Vacationing With Multiple Sclerosis
Your guide to planning a safe and healthy trip with multiple sclerosis
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,
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