road trip

10 tips for traveling with MS

Get tips for what to bring and what to look out for while traveling

Multiple sclerosis (MS) hits everyone differently. I would say my main issues continue to be memory related. I also get fatigued at times, and I all but melt in hot weather. However, having MS has not kept me from doing things I want to do, like taking road trips. I just work around it.

How I plan a road trip is no different than what I would do if I ever decide to travel by boat, train, or airplane.

Here are 10 tips I recommend for traveling with or without MS:

  1. Create a routine
    Whether you travel a lot or not, keeping a good system in place can help alleviate stress and anxiety before and during the trip. Having a routine can be especially important if you have memory issues like I do. My travel bag stays packed with essentials at all times, waiting only for me to toss in clothes and go. Because I have a routine, I can be in the wind in about 15 minutes!
  2. Develop your own travel kit
    Put together a dedicated travel bag with duplicates or travel sizes of items you use daily—toiletries, a few days’ supply of medication, spare glasses, phone charger, earplugs, and a set of car keys. Throw in some emergency cash and a spare credit card. Don’t forget a flashlight. The more you travel, the more you'll fine-tune your kit!
  3. Research your trip location
    Prepare not only for the climate of your destination but also for areas you will be passing through. Find out the hotel check-in time and if the pool is handicap accessible. Use a map program to zoom in on your hotel location. Check out the parking situation and what restaurants might be nearby. Map out where you are going, and take a paper map too. Load all the places you might want to visit into your GPS or smartphone before you leave home.
  4. Pack a variety of clothes
    Pack clothes that are versatile and can be washed and dried quickly should your tricky bladder start acting up. Nylon microfiber pants and shirts are great for traveling. Neutral colors can be worn multiple times without anyone noticing! If you roll your clothes instead of folding them, they take up less space and unpack without wrinkles. I often travel with old shirts, socks, and underwear, and toss them out after they have been worn, leaving room for souvenirs.
  5. Make digital copies
    Before you leave home, send copies of important documents, such as your tickets, IDs, and travel information, to a friend. Store another set on any other device you travel with. If you lose your luggage, wallet, or phone, you’ll have other places to quickly retrieve the information.
  6. Know your limitations
    MS can strike when we least want it to. Recognize when something is not quite right, and don’t push yourself. You have MS, so you have a good reason to take a break, slow down, or just say no. The consequences if you do not heed your body’s warning signs could be much worse than whatever activity you may miss. Always go to your doctor with any questions.
  7. Get answers
    Be familiar with where you can get local information. You may need to find airlines, taxis, pharmacies, and hospitals. Did you know a telephone operator will not give you the number for a local taxi without the company’s name? A smartphone with access to a search engine is a traveler’s best friend.
  8. Ask for help
    There are times we all need assistance. Overheated, disorientated, lost, hungry, late, angry, exhausted, or 2 days in the ER are not how any of us want to describe a recent trip! Just ask for help right away. You can also reach out to friends, family, or a member of your healthcare team. It really works.
  9. Prepare for the heat
    When traveling in hot weather, call the hotel 4 hours ahead of your arrival. Tell them you are almost there and have a health condition. Ask them to turn on the air conditioning in your room. For my 2-wheeled friends, when you stop for gas in the scorching heat, toss your helmet in the white ice chest outside the gas station. Then, 20 minutes later when you’re ready to leave, it will be nice and chilled, trust me!
  10. Take photos
    If you are like me and cannot remember your room number even after spending a week in the same hotel, you need to store lots of information and retrieve it quickly. Snap a picture of your tickets, driver’s license, health insurance, car registration, and insurance to access at any time. Thanks to today’s digital age and smartphones, storing memories is easy, inexpensive, and practically limitless. Take the time to stop, explore, and document your travels by recording notes and pictures. You’ll never forget it, or regret it!

Not all trips will go as planned. But by being prepared, a potential travel nightmare could turn into an adventure story you tell for years to come. Be sure to check with your doctor if you have any questions before you travel.