Traveling can bring a mix of emotions to anyone. Usually a mix of excitement and anxiety, getting ready for the unknown adventure ahead can be fun. But it can also be challenging. Long days, little sleep, being away from home, it can seem like a recipe for disaster. But add in the complexities of Multiple Sclerosis, and you’ve got yourself a tricky situation!
Before I had MS, I never thought twice about picking up and going for a day trip, or longer adventure. I never thought about what I might need beyond clothes and a few other things. But now, I need to think about where I’m staying, what is available for food, the weather, etc. It’s definitely different than what it used to be.
Now, my husband and I love still to travel. It’s one of the things we choose to spend our money on and find joy out of. But MS makes it hard at times for sure. Here are our top tips, for all kinds of travel.
Before You Head Out
Before traveling anywhere, you need to do a little pre-planning. If you’re going away for several days, make sure you have all your necessary medications and supplements. I like to pre package them into their own containers to make them easier to transport, as well as easier to fit into my suitcase.
I also like to scope out what the food situation will be like. Most often, we stay at an AirBnB, where we have our own kitchen set up. That allows us the freedom to cook our own food or go out if we choose. Eating AIP makes eating out tough, so having this option is invaluable.
When packing, make sure you have enough of everything, then add 2 more. I like to make sure I have extra undies (yup, just in case), extra doses of supplements/meds just in case we’re stuck somewhere and plenty of snackssss, cause finding food on the road or in the airport is hard. #thatAIPlife
If you’re booking a hotel room, make sure to call ahead. Especially if you need accommodations. Accessible rooms vary from hotel to hotel and mean different things. One might just have a shower bar in the bathroom, while another is completely accessible. Make sure to call ahead before booking to know the hotel provides.
One of the nice things about traveling on a road trip is that you can usually bring more things that can help. Like, bringing a body pillow on an airplane probably isn’t the best idea. But in a car, good to go. However, one of the drawbacks, is that you’re sitting for a longer period of time, usually. So there’s pros and cons to both types of travel.
One of the biggest things that my husband and I do when driving anywhere is stop often. It doesn’t really add that much to the length of the drive, but it adds SO much to the enjoyment. Getting out often to stretch, walk around and take bathroom breaks is one of the best things we do. On our many road trips to Ohio, my husband and I often stop every few hours, if not more.
Bringing our own food is key as well. Even if you’re not following a special diet like AIP or Wahls, bringing food that you enjoy can make the trip that much more enjoyable.
Like I mentioned above, bringing whatever you need to feel more comfortable is going to make your trip that much more enjoyable. If you need special pillows, cooling towels, travel pillows, etc. bring them. Yes, it can feel like a lot when you pile it into the car, but when it’s your comfort you’re talking about, don’t compromise.
My husband and I were lucky to be gifted TSA Pre Check. It has been one of the best things for our air travel ever. Not only does it save time in the security line, we don’t have to take everything out of our bags, take jackets or shoes off. I didn’t realize how much of a pain this was until I didn’t have to do it anymore! Seriously, if you travel even once a year, it’s worth it.
Try to book your flight yourself, not through a 3rd party site like kayak or booking.com. I know they sometimes have good deals, but if something goes wrong, you can’t talk to the airline about changes. You have to talk to the website you booked the flight on. And if things are moving fast, like a missed flight and you need to change things asap, that could leave you in a pinch.
Make sure the airline knows who you are and that you’ll need assistance. They should be more than willing to help you out. If you’re in the back of the plane for seats, you should be able to be moved up front. If you need any airport assistance, like a wheel chair, make sure to let them know that as well.
Leave plenty of time both before your flight as well as between any connections. The last thing I ever want is for my first flight to be late, and we have to sprint across the airport to the connecting flight. Worst nightmare. Usually at least an hour in between is my standard, and even that can get messy sometimes.
At your Destination
Once you get to where you’re going, enjoy yourself! Trust that you have done all the preparation you need.
Locals or a concierge can make finding activities much easier. They’ll know what is adaptable and what isn’t. Oftentimes, reviews of attractions don’t really have us in mind.
If you do need something, make sure to ask. Others who know the area better can often be your best resource. Apps like “Around Me” can be helpful in a pinch as well (it can tell you the nearest gas station, hospital etc). I like the app “Flush”, like the name sounds, it tells you the nearest public bathroom. Saved me on more than a few occasions so far.
Getting prepped and on your way can be daunting, for sure. But once you’re at your destination, try to slow down, and enjoy your time. The experiences we have make the lasting memories, or something cliche like that.