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Planning with MS: Travel

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13.09.19

9 minutes, 44 seconds

Are you planning a holiday? Have you ever thought about making a travel plan?

My grandma always used to say that travel broadens the mind – and that’s still true, even in the connected world we live in today. This thought stayed with me even when I couldn’t travel at all. For a long time, all the preparations and the holiday itself were just a source of stress for me, until I eventually realised what was important: setting priorities, writing lists and planning.

I’ll never forget my first holiday with MS: I had to work out how to manage my condition and medication and I ended up totally overstretching myself. All of a sudden, I had become a person who needed to carry ice packs and take more frequent breaks; I spent nights in hotels that didn’t do me any good.

My psychologist was the person who managed to put it all in perspective for me: She said “If you make a plan, you’ll get a holiday”. So I started planning how to get my favourite time of year back in a way that worked for me. If you have a holiday plan, you’re (figuratively, if not literally) halfway to your destination. It creates structure, enables you to react positively to unforeseen challenges, and allows you to reclaim what we are all ultimately seeking: A better quality of life.

Roads were made for destinations, not journeys

No, I’m not getting mixed up – when it comes to holiday planning, this pearl of wisdom from philosopher Confucius is most fitting when it’s reversed. In our case, the destination determines the journey. Where do you want to go? This is the question that will enable you to work out exactly what plans you need to put in place.

Make a list of your most important wishes and needs:

  • The hustle and bustle of the city or a peaceful, relaxing village?
  • Car, plane or train? How will you get to your destination? And how long will it take you? Can you manage the whole trip in one go without getting exhausted?
  • If you’re flying or travelling by plane, ask about the mobility services provided to help you get to the right gate or platform
  • What’s the climate like at your destination?
  • What’s disabled access like at your destination?
  • What’s important to you?
  • Will you need any travel vaccinations? Discuss this with your neurologist or nurse in advance

So you’ve got your destination – what now? 

Make a list of everything that’s important to you. Set priorities for your packing list and activities you’d like to do and plan when you’ll need to get certain things done by to achieve your goals. You don’t need to pack at the last minute: You can get lots of things ready well in advance, including toiletries, books, sun cream and sports equipment.

Accommodation:

When it comes to hotels and hotel beds, no one type of sleeping arrangement can possibly suit every individual. While some people might want to camp, others prefer upmarket hotels with a full range of services and an accessible room. Listen to what your MS is telling you – your body will help you decide what type of accommodation to go for and how to structure your entire trip. You might want to think about the following considerations:

  • Do the rooms have air-conditioning and is the hotel accessible?
  • Are there ramps down to the beach, if you’ll be using a wheelchair?
  • Do you have the option of spending a day in the hotel if you need a break to recover? (Leisure facilities such as a spa, pool or gym)
  • What services does the hotel offer? (Room service, airport or station shuttle, car parking etc.)
  • What’s the food like? Is the hotel well-informed on allergens and does it cater to different dietary requirements?

Luggage – everything but the kitchen sink?

You might think that deciding what to take is a typically female dilemma. But things aren’t always that straightforward. Many MS sufferers often have problems with their clothing. Something that fits perfectly on one day might feel scratchy and uncomfortable the next, so it’s important to work out which mix of clothing options will work best for you.

A tip to help you decide: Every garment that you place in your case must go with at least three other garments/pairs of shoes. It’s also a good idea to take a closer look at the hotel: What does it look like and is there any kind of dress code? My general rule is to pack things that are a little more dressy for the evening and stick to casual, light and comfortable clothing the rest of the time.

In your hand luggage – in addition to the medication you need for travel and all of your essential travel documents and money – you should also pack well a small snack, water, a book, laptop or e-reader, a scarf or jacket in case you feel cold and socks and a change of underwear.

Medication for travel

If you’re travelling with MS, you’ll usually need to take medication with you.

  • Medication should be carefully packed into small bags or cooling boxes and placed in your hand luggage. In addition to your main medications, it’s also a good idea to take small quantities of other medications that you occasionally need with you
  • Usually, you should carry enough for two to three days on your person; the rest can be placed in your suitcase
  • If you’re travelling with injected medication, it’s advisable to get a letter from your doctor stating that the medication is essential. Ideally, you should also get the letter translated into English, or the language of your destination country if possible
  • There are many good websites explaining what you should include in your travel medication kit; you can also ask a pharmacist for advice

Other things you should think about include:

  • Does the destination country have a decent healthcare system and is MS known as a condition? If you’re new to travelling with MS, it can be helpful to know about your options in your destination country with your condition
  • Check your passport and arrange a visa in plenty of time, if you’ll need one
  • What are your health insurance arrangements? Will you be covered in an emergency?

Practical arrangements aside, one of the most important questions you can ask yourself is this: Will you be able to have fun at your destination, even with your MS? MS is something that always travels with me, but I compensate by planning every aspect of the trip well in advance – which has the knock-on effect of reducing pre-holiday stress and making me look forward to it even more!

Have you been on lots of trips? Tell us about your experiences by tagging us @ The World vs.MS

 

SAGLB.MS.19.01.0042u
Date of approval: July 2019

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