With the year-end holiday season hurtling towards us, now is the time many of us start planning to hit the road — making way to see family, friends and loved ones, or seeking out warm weather havens or preparing for snow-covered vacations.
Here are some basic tips for traveling with multiple sclerosis:
1. Four words to travel by: You. Cannot. Over. Prepare.
Whether you’re going over the river and through the woods or taking a slow boat to China, travel is all about changing your scenery and routine and hopefully having fun. But many of us with MS (Progressive, Class of 2013), rely on a steady routine to make sure we take our medicine or exercise and stretch or eat right or get enough rest (or all of the above). Planning and preparation can help you create a “travel routine” that meets your needs while you enjoy new experiences, too.
2. Start with a med-check.
It’s a good idea to keep all of your medications in their original, labeled containers along with a letter from your doctor noting you have MS and the list of the medications you’ve been prescribed. Some medications have to be kept within certain temperature ranges. Injectables mean needles and may raise eyebrows, especially at airports. Time your travel around any infusions you have scheduled, and if at all possible, avoid storing your medications in checked luggage just in case it gets lost. You may also want to have your doctor’s phone number on hand, too.
3. The early bird still gets the worm.
Like it or not, some of our most memorable travel stories are about glitches and what went wrong while traveling (think Planes, Trains and Automobiles). Something will go wrong. Create a travel plan and agenda that gives you enough time to get everywhere early. Having extra time to deal with the unexpected will reduce stress for you and those you may be traveling with. It will also give you more time to locate restrooms, catch your breath and to get ready for the next part of your trip.
4. Start packing, ASAP.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, more than half of us with MS will experience cognitive challenges, which often include memory and planning difficulties. Think about where you’re going, what you’ll be doing, what you’ll need each day, create a list, pack your bags and then, if you can, have someone review your list and what you’ve packed just to be safe. If that’s not possible, or you’d like help with a list, go here.
5. Call ahead.
Whether traveling by plane, train, boat, as part of a bigger tour or just wander-lusting around and staying in a hotel, chances are accommodations for mobility aids, shower stools and other similar support devices may be available. These things can make traveling easier, less stressful and much more enjoyable, and are more readily available by calling before you get there.
6. Seek — and accept — help.
- There are a number of travel agencies that focus on traveling with a disability. Though it may be more expensive to use their services, they are in the business of making sure trips for disabled travelers go smoothly and are memorable for the right reasons. If yours is a more elaborate trip, it may well be worth the expense to use such an agency.
- People frequently want to help. Let them. It makes life easier and it enters you into a fairly wonderful social contract, because people get an endorphin “high” when they help other people. So letting them help helps them — which will make you feel good, too.
7. Get going!
One of the better resources for traveling with MS put it like this: “Don’t wait. Don’t save that dream trip until you retire. Or until the kids are grown. Or until you feel better. MS is unpredictable; go now. Seize the day, savor moments, and make your vacation unforgettable for all the right reasons. Focus on the instances that make travel enjoyable, not on your disease.”