When you face physical limitations, traveling can seem like an insurmountable task. You think about “how do I get about if my walking is unsteady?” “How do I manage my bladder problems?” “How do I find an accessible hotel or cruise ship?” “How do I manage my fatigue?” “How can I not be a drag to the rest of the group?” “Can I travel with my scooter or wheelchair?” “What if I have an exacerbation while I am away?” “Can I travel with my injections?”
The good news is that there are answers to all of these questions and many more. We’ll address a few here and give you resources to research farther. Remember, it’s not about what you CAN’T do but about what you can do.
You will need to decide what sort of travelling you want to experience. Once you decide that, you may need to do some research to find out what you might have to do to make that possible. If this is the year to stay close to home, maybe you would like to camp. You might have some barriers if that means sleeping on the ground, putting up your tent and cooking over a fire. But what about a larger tent, a camper, or car camping. Portable toilets are available, cots for big tents and camp chairs for your comfort. Many campsites have toilets and showers. If you camp in National or State parks, many have accessible trails. You can type in “wheelchair accessible trail” into any search engine to find those nearest to you. The National MS Society has good information on this under “Accessible Nature Trails” on their website.
If you decide to go to Disney World (or any similar theme park) call ahead to see what is available for your special needs. You will be surprised. You can rent wheelchairs and scooters on site or take your own. People in chairs and their families go to the front of the lines…..
Traveling with a group is easier, especially if you want to tour countrysides and other cities. Tour groups help with luggage, arrangements, and provide lots of company. You can also choose to pass on some activities if it works with the schedule so if you are really fatigued, you can take a day off to rest. Some tour companies are quite familiar with special needs and accommodations. A good book to get is called Barrier-Free Travel by Candy Harrington. She writes about accessible rooms, cruises, ground transportation, overseas travel, advocacy, air travel, protecting your wheelchair when you travel, how to find and work with a travel agent. This is available in libraries, book stores and directly from Demos Medical Publishing.
If you are concerned about medical issues such as exacerbations while you are away, discuss this with your care provider to see if you can take something with you to be prepared. Some people don’t want to have to worry about frequent bladder stops so talk to their providers about an indwelling catheter for travel only. Barriers to travel can be eliminated with some good problem solving.
The NMSS has a number of travel related pages on their website for you to look at.
• Accessible bicycling
• Travel and Recreation
• A Doctor’s travel hints
Always have a plan B (get travel insurance also) and have something in the wings in case you have to change plans. B plans reduce disappointment.
So don’t stay home if you want to get away. Do your homework and plan accordingly.