Tips for holidays when you have arthritis

Hopefully, this summer will see the first properly COVID-19-free holiday season in 2 years. If you are planning a holiday abroad and you suffer with pain in your joints, here are a few tips for making your journey a little easier. You can never overestimate how much planning your trip can help!!

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Before you go.

  • Firstly, and most importantly, you need to consider where to holiday! Maybe you have somewhere already in mind, but if you are looking around, it is worth considering where to go, and what time of year to go. It may be that you wish to escape the cold, damp British winter, to ease your pain!
  • There is some evidence that cold, wet weather can cause more pain and stiffness in your joints. Warm, dry weather can ease the pain and stiffness in joints for some people.1
  • If you are flying, try to book seats with extra leg room (if you are mobile enough). This will give you space to stretch out. If this is not possible, try to get an aisle seat, so you can easily get up and move about.
  • If you are driving a rented car, find out if they can provide an automatic, if that’s easier for you. Some rental companies will also provide vehicle adjustments free of charge if you contact them in advance. Click here for an example of the kind of help you can get:
  • Make sure you research the accommodation you will stay in, to make sure it will have everything you need, for example:2
    • A lift or ground level room
    • A fridge, for keeping medication and cool packs in it
    • A microwave if you need hot packs to help ease aches
    • Accessible bath or shower if you need it
  • It’s also worth checking if your accommodation has a heated pool for regular non-weight-bearing exercise, or if they offer yoga classes or similar, for gentle stretching.
  • If your accommodation is at the top of a hill, with all the nightlife and restaurants at the bottom, walking up and down the hill regularly may cause a flare up in symptoms.



  • Contact your airline or airport to see what help you can get at the airport. If you need help getting to the gate and onto the aircraft, they can offer transport around the airport and a lift to the aircraft, and you can usually book these services in advance. This will help to avoid queues, standing about and will probably include priority boarding and disembarking. This site gives links to all UK airports and their accessibility arrangements.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and prebook any trains or taxis, to avoid queues and stress.
  • Get some flight socks, or compression stockings. You can try these.
  • Make sure you keep some medication in your hand luggage in case you need it on the flight.3
  • Keep moving: If you are on a long flight, make sure to keep your feet moving – this will help with blood flow and prevent swollen ankles. Try these exercises.
  • Stay hydrated, particularly on a long flight. Not only will this help keep your joints lubricated but getting up to the toilet will make sure you move regularly during the flight.3


  • Make sure you identify regular rest breaks and schedule a stop at least every hour.
  • Stay hydrated – again to encourage you to stop for loo breaks!
  • When you stop, go for a short walk or do some stretches.
  • If you are going to be in the car for a long time, you can try these movements – ideally not if you are driving!

When you get there


Make sure you take enough medication with you to last for the duration of your holiday, plus a couple of extra days, in case of delay. If you need to inject any of your medications, you will need to take needles with you, so you should ask your GP for a note authorising this, so you don’t get any problems. It may be worth mentioning this to the airline when you speak to them too, so they are aware.3

Some medication used to treat arthritis can make your skin very sensitive to the sun, so check with your GP before you leave if this is the case. You will need to use SPF50 sun cream and avoid the sun at its hottest. 4

You should also make sure you have plenty of the pain medication that works best for you if you have a flare up, even if you haven’t needed any in a while. Think about what kind of medication works best for you if you get a flare up of pain. Even if you haven’t needed pain killers for some time, it is best to have some with you just in case.

You may be lucky, and need less pain relief while you are away, thanks to warm weather and swimming. Some other symptoms like skin rashes may also improve, but still make sure to protect your skin against the worst of the sun.

Think about what you eat:

Avoid overly processed, salty foods and enjoy lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and lean proteins while you are away.

Drink more water, less wine:

Enjoy a glass of wine or two, but don’t overdo it. Drinking plenty of water will keep your joints lubricated and will encourage you to get up and move when you need to go to the toilet, particularly if you are in a warmer climate. It will also help prevent headaches.5

Keep moving:  

Once you get there, try to make a point of getting up and moving about regularly, and not just lying on your sun lounger all day! You could go for a walk, do some gentle stretching, or go for a swim.2

Listen to your body:

If you are tired, have a rest. Don’t feel you have to see everything and do everything, just because you are in a different place. If you overdo it, you will spoil your enjoyment of the next day, and maybe more. By pacing yourself and resting when your body needs to, you will be able to make the most of your holiday!

Tips for holidays with arthritis

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