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Reducing Travel-related Strain and Injury

 Updated on: September 20th, 2022

A person struggling to load 2 pieces of heavy luggage into a taxi
A person struggling to load 2 pieces of heavy luggage into a taxi

Before you can enjoy the relaxation of a vacation getaway, you have to lug all of your items to your destination. Light travelers have to raise carry-on suitcases over their heads, while road warriors load up coolers and bulky camping equipment into their cars. Lifting these items creates situations for potential injuries that could ruin your trip. No one wants to start their honeymoon with a strained back.

Fortunately, you can lift and carry as many items as you need when you travel while reducing your risk of injury. There are plenty of small steps you can take that will have a big impact on your overall health and safety. Use this guide to make sure you arrive at your destination (and return home) without getting hurt.

There is a proper way to lift items safely. Here is what you need to execute a proper lifting technique:

  • Do not bend at the waist to pick up items. Instead, bend your knees to grasp your luggage and then stand up.
  • Carry items with your leg muscles, not your back muscles.
  • Hold items close to your chest. Do not try to hold them out in front of you.
  • Distribute the weight evenly across your body, rather than holding suitcases to one side.

Following these techniques will reduce your risk of injuring yourself and others around you. Lifting a suitcase improperly on a plane could cause you to drop it, potentially harming your fellow fliers sitting under the overhead compartment.

Utilize Ramps and Carriers

Ramps are an invaluable accessibility tool that helps people with disabilities travel up and down stairs. However, you can also use them to help pack your vehicle ahead of a trip.

There are two types of ramps that you can use to prevent travel-related injuries. Door threshold ramps are used to eliminate steps from your house. If your visibility is limited while carrying an item, you don’t have to worry about walking from one step to another. Once you are out of the house, you can make packing up the truck easier with vehicle loading ramps. This is a ramp that you secure to your car to roll up bikes and bulky items.

If you don’t have a truck where you can easily load bikes and motorcycles on a ramp, consider investing in carriers that attach to the back of your car. These hitches are made for easy loading and unloading. You don’t have to lift unwieldy bikes into your car or truck bed. Motorcycle hitches and carriers also keep other drivers safe because your bikes won’t fall into the middle of the road. These carriers also fold up when not in use.

Utilize Rolling Luggage and Dollies

The best way to prevent injuries when traveling is to move items smarter, not harder. Instead of placing strain on your body when carrying your luggage, look for rolling options, dollies, and suitcase carriers. You can invest in suitcases that already have wheels or search for dollies at the airport that are made for helping travelers.

If you know that you have specialized items to pack, invest in tools to eliminate the need to carry most of your luggage. A foldable dolly will help you bring items to a campsite, while scooter and wheelchair lifts can make it easier to unload assistive devices for your family members.

Stretch Appropriately

Stretching prepares your muscles for use. By stretching before lifting, you can warm up your body to lift more items and handle bags safely. A few tips to stretch effectively include:

  • Warm up your muscles: Before you stretch, swing your arms, twist your trunk, and move your legs around.
  • Hold each position for 10 to 30 seconds: Breathe in and out slowly as you stretch.
  • Don’t bounce: Instead, slowly move into a deeper stretch as your body gets more comfortable.
  • Avoid causing yourself pain: You can injure yourself by stretching too much. Don’t push your body too far.

The best part is that you don’t need to limit stretching to physical activity. By setting aside time to stretch each morning, you can reduce the aches and pains that come with daily life.

Hydrate Well

Hydration is essential for preventing injuries. Drinking healthy levels of water improves circulation, supports muscle function, and keeps joints lubricated. By remembering to drink water, you may lessen the effects of injuries on your body.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget to stay hydrated when traveling. You can get so caught up in fun activities that you don’t realize you are sweating or haven’t had any water. To prevent this, bring a reusable water bottle with you. Make sure you drink all of the water in it at least once a day — twice if you are spending extended periods outside.

Consider Shipping Items Ahead

Instead of carrying your luggage yourself, consider shipping your suitcases and specialty items to your desired destination. You can ship these items a few days before you leave and pick them up when you arrive.

Not only does shipping items reduce your risk of injury, but some items are easier to ship than to check at the airport. Tents, food supplies, wedding centerpieces, and other cargo may get stopped by TSA and exceed the size and weight limitations of airlines.

Utilize Helpful Services

Don’t stress yourself out by moving all of your items by yourself. Many hotels have rolling carts and bellhop services to make unloading easier. These professionals know how to handle luggage and can bring your suitcases to your room. Some airlines offer curbside check-in so you don’t have to bring your bags through the airport. Let someone else carry your items so you don’t risk hurting yourself.

Maintain Good Posture

Not all injuries when traveling come from heavy lifting. Long hours sitting on a plane or driving can leave you feeling sore and exhausted. Poor posture can also lead to muscle spasms, preventing you from having fun when you arrive. A few tips to improve your driving posture include:

  • Adjust your seat so you have an upright spine; don’t slouch or struggle to reach for the wheel when driving.
  • Relax your arms and keep your head back.
  • Pull over every two hours if you are on a long drive. This will give you time to stretch and hydrate.

Even if you are a road warrior, build breaks into your trip. Spending 10 minutes at the World’s Largest Ball of Twine is both entertaining and a good chance to stretch.

The best trips are safe trips. By taking steps to avoid injuries, you can increase your chances of having a fun getaway. You can’t control if it rains during your beach wedding or if your tent collapses while camping, but you can make sure you carry items carefully and reduce your chances of hurting yourself when lifting or rolling them.