Planes, trains and automobiles
No matter what mode of transportation you might use, when traveling with a chronic disease like Multiple Sclerosis, it pays to plan ahead. Stress and fatigue can make us miserable and ruin a long-anticipated vacation. I’ve assembled a few tips that help make my vacation times smoother and I hope they will be of use to you, too.
First and foremost, get in your mindset that no matter how well you plan there will almost always be changes and you will need to make adjustments. So flexibility goes a long way in having a good trip.
Plan as much as you can – if you are traveling by car don’t just assume you can easily find a hotel room when you are ready to stop for the night, make reservations so you aren’t left driving out of the way to get a good night’s sleep. More than once we have had to detour well off the interstate highway to find a room when we assumed there would be plenty of beds. We didn’t figure it was fair time and the entire population of the state had gathered in the same spot we wanted to stop.
The internet makes researching attractions much easier work than going to the auto club and getting their tour books and brochures. Research on line, see what’s in the area, and then investigate further. Make sure you know the hours of operation. Just because we sleep in and like to join the world later in the day doesn’t mean the aquarium stays open past six o’clock. Same goes if you like to start your day early – there is nothing worse than being at the front gate and discovering the amusement park doesn’t open for another hour or so.
Do you need special accommodations? Don’t assume the park will have wheelchairs to rent, or the hotel has an accessible room. Make a phone call in advance so they know you are coming and what your special needs might be.
Whether you are flying or driving, plan to feel cramped from sitting. Get up and move when possible, even if it is just for a few moments. Even if you are unable to walk, get the blood moving by doing some arm stretches or foot pumps.
We’ve written a lot about making sure all of your meds are with you but it bears repeating. If you’re flying keep them with you and not in your suitcase. If you are driving be sure they are in a spot that doesn’t get overheated or frozen. Most of the injectables are temperature sensitive and can be ruined quickly by heat or cold.
Vacations can be expensive and if it’s not in your budget to travel far, look at ways you can do a staycation. Check what might be available in your own area. Museums often have free days with no admission, community organized outdoor concerts or movie screenings are fairly common. When was the last time you dipped into the cold water of a local lake? You can make a day of it by packing sandwiches or even a deluxe picnic basket and enjoy it by the lake or in another park.
We often push ourselves to go too hard or too long to satisfy our co-travelers. Talk to them in advance of leaving your home and set out some guidelines about what you think you can do and preserve your sanity and energy. Don’t feel that you have to do everything – you can always plan another outing.
Airplane travel when it goes well is stressful enough these days. Flight options have been cut back and planes are almost always full. If you encounter problems it pays to keep a good attitude if possible. I love to fly but if I am going a distance that is less than about six hours from my home I can get there by car just about as fast. If you need extra assistance for traveling by plane be sure to let the airlines know in advance. I request wheelchair service for easier movement in the airport. I also ask for priority boarding so I can get on early and get settled. Fellow travelers give me that look of exasperation when I am holding up the lines so it is helpful to everyone when I get on early.
If you’re paying attention, you will note I am missing any discussion about traveling by train – that’s because travel by rail from Ohio really isn’t an option. If I lived on the east coast I think I would love to travel by train. If you travel by train, what tips would you share? Do you have any plans yet for vacation travel or, if only in your dreams, where would you like to go to get away?
I realize traveling is tiring, but the change of scenery can also be invigorating and I hope you find some ways to take a break and enjoy someplace different very soon.
Wishing you well,