a train, a plane, and a car with restless legs attached to the bottom of each of them

Traveling With Restless Legs

If someone has restless legs syndrome (RLS), he or she has the urge to move so that the feeling will disappear.1 But when you are traveling it is not always possible to walk. I, myself, have suffered from RLS for years, but I also like to travel, a combination that does not always go hand-in-hand.

Traveling by plane

Years ago, I did a school project in Indonesia. This was before I got my RLS diagnosis. Indonesia is a 12-hour flight from the Netherlands. We flew the outward journey during the day and I didn't suffer from anything. However, the return journey was in the night. Flying in the dark for 12 hours while you normally sleep.

However, my legs had other plans. During the flight, I tried everything to keep my legs calm. Unfortunately, nothing worked. I sat on a chair in the middle, so little space to stretch my legs. I got through the 12 hours by walking around in the airplane every now and then. It is a special feeling when you are one of the few waking people walking through an airplane where everyone is sleeping.

Just after my diagnosis, I went to South Africa, also a 12-hour flight. Luckily, I already knew a bit more about my RLS and I could handle it a bit better. I asked for a seat by the aisle, so my legs had more space and I could go for a walk a bit easier, without having to bother passengers. Luckily, it was a flight without RLS symptoms, both the outbound and the inbound flight. My medication was doing its job.

Traveling by car

Unfortunately, not only flying is annoying. Traveling by car can also be very uncomfortable. I have relatives who live in Denmark and we go there several times a year. This is a car journey of about 6 hours. Not ideal if you have RLS.

Usually, we leave early in the morning. This helps me because I usually do not have RLS symptoms then. On the return trip, we usually drive during the day or in the evening. Then I sometimes do have some symptoms. What helps me is to stop for a while so I can stretch my legs for a bit, but what also helps me is to drive myself. I am busy then and my legs are much calmer.

Tips for travelers

Here are some tips that help me and maybe others as well:

  • Try to travel as early as possible. RLS symptoms often occur in the evening and less during the day.
  • Ask for a seat by the aisle on the plane. This way you have more room for your legs and you don't have to bother people if you want to walk a bit.
  • Take a little walk, if possible. In trains and airplanes, you can often walk a little bit.
  • Keep busy. I often listen to music, read a book, or make a puzzle.
  • In the car, while driving myself I've never had RLS symptoms.
  • Bring RLS medication, if you have it. Luckily, I've never forgotten it and I always have it in my hand luggage so I can always take it.

Does your RLS bother you when traveling? Do you have any tips to share with the community?

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