Daily Living

Your arthritis-friendly summer travel guide

A family at the camping ground

If you've made plans to travel this summer, there are many things you may want to consider before hitting the road or checking in at the airport. Whether you are camping or staying at a hotel, here are some useful tips to consider.  


If nature is calling your name, camping is a great way to reconnect with the great outdoors. Plus, there are many mental and physical benefits to spending time in nature and forest bathing

Choosing your equipment wisely can help. Consider a tent that is easy to pack and pitch, and that is ideally tall enough for you to stand in, so you can avoid excessive crouching.  

You may want to practice setting it up in your backyard or local park to avoid stress at the campground.  

As setting up camp can be tedious, consider the following tips:  

  • Warm up and stretch before. 
  • Apply insect repellant and sunscreen so you're not hurrying because of mosquitos, black flies or sun exposure. 
  • Before you begin, set up a chair and have drinking water on hand to allow yourself regular breaks. 
  • If you have one, pitch your kitchen tent first. That way you'll have a place to sit in the shade. 
  • Give children or camping companions specific tasks that are helpful and appropriate for their abilities. For anyone unable to help, make sure they have activities or comforts to keep them engaged, allowing you to focus. 
  • Make sure to have a cold pack in your cooler in case you need to ice any inflammation from the effort. If not, a cold can of your favourite beverage can help! 
  • Keep the campground and tent floor neatly organized to minimize tripping hazards. 

Inflatable air mattresses are a good sleeping option — make sure to bring an automatic pump to avoid exhaustion. Camping beds, while bulkier to carry, could offer better support, and be of a preferable height once set up. They can be topped with another mattress for maximum comfort.  

"For some people, cold weather can have a negative effect on their arthritis symptoms. So as the mercury drops during nighttime, you'll be happy to have warm layers of easily accessible clothing (think slip-on or easy to zip-on), and a few blankets to layer instead of a sleeping bag that may be difficult to get into," says Ingrid Beam, an Arthritis Society Canada physiotherapist in Muskoka, Ontario.   

Setting a thick blanket over the tent floor and keeping air-activated heat pads handy can also be a winning strategy for harsher conditions.  

Did you know? Some Parks Canada sites provide accessibility options and glamping resorts offer outdoor camping with amenities and comforts — and minimal set up. It may be worthwhile to look into your options as you plan your destination.  

Love camping? Our campers do, too!  
For hundreds of Canadian children living with arthritis, our adapted summer camps are an opportunity to make friends, feel accepted and develop wonderful memories. You can help us offer an unforgettable experience to children living with chronic diseases by making a donation to support our summer camps! 

Staying at a hotel or a rental property 

Image of the word Hotel on a hotel balcony

Before booking accommodations, enquire about the availability of ground-level rooms or rooms close to the elevator to minimize walking; if renting, inquire about stairs or steps if mobility is a concern. Make sure to bring your walking aids and assistive devices (walking poles, cane, rollator), as you may find yourself walking more than anticipated. 

Prior to booking, you can also check if the accommodation has assistive equipped bathrooms, accessible beds that are easier to get in and out of, door levers instead of knobs, and a microwave for your heat pads. Also make sure to have access to a mini fridge for your cold packs, or if you need to store arthritis medication that requires a cold, controlled environment.  

"Upon arrival, test the bed! It's better to know now if you would appreciate extra pillows; not after a hard night's sleep," says Beam.  

You may also want to immediately adjust the room temperature as you check-in; they can sometimes run cold by default and take a while to heat up.  

For many people, heat therapy is an effective way to fight arthritis symptoms. So, consider booking a hotel where you can access a heated pool. Don't forget to bring your slip-on aqua socks or shoes to prevent slipping while getting in and out of the pool. 

Some hotels also offer massage therapy and spa services*. Before booking a session, you may want to get confirmation that the therapists on duty can offer care adapted to people living with chronic pain.  

*Always consult your healthcare provider to determine if these options are recommended for you. 

Getting there: Road tripping 

Happy family in a car

Planning your road trip in advance will help you feel better prepared for the journey ahead. 

Research and map your itinerary in advance and plan regular stops along the way to avoid cramps, tension and pain – try these 10 exercises you can perform anywhere. Identify long stretches of road without service areas and make sure to stop before these to avoid exhaustion, as arthritis fatigue can creep up on you. As a general rule, take breaks before fatigue hits and share the driving if you can.  

Before hitting the road, adjust your seat properly and consider a pillow for additional support. "You may want to use the seat warmers a few minutes before reaching your destination as an easy warm up for your back and legs before getting out of the car," says Beam. "Upon arrival, sliding your seat back so you can move your hips and knees will make your first few steps out of the vehicle easier." 

Bring healthy snacks and avoid foods that facilitate the already-present inflammatory states found in arthritis by making sure to mark restaurants with healthy options along your itinerary.

Consult these driving hacks for tips to improve your driving experience. 

Getting there: Air travel 

While it's exciting to discover far-away destinations, air travel can be exhausting and uncomfortable. 

Wearing shoes that are easy to slip on and off can help avoid unnecessary bending and strain at airport security. You may also want to take advantage of mobility services like electric carts, wheelchairs and moving walkways that can ease the mileage on your soles and joints! 

Wheels are your friend! Luggage with wheels is easier to carry over great distances, and don't forget, it's easier to push than pull.  

In the plane, remember to get up and move around when possible and to do seated stretches, by bending and straightening your legs, and touching your ankles. 

Lastly, don't forget to pack your medication in your carry-on luggage, as checked luggage could go missing. 

For more ideas, consult these 7 tips to reduce travel stress

Safe travel!