Travel is exhausting. Having RA certainly doesn’t make things any easier. What’s the best way to transport meds? What if prescriptions need to be refilled during the trip? Is it possible to spend twelve-hour days in the car without every joint gelling? To have the best trip possible, it’s good to plan ahead.
My oldest child is now a college freshman, and to make the transition easier on everyone, our whole family made the trip to help big brother settle into his dorm. Our first day we travelled south to Portland, OR, and across to Boise, ID. The second day we drove to Denver. Our third day wasn’t quite as long because we didn’t leave Denver until after lunch, but we still travelled through Oklahoma to northern Texas. The fourth day we completed the first leg of our journey and delivered our son to his school, two-thirds of the way across the country. We spent a few days there, and are now half-way home. Aside from everyone being tired of long car trips day after day, it has gone well.
Your pharmacist will not love you if you stop by the pharmacy on your way out-of-town and ask for early refills on everything. I talked with my pharmacist a month in advance to find out what special requirements they had for getting meds early. My pharmacy wanted a week’s notice. That week gave the pharmacy time to contact my insurance company to get a vacation override. I picked up all my refills two days before we left town (allowing a small cushion in case something went wrong). Your pharmacy might be different, so talk to the pharmacy staff and make sure you get all your refills before it’s time to leave.
When travelling out-of-country, it’s a good idea to keep all prescriptions in their original bottles with the original labels. Since I was not leaving the country, I filled all my pill boxes and left the bottles at home. The biologic required special handling, though.
Biologics need to be refrigerated, but it’s not necessary to buy one of those refrigerators that plug into the car’s lighter-socket. $2,700 worth of medicine is worth some TLC. I placed my pre-filled syringes into the little insulated travel-bag from Humira, along with the bag’s ice pack. I then placed that entire bag into the insulated travel-bag from Enbrel, along with its ice pack. That bag then went into our large ice chest. I don’t think the medicine would have stayed cold enough in only one bag. Everywhere we’ve travelled, the weather was in the 90′s, and most nights all of the ice packs were melted. Fortunately, the medicine was still cold.
On my first trip travelling with Enbrel, one of the hotel refrigerators got too cold and froze my medicine, so this time I took extra precautions. Every night, I left the medicine in the smallest insulated bag (unzipped about one inch) and placed it into a refrigerator. The insulation protected the medicine from freezing. If you don’t have access to multiple insulated bags, my pharmacist suggested wrapping the medicine in a towel before placing it into the hotel refrigerator.
Gelling is the phenomenon that describes stiff joints after inactivity due to synovial fluid that doesn’t stay where it belongs. The key to preventing gelling (if your meds aren’t doing that for you), is to keep moving. Move the hands, move the ankles and knees. Move the shoulders and hips and any other joints that are likely to otherwise stiffen.
Flexing the hands periodically can help if you’re driving. I like to knit while travelling (in the passenger seat). This keeps my hands, wrists, and elbows moving, and gives me something to show for all that time sitting in the car.
Ankles should be moved, too. If you write the alphabet with each foot, that will nicely flex your ankles and prevent stiffness (and strengthen the ankles if you put weights on your feet). I find that simply by changing position so that I can move my feet around, I also move my knees.
A good shoulder roll and upper-arm stretch takes very little time, and is quite helpful in preventing stiffness.
The final thing that I do to keep from getting too stiff is to stop and walk around at least every two hours. The best way to get the driver to make frequent stops at rest areas is to make sure everyone drinks plenty of fluids – easy enough when the weather is hot, but a bit trickier during the winter.
Many hotels now have a fitness center, so I’ve found it very easy to exercise at the end of a long day, which is another way to make travelling with RA a little easier.
Do you have special things you do to make travel easier?