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Vacationing With Multiple Sclerosis

Your guide to planning a safe and healthy trip with multiple sclerosis

Getting There

Although the majority of people with MS do not become severely disabled, the Americans With Disabilities Act has allowed accessible travel to become a reality for people with limited mobility.

"Every mode of transportation has become more accessible in the last decade," says Candy Harrington, editor of Emerging Horizons, a magazine for accessible travel. Airports are a prime example -- look around and see how many wheelchairs there are.

"Super Shuttle now offers accessible airport transfers in many cities, and accessible taxicabs are available in many cities. And if you'd rather drive yourself, there are many companies that rent accessible self-drive vans," says Harrington.

Although access-friendly accommodations such as those required by the ADA do not apply to ships, cruises are nonetheless becoming an increasingly popular choice for vacationers with limited mobility. "Twelve percent of people with disabilities have taken a cruise, as opposed to 8% of the general population," Jani Nadir, spokesperson with the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality, tells WebMD.

"Most ships have cabins adapted for accessibility. Even cabins within the least expensive category typically have a few accessible rooms," Nadir says. If you want to take advantage of these special accommodations, book early, and find out just exactly what the cruise line means by "accessible" cabins.

Perhaps you have chosen to fly to your destination. If so, you're probably wondering how you're going to manage if you have to check your wheelchair, walker, or cane as part of your baggage at the airport. No need to worry. Thanks to the ADA, any such device that your disability necessitates is not considered baggage, so you don't have to check it or pay extra for it, explains Nadir.

While legislation like the ADA has made traveling easier for people with limited mobility, Nadir warns vacationers with special needs not to take accessibility for granted. "Never assume anything," she advises. Instead, she suggests getting the information you need firsthand. "Call the hotel yourself. Ask detailed, open-ended questions."

Preventing and Managing Medical Problems While Away

If you're like most vacationers, you want to see and do it all. But if you have MS, cramming your itinerary with nonstop activity is certain to backfire. "You've got to build in days for resting," says veteran traveler Lombardi. She recalls, midway through her tour of Asia, having to spend a day in Cambodia lying under mosquito netting, exhausted. Fatigue is common and worsens as the day progresses, but MS-related fatigue is more severe.

Lombardi learned to turn down opportunities during her trip that she knew would leave her vulnerable to MS-related flare-ups. In addition to building in down time, Lombardi spent an hour each morning doing gentle stretches and exercises to maintain joint flexibility.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, medical problems do arise while vacationing.

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