We’ve enjoyed a fair amount of family travel this Summer. Most trips were by plane, but the best was a road trip across the South. Now that this Summer of travel is nearly over, I’ll share some tips I’ve picked up along the way about traveling and Multiple Sclerosis.
1. Take your medications and pack them for easy access. For air travel, they must be in their original containers provided by your pharmacist. Don’t be surprised if the TSA uses a machine to test your pills to verify they are what the label says they are. It looked like an odd procedure in which a gloved TSA staff wipes a pill with a swap and inserts the swap with long tweezers into a machine. I can only imagine the TSA must believe one can pack enough explosives in an Aricept pill to take down a plane. That, or there’s concern that dope dealers are transporting illegal drugs in Provigil bottles. For whatever reason it is performed, the pill check process slowed passage just a bit through TSA check points.
2. The Transportation Security Administration TSA offers this information for travelers with disabilities and special needs: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/specialneeds/editorial_1567.shtm
3. Be prepared for heat. On road trips, take an ice chest with ice and bottled water. Heat exacerbates fatigue. If a fan belt breaks or you have a flat tire, you’ll want a way to keep cool. One of the best methods of cooling quickly is the use of cooling bandanas. For emergencies, we keep a pre-soaked cooling bandana and a freezer pack in a gallon zip-lock freezer bag in the top of the ice chest. It’s ready immediately if needed.
4. Consider using a national chain pharmacy to ease your acquisition of medications in case you forget your meds or require a prescription refill while traveling.
5. If walking is problematic, as soon as you can, visit your airline’s website and use the online interface or call the phone number provided to arrange for a wheelchair or other assistance between connecting flights. You can also request special seating with additional leg room for example.
6. If you use a cane, consider taking a folding cane with you on your travels. It’s much easier to stow when you’re seated.
7. Allow the people with whom you travel to assist you when they offer. You’ve got nothing to prove.
8. I believe the air traffic control folks in some airports must be having a contest to see how far they can make passengers run between connecting flights. If your schedule permits, allow a little extra time between connecting flights so you’re not rushed from one gate to the next.
9. Take advantage of the assistance offered at museums or other sites. The Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site in Atlanta is maintained by the National Park Service. The park service staff will gladly offer you a choice of wheelchairs in exchange for your drivers license.
10. Enjoy your travel. Don’t let anyone talk you out of doing what you want to do or seeing what you want to see. I was happy to follow my wife slowly up and down the small, winding steps to the top of the lighthouse at Marblehead. And she walked down the 8 flights of steps of the Inside CNN tour in Atlanta.
Be careful that you don’t allow the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis to prevent you from traveling when you have opportunity. Accommodations are available to make travel much easier than ever before.