Apr 25, 2024 Summer Travel Strategies for Those with Balance and Mobility Concerns

By Ashley Dembeck, PT, DPT, MSCS

As the calendar flips to May, the peak summer travel season is fast approaching. Whether you are planning a trip to the Jersey shore or flying abroad, travel can be nerve-wracking for those with balance or mobility difficultly.

If you have these concerns for yourself, or perhaps for a loved one, the first step you can take is to get a script from your medical doctor for a “balance and gait assessment” to concretely identify your areas of strength and weaknesses. A physical therapist will then be able to prescribe you a home exercise program to address any identified impairments that you can complete at home or even during your travel adventures.

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind to promote a safe and enjoyable vacation:

  • Consider an assistive device- Traveling will likely require you to walk or move greater distances than you would in a typical day, and therefore, it might be a good time to utilize an assistive device for balance and/or energy conservation. Hiking poles can be a helpful for maintaining balance on uneven streets or grass. A rollator (four wheeled walker) often has a built-in seat to utilize when you need a rest break. Some destinations even have power scooters, transport wheelchairs, or beach/sand accessible wheelchairs that you can loan to improve your access desired activities!
  • Wear supportive sneakers/shoes- If you have balance or mobility challenges, skip the flip flops and opt for more supportive sneakers or sandals that have foot and ankle straps. Choose shoes that have good grip in case you get stuck in the rain or have to walk on a slippery surface.
  • Plan your days- Try to avoid big crowds during peak summer travel. Plan activities on weekdays versus weekends if you can. Schedule activities early or late in the day when there are less crowds to negotiate; this will also keep you out of sun during the hottest hours of the day. Plan to take rest breaks throughout each day so you don’t overdo it, as fatigue can contribute to balance instability.
  • Stay hydrated- Getting enough fluid during warm summer months is essential! Being dehydrated can stress your body and potentially result in symptoms of light-headedness. Bring a refillable water bottle with you when you are out and about to ensure you get enough fluids throughout the day.

Wherever your summer travels might take you, keep these tips in mind to stay safe and get the most enjoyment out of your vacation!

Ashley Dembeck, PT, DPT, MSCS, is neuro physical therapist based at the Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center in Livingston, NJ. She has been working with patients to address gait and balance instability for over 5 years.

The experienced and compassionate staff at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center Rehabilitation centers, with locations in West Orange and Livingston, offers adults and children the specialized care they need to resume an active life after surgery, injury or illness. Staff is committed to providing patients with the most advanced services in a safe, caring and soothing environment. For high-risk patients who are unable to visit in person, telehealth is an option. Patients do not need a prescription for physical therapy services.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 973-322-7500.