How To Stay Comfortable On Long Trips

We just got back from a family trip, and as most vacations go there were long hours in the car and airplane as well as lots of walking, climbing stairs, and lugging bags around. Unfortunately, all of the adults had some sort of aches and pains to deal with over the course of the vacation. Crazy right? But can you relate?

I put together a list of quick tips that might help on your next trip. We did all of these over that last couple of weeks.


  1. Frequent Pit Stops

Long drives can be a killer for tight muscles and joints. Try to plan your route with convenient stops along the way. Get going early and stop for lunch along the way. Maybe look for a scenic lookout or other landmark where you can spend a few minutes stretching your legs and getting your circulation going. I know it makes for longer travel time, but wouldn’t you rather arrive more comfortably. On one leg of the trip we broke up 6-hour drive into two drives and slept over in between. The drive may not have been fast, but it sure was a lot more pleasant.

  1. Be Careful with Luggage

Make sure to use proper lifting technique when moving your luggage around. Lift slowly and don’t twist, especially when lifting bags into airline overhead storage.

  1. Plan to Exercise

I don’t mean to actually exercise while you’re in line at Disneyland, but do a little prep work before you head out for your trip. You can do leg stretches and calf raises while seated in an airplane. You can do wall leans and arm stretches or touch your toes in long lines. There are unlimited ways to keep your muscles and joints warms and active, even if you have to be stationary.

  1. Watch Your Posture

I know, I sound like your mom… Having good posture, even more so when you’re stuck in one position, can help tremendously. When your skeleton is aligned properly it is carrying much more of your weight and puts less stress on muscles and joints. Be mindful, especially if you start falling asleep, try to set yourself up with the best posture you can.

  1. Preseason Training Camp

I know a few physical therapists and I was surprised (and happy) to learn that they get a lot of patients in before a long trip. “Hey, doc, you need to get me in shape before I go to Vegas!” As funny as that sounds we can all learn from that. Start an exercise program before your trip. If you’re able to build your endurance and strength, even a little bit, that could make all the difference.

  1. Bring Help

Bringing along support aids can go a long way towards making travel more comfortable. You’ll often be sleeping in a bed you aren’t used to or be sitting, standing, or walking for long periods of time. My wife’s knee swelled up after a particularly hard day of walking. Of course, we did the immediate RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) treatment. I also went straight to the drug store and got a compression brace that she used for the rest of the trip. Bringing your own pillow or blanket on a trip is never a bad idea if you have the space. If you’ll be taking in a sports game or theater show you might want a seat cushion.

You might be seeing a pattern here. Preparation is the secret ingredient with all of these tips. Start a fitness routine early (consult your doctor if necessary), plan your route for maximum comfort, be mindful of your posture and self-care, learn some easy stretches to keep your blood flowing, and bring any physical aids you use regularly or might need. I hope these help you on your next trip.

Bon Voyage!


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Reference Article: Avoiding Summer’s Neck and Back Pain