Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE
Author: Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE, General Practitioner (GP)

Dr Sarah Jarvis is the Clinical Director of the Patient Platform, an active medical writer, broadcaster, and the resident doctor for BBC Radio 2.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and joint problem, in the UK. It affects at least half of people over 55 and can lead to joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Hips, knees, neck, and lower spine are most affected, although many people have osteoarthritis of the fingers too.

While there's no reason you shouldn't holiday if you have osteoarthritis, it's well worth doing some planning to make sure your holiday is magical, not miserable.

Plan Your Travel

If long walks through the airport pulling your luggage isn't feasible, you can book a wheelchair at the terminal. You'll need to contact the airport well in advance.

If you can, travel in the middle of the week when airports are less busy. Likewise, if you're taking public transport, remember that an early flight may be a bargain - but there are fewer trains and buses in the early mornings and you may need to make more changes, which means more walking with your luggage.

So, think about how you're going to get to the airport as well as what happens when you arrive.

Specialist Medical Cover

We only work with providers who specialise in covering pre-existing conditions.

Save Money

No discounts. No pressure. We’ll always show you the best prices from providers.

Keep Your Body Moving

If you have osteoarthritis, you will likely notice that your joints stiffen after sitting still for long periods, particularly in a cramped position.

If you're driving to the airport, plan in time to stop and do some simple stretches for the legs. Try and book an aisle seat or a seat at the front of the cabin when travelling by plane, so you can get up and walk around regularly.

If you're travelling within the UK, opt for a train rather than the bus – it's much easier to leave your seat on the train.

Be Prepared with Pain Relief

When you're travelling, you're likely to be doing more walking than usual. You may also be sitting in an uncomfortable position, unable to get up, for longer than usual. If you have 'as needed' medication to take when you have pain, you might consider taking it regularly on travelling days, rather than waiting until you're in discomfort.

Hotel Swimming Pool

Keep Your Body Supported

If you have osteoarthritis, you may use a walking stick, knee brace, or possibly a cane or walker. A foldable walking stick may be easier to travel with, especially if you don't use it all the time.

You may use a pillow for support for a painful joint – an inflatable version would take up less room in your packing. Do remember that while you can take a walking frame through airport security, it's worth contacting the airport in advance. Whether or not you'll be able to take your frame into the aircraft cabin will depend on the airline's policy.

Dress for Success

Tight or uncomfortable clothing can make joint discomfort worse – opt for stretchy or loose clothes. The opposite is true for shoes – even if you want to dress up while you're away, make sure you have well-fitting shoes with good ankle support while you're travelling or walking. Look for shoes with well-padded insoles to reduce pressure on your joints. Practical rather than glamorous is definitely the order of the day where footwear is concerned.

Don't Skimp on Sleep

While your routine is bound to be different on holiday, you should always build in time for sleep. If your pain is eased by resting your knee on a pillow, ask the hotel to provide extra or take your own.

Swimming Pool Greece

Keep Your Body Warm

Many people with osteoarthritis get relief from hot or cold packs and ice packs – find a travel version to take with you or pack some hand warmers. Warm water can help ease arthritis pain, so it’s worth seeing if you can find a hotel that has a sauna or hot tub.

Even if you can’t, build in time at the end of the day for a warm bath – check with your hotel if they’re offering a bath rather than a shower in your room.

Pace Yourself

Exercise is crucial to keeping your joints mobile, strengthening your muscles, and avoiding increased stiffness. However, you don’t want to ruin your holiday by overdoing it.

Plan any trips to include plenty of breaks and don’t be unrealistic about what you can manage, allow yourself extra time if needed. Bear in mind that walking on the flat is likely to put less strain on your joints than on very uneven surfaces – so while you want to stay active, you might want to take the cable car rather than climb up the side of the mountain for the view.

Rated Excellent

Trusted by thousands of people like you who've reviewed us on Trustpilot.

Save Time

No phone calls or paperwork. Join millions who've sorted cover online in minutes.

Try Swimming

Swimming is an excellent form of exercise if you have osteoarthritis – the water supports your joints, so it doesn't put any strain on them, but you're exercising your muscles. And even if you don't swim regularly at home, a warm-weather holiday is a perfect opportunity to get in the pool.

Be insured

Getting reliable travel insurance is essential, especially if you have a medical condition. If you don't declare arthritis, your travel health insurance may not be valid - which can be deeply painful to your pocket.

Take a moment to look at the range of medical travel insurance policies you can take out before travelling. 

Get a quote

Frequently Asked Questions

A pre-existing is any medical condition for which medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment was recommended or received before applying for a travel insurance policy. For some conditions, we'll need to know if they have ever been present, whilst for others if they occurred within a certain period.

Medical expenses abroad and repatriation can be very expensive. Having travel insurance that includes cover for existing medical conditions is the best way to ensure you are protected from financial loss in the event of having to cancel the holiday or receive emergency medical treatment abroad.

It is simple and quick to do! After you've told us about your trip details and answered some medical history questions you can add your pre-existing conditions, one by one, for each traveller. You'll only need to enter your details once, it's all online and there's no need to call, or provide details of your conditions in writing.

Share and share alike Share the love with friends.