel adventure off the ground.
OK, I know, nobody wants to use a cane, but aside from taking some of the strain off of your poor beleaguered body, a cane is a signal to others that you might need a helping hand, or a seat on the bus, or just a bit of consideration. And don’t kid yourself into thinking that if it all becomes too much, you’ll buy a cane at your destination. Surely you’re not serious about spending your travel time shopping for a mobility aid in an unfamiliar place when you could be doing something fun.
If you have to sit and/or rest often you can bet that there will not be a place to sit when you need it, or the seats will be occupied by other bums. So get a walker, a wheelchair or a scooter. Yes, I said a scooter. If you can’t bear the thought of a scooter, then consider wheelchair (uh-huh, I hear your groans): you can lean on it and push “your imaginary friend” if you’re having a good day. It also makes a great “stuff mobile” to save your arthritic hands. Put your carry-on and your souvenir purchases on the seat, and when you just cannot carry on, let someone push you. Oh, but you don’t want to do that to your companions? OK then, look at it this way. Who do you think is more fun to travel with? A. The teary-eyed person sitting in the bus shelter, sniveling about not being able to take one more step, or B. The one who tells her imaginary friend where to get off, and accepts a push in the wheelchair?
Take all your lotions and potions with you.
Don’t assume that what you can get easily at the mall will be available at your destination if you happen to need it. Visit your primary care provider several weeks before you leave to discuss what medications you might need on your travels. If your trip involves crossing time zones, consider asking for a sleep medication that you can take if you need to for a few days.
Start conservatively, with disability-friendly destinations and plans.
In the beginning, research every detail: are you staying close to the activities that you want to do? If you can’t afford the resort right on the beach, then choose the one with the free shuttle. Think it all through: What are you able to do, what gives you problems? Send emails. Find the online disabled travel forums. Ask questions. As you become more experienced with your limitations and more confident, you’ll know when (and how) to wing it.
It’s all about pacing.
Alternate demanding activities with ones requiring less effort. If you plan a busy day, try to make the next day a more relaxed one. As much as you can, build breaks and rest periods into your day.
Your mother was so right: stand up and sit up straight. SMILE. Be over-the-top grateful. If you skulk around with your cane or ride your scooter with a hangdog expression muttering “thanks” every now and again, you are guaranteeing yourself a memorably miserable time. Instead, hold your head high, smile, and when someone offers help, accept it and thank them generously. Make their day by telling them how much you appreciate their kindness. Do this all day, every chance you get, and you will have wonderful travels. So will your companions and those whom you meet along the way.
Is there any particular type of vacation/destination which you find easier to enjoy
If you think ahead and plan carefully, you’ll find that there are far more places that you can go and far more things that you can do and see than you ever expected possible with PsA. Having said that, though, I do have some favorite destinations and types of vacation.
For a totally easy, relaxing and trouble-free holiday, there is one outstanding choice – a cruise ship. Modern cruise liners are totally accessible, and cruise line staff will do backflips to make sure that you have what you need to be comfortable and have a good time. On a ship, you have complete freedom to be as active or as passive as you wish. From a workout in the gym or shows in the theater to dinner in bed, it’s all there and it couldn’t be more accessible. You just have to ask.
As for disability-friendly destinations, the United Kingdom (particularly the larger cities) wins my award. Public buildings, tourist venues, and public transit all make accommodations wherever possible for people with various kinds of special needs. And even better, people are almost always extremely kind and helpful. One example: Windsor Castle is, essentially, totally inaccessible to those with disabilities. (Apparently, accessibility wasn’t one of the requirements for building a fortress a thousand years ago!) However, thanks to the remarkable efforts of Her Majesty’s faithful servants to make it as accessible as possible, and the great kindness of her loyal staff, I was given truly royal treatment and a grand tour on my mobility scooter. That’s a remarkable story best told another time, but I will say this: It was the most memorable tourist experience that I’ve ever had. And without my PsA, I’d have never had it.
The Ultimate PsA Travel Checklist
In addition to these fantastic tips, check out our free PsA Travel Checklist. Our customizable checklist will help you get organized, packed, and on your way.