How to Travel Easily With Multiple Sclerosis


Beth W. Orenstein

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Whether you want a restful break from your daily routine at a spa resort or a dream adventure to a faraway land, you can enjoy travel. With some smart preparations and contingency planning, you can easily take your multiple sclerosis (MS) management plan on the road. Here’s how to make sure you can travel, stay safe, and have a great time:

1. Carefully choose your dates and destination. Heat can make many symptoms of MS worse. When considering where you want to go, find out the best time of year for fair weather. You might not want to head anywhere in the heat of the summer. As a bonus to traveling at other times of the year, destinations may be less crowded, easier to maneuver around, and less expensive.

2. Confirm accessibility. Most hotels today can accommodate people with disabilities and have wheelchair accessible rooms. But if you have special needs, always ask before you book a room or make reservations at a restaurant. If you’re taking medication that must be refrigerated, make sure your hotel room has a mini-fridge, or the hotel has one you can use. Take advantage of travel websites that cater to people with disabilities when planning your trip.

3. Make it a smooth flight. Traveling by air can make you tired. It helps if you make your reservations far in advance for the best selection of flight times and seats. Let the reservation agent know if you use a wheelchair or scooter and will need assistance getting around the airport or on the plane. Check the airline’s policy on lost or damaged mobility equipment; although unlikely, if something happens, report it immediately.

4. Travel with a doctor’s note. To get through airport security with ease if you use injectable medications and will be taking them with you, ask your doctor for a letter stating this. Don’t take your meds out of their original containers when you travel, so that security personnel can easily identify and clear them.

5. Pack stomach remedies. Many people experience digestive woes, like diarrhea, when traveling outside the country, and even within the country if they’re unaccustomed to the food. Be prepared with an over-the-counter medication for diarrhea. The biggest concern with diarrhea is becoming dehydrated, so you might also want to bring some electrolyte-rich powdered sports drink mixes, such as Gatorade; just add (bottled) water to the mix.

6. Plan for a bad flare-up. Ask your doctor about a referral to a neurologist at your destination, should you need one. Also, consider asking your doctor about giving you a prescription for oral prednisone (if you’ve responded well to steroids in the past); you’ll be able to use the medication as treatment if you experience a bad flare-up or an exacerbation while traveling. An exacerbation lasts more than 24 hours and is different from a temporary flare-up, which is often caused by stress, heat, or fatigue from travel.

7. Spread out your activities. If you try to do too much in one day, you may not be able to recover from fatigue, and it could spoil the rest of your trip. When scheduling your vacation fun, consider your capabilities and plan accordingly. Make sure the people you’re traveling with know how you’re feeling and what activity level would work best for you.

8. Travel with a loved one. Experiencing an adventure with another person can make the experience more rewarding for both of you. Plus, having someone who understands your needs can be a great help getting around at your destination. If you’re going solo, talk to your travel agent about hiring a private guide, maybe just for certain parts of your trip that may be more difficult to navigate.

9. Buy travel insurance. You can get travel insurance if you have a preexisting condition like MS, but you may need to buy it a certain amount of time in advance of your departure. This type of insurance can help you recover the cost of deposits and tickets if something happens to cause a change in your plans. Discuss your travel plans with your insurance provider to confirm eligibility for out-of-network medical care, in the event that it's needed.

Key Takeaways

  • MS does not have to stop you from taking the trip you want.

  • Planning every aspect of your trip, from mode of travel to a strategy for a health emergency, is the key to successful travel.

  • Pace yourself and include plenty of rest periods in your itinerary.

  • Make sure your destination is accessible and suitable for you. Investigate local assistance, like a neurologist, in case you have a flare-up or an exacerbation of your symptoms.

  • Travel insurance will help you get a refund, should you have to cancel your trip.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jun 1, 2015

© 2015 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

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Medical References

  1. Tips & Tricks: Traveling with Multiple Sclerosis.
  2. Travel and Recreation. National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
  3. A Doctor’s Travel Tips. National MS Society.

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