Traveling with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) can be challenging and exhausting. Here’s how using a wheelchair can improve your experience.
I’ve always had the travel bug.
Unfortunately, PsA has put a damper on my vacations. Enjoying your trip while trying to smile through the pain can be tough. Many times, instead of relishing the sites and moments I waited months to experience, I found myself searching for a bench to rest on.
It was probably frustrating for my travel companions as well. And while I can say I have happy memories of my journeys, it stinks that the moments weren’t as sweet when I was there.
The pain doesn’t always end with the trip, either. There were times when I needed a vacation from the vacation I was just on. Actually, I felt like I needed medical leave: Overdoing it on my trip sometimes sent me into weeks-long flares.
Through the years, I started accepting that using a wheelchair while traveling can improve my experience. But it took a long time to feel comfortable with it. Some people (both with and without arthritis) feel firmly against it.
I’ve heard the argument that exercise is good and that you should walk if you can. While that is a valid point, it ignores the fact that people with PsA deserve a break from having to push through the pain at all times. It’s not “giving up” or “giving in” to use a tool that can help you relax. Using a wheelchair might even prevent a flare-up in the long run.
It’s a personal decision on whether or not you would feel comfortable using a wheelchair during your vacation. One size doesn’t fit all. Some like to have a wheelchair available at all times of their trip, while others opt to rent one just for amusement parks or museums. Still, other people prefer to power through their journey.
I used to be the type to push through for lots of reasons. I wanted to avoid burdening my travel companion, drawing attention, or slowing us down. But doing so meant I didn’t enjoy the experience as much and even brought down the mood for my companion.
Once I thought about it, I realized there were many benefits to using a wheelchair that I was overlooking. It could have solved so many of my vacation issues.
Using a wheelchair doesn’t mean you’re “stuck” in a wheelchair. It means you can conserve energy on long walks between activities or attractions. It also means there is always a seat to rest, so you can avoid the anxious search for a bench. And bonus, you can walk and lean on the wheelchair too.
I would be in a lot of pain if I sat all day, so I do get up and stretch. One time, during a bad flare while visiting a seaside town, I used the wheelchair for the long distance to and from our car. I also used it the rest of the time to lean on as we walked through art galleries and shops.
Preventing pain from overdoing the walking is only one part of why I think people with PsA benefit from using a wheelchair while traveling. The other reason is saving your energy for the fun!
Many people with PsA suffer from chronic fatigue, and it can get worse if you don’t rest. Let’s face it — it can be hard to power through the day when you’re already exhausted from the walk through the parking lot.
You deserve to enjoy your time away. When you’re in less pain and aren’t as exhausted, you can maximize your time and enjoy your experience more. You may also feel more relaxed and cheerful, which benefits your travel companions (I admit — I can be very grumpy when I don’t feel good).
There are so many examples I can give of trips or outings that I would’ve enjoyed more if my pain and fatigue levels weren’t so high.
I should have used a wheelchair on a recent trip to an art museum. I found it painful to stand still to read the descriptions, so I just breezed through the museum, only stopping to learn about a few of the paintings. Having the wheelchair would’ve let me take in the exhibits and read the descriptions in less discomfort.
I don’t use a wheelchair full-time on all my vacations. Sometimes, I don’t bother with one at all! That’s because I anticipate my needs before my trip and plan around using one for specific experiences.
Whether or not you need a wheelchair can depend on your vacation type. Beyond your venue, think of what your goals are.
If you plan to sit on the beach, you probably don’t need a wheelchair. But if you know you’ll do even a few activities, you might want to consider renting one. I always scope out if attractions have wheelchair rentals in case I don’t last.
In some cases, a wheelchair may not be practical. Some historical towns or older attractions are not handicap accessible. In those cases, it’s better to plan ahead.
For example, I thought I could see all of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia in a day, but boy, was I wrong! It was massive. If I could go back in time, I’d plan more than one day to give myself enough time to see everything with breaks, or I would’ve prioritized just a handful of things. I would have taken the shuttle bus to all the sites instead of thinking I could walk it all.
If you do choose to use a wheelchair for your travels, you have many options. Museums, amusement parks, and other attractions often have day rentals. Check to make sure before you go.
Depending on where you go, you may also be able to rent a wheelchair for the duration of your trip. Many tourist destinations such as Orlando, LA, and NYC have wheelchair rental companies that offer drop-off and pickup service from your hotel.
I highly recommend bringing a cushion. Standard wheelchairs may have a leather or plastic seat, which gets uncomfortable.
During trips to Walt Disney World, I’ve seen plenty of guests sitting on pillows and towels they borrowed from their resort. I recently got a memory foam cushion off Amazon for $15, and it saved my hips during my vacation!
Life and travel don’t have to stop because of PsA, but it might look slightly different. Maybe you’ll find a wheelchair is helpful on your next adventure. Or, instead, you might choose to take things nice and slow. Both are great options!
Not everyone with PsA needs to use a wheelchair on vacation, but it is something to consider. Depending on your trip and what you are doing, it might improve your experience and be easier on your body. Prioritizing your health can make your trip so much more enjoyable!
Fact checked on September 20, 2023
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