If you’ve got the courage to brave the traffic and weather for a road trip this holiday season, you’re probably already aware of several important steps to preparation. Things like making sure your car and tires are in top condition, having winter emergency supplies, and keeping an eye on the weather are a necessity, especially in the middle of a Colorado winter. However, if you’ve got a pain condition or disability, there are a few additional steps you can take to make sure your road trip is a success.

For example, you can make a few pain-relieving alterations to your car. A beaded seat cover, or even a trash bag on the seat, can make getting in and out of the car much easier. If gripping the steering wheel is difficult or painful, try adding a steering wheel cover or pad to make it larger, and use golf or baseball gloves while driving to make your hands grip the wheel better. You can also use electrical tape to build up the end of your key to make it easier to hold and turn.

When planning your road trip, pick your hotels carefully

Research hotels and make your reservations in advance. If you require special accessibility, such as for a wheelchair, pay attention when looking for hotels. Expedia.com and Hotels.com both have options to search based on accessibility. Run a search for a hotel in the area you’re heading to, and then look at the advance search features along the side of the results. You can choose which accessibility features you want, such as a roll-in shower.

If you have any doubts about a particular hotel’s features, call the hotel directly and ask very clear questions. Also keep in mind what location might work best for you. For example, if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the hotel pool, a room at the other end of the building isn’t the best choice if walking a lot causes pain. Additionally, don’t assume that every hotel room is equipped with a refrigerator. If you need a fridge for your medication, make that clear when you speak to the hotel.

When you make reservations, even if you make your reservations online, call and request the location you’d like, such as “near the pool.” The day you’re supposed to check in, call to confirm your reservation and remind them of your preferred location and any necessary features.

Pack carefully and deliberately

When driving as opposed to flying, it can be tempting to bring everything but the kitchen sink since there’s no chance of checked bag fees or weight limits. However, packing carefully, rather than simply packing everything, can make your road trip much smoother.

First make sure you’ve got the right paperwork in your wallet or purse, including:

  • Driver’s license
  • Brief medical history, including allergies
  • Medication list
  • Information for emergency contact, primary care physician, and specialists
  • Current health insurance information

If you’ve got a serious medical condition or allergy, consider wearing a medical alert bracelet, too. Also make sure that you’ve got enough of your medications to last your entire road trip, plus extra in case of delays. A pill organizer can help keep things neat, especially if you’re on several medications. You might also consider filling twice the number of pill organizers as you need – for example, fill two weeks’ worth for a one week trip – and dividing your medications between two bags. That way, if you lose a bag, you’ve got a backup supply of your medications to last the rest of your road trip.

Pack as light as possible, and use a wheeled bag with a handle. If your upper limbs get sore easily, try to push your suitcase instead of pulling it. If you’re going to be staying at several different locations over the course of your road trip, consider this tip from The Weather Channel, courtesy of Candy Harrington:

“Pack smart and leave your big suitcase in the car. Just roll up an entire set of clothes for each day when you pack; then simply remove one set at each stop. Couple that with a small overnight bag with your toiletries and you’re good to go.”

It also never hurts to pack a few pain-relief items. Travel-size heat and cold packs, lumbar pillows, or neck pillows can seriously reduce discomfort when you’re sitting for long periods during a road trip.

Keep moving

The Arthritis Foundation suggests getting out of the car to stretch, walk, and loosen up every two hours, but listen to your body. If your joints start aching after an hour and a half of sitting in the car, try taking a break every hour and fifteen minutes. A break to stretch your legs shouldn’t be a way to lessen your pain; it should be a way to prevent your pain, if possible.

Having a driving buddy is also an important way to make a road trip more enjoyable. You can pass time by talking, and you can swap driving duties to allow each other to rest. If it’s your turn to ride in the passenger seat, you can even do some exercises in the car. Some of these exercises can even be done by the driver while at red lights or in traffic jams. Other exercises are great for your hotel room.

Take advantage of opportunities for activity during your road trip. If you stay at a hotel with a pool, swim a few lengths. If your pain condition is soothed by heat, check out the hot tub. Look for local, public-access, indoor facilities if you’re staying with a friend or in a hotel with no pool. Explore museums, shopping malls, or other indoor attractions that require some walking.

Above all, don’t stress too much. Remind yourself that arriving at your destination a day or two late isn’t the end of the world. Most of the fun of a road trip is in exploring places along the way.

How do you stay comfortable during road trips?

Image by Zach Dischner via Flickr

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