“Come along with me the best is yet to be…”–Robert Browning
Exploring the world is possible for those of us who have MS or limited mobility. Since MS presents itself differently in every patient, traveling is different for everyone. And how you travel (car, train, bus, boat or plane) has its own set of issues to consider.
The following are some basic tips and questions to consider and ask as you plan your next trip:
Things to Research
- The best way to travel to the destination
- The accessibility for your mobility of hotels, vacation rentals, etc.
- The bathrooms/showers accessible for your specific needs
(I need a walk-in shower, preferably without a lip because I have trouble lifting my right leg.)
- The square footage of the hotel room. Will the room accommodate a walker/wheelchair/scooter? (When I stayed in Saint Raphael, France, the room was too small. I could not use my walker in the room.)
- The distance to various attractions from hotel. Are they within walking distance or do you need to acquire transportation?
- The accessibility to attraction on guided tours. (When booking a tour, let the tour company know what your mobility limitations are. They may advise you not to take that particular tour which happened to me in Paris.)
- Scooter, walker or wheelchair rentals availability at your destination
- The convenience of hiring a taxi or car service
- The closest hospital and pharmacy to your lodging
Things to Do
- If possible, use a travel agent, especially if you’re traveling to an unfamiliar destination. Once you inform the travel agent of your special needs, he or she can make the various calls needed to secure your plans.
- Reserve room ahead of time. I enjoy being spontaneous but to avoid undo stress and not being able to have a handicap accessible room, reserve a room ahead of time . Ask questions to make sure the room is suitable for your needs.
- Call ahead. When planning to visit certain attractions, museums, etc, look at website or call to see if you will be able to access the place with your limited mobility. You may need to reserve a wheelchair, scooter, or a place on a riding tour. Find out how close the handicap parking is to the entrance and where the restrooms are located. Finding out this information ahead of time will reduce stress and make for a pleasant experience.
(When I was in Marseille in June, I wanted to visit to the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde and the Cathédrale La Major. I was able to call the Basilique and found out that I would not be able to access the church, which saved me cab fare, time and being even more disappointed than I was that I could enter this beautiful church that overlooked the Vieux Port (Old Port). As for the Cathédrale, I was unable to reach anyone at the church and the website didn’t mention accessibility. I asked the hotel concierge, he said he thought that I should be able to access the church. Unfortunately, I couldn’t. My friend walked all the way around the church. The was no way for me to enter with my walker. We had left my cane at the hotel. My friend went into the church and took pictures for me, but I was so disappointed especially when I saw how beautiful the inside of the church is.)
So to save yourself time, money, aggravation and disappointment, take the time to make sure you can gain access to the places you want to visit.
- Use a taxi, bus or car service. With MS and other diseases or disabilities, conserving energy is very important to our well being and ability to enjoy activities. If someplace is too far to walk, take a taxi or a bus. Most taxi services have cars that can accommodate a motorized wheelchair or scooter just let them know that you’ll need a vehicle that will accommodate your device. If taking the bus, call to find out how often buses for persons with limited mobility run.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. In my experience, especially in France and Italy, people are always willing to help you, even if you don’t ask. If you look like you may need assistance, they will ask if they may help you.
(In Paris, I was riding the scooter I had rented up a steep cobbled-stone ramp from the Seine. The scooter got stuck. My friend was trying to push me. All of a sudden, an older woman coming up the ramp just comes over and started pushing until the scooter was no longer stuck. We thanked her and she continued on her way.)
- Always have the hotel address and phone number with you as well as a list of your medications and your neurologist’s name and phone number.
- Rest when needed.
- Stay hydrated.
If you’re visit a warm climate,
- Wear a sun hat.
- Use a cooling towel or cooling jacket.