Travelling Abroad with a Disability

I have recently had a long weekend away in Romania for MS Sessions 19 – a jam packed weekend provided for young MSers by EMSP and Shift.MS (more about that in another blog)

For this blog, I am writing to give some top tips on travelling abroad with a disability (and that includes some of the challenges I encountered having a more hidden disability this time around)

Get planning

Sometimes you cannot choose where you are going on your trip (it might be a location wedding or a business trip abroad) but there are times when you are going on a holiday and want to make sure you pick somewhere accessible. For this, I would recommend using google to find accessible travel agencies and specialist companies that will help you find your ideal destination. I just had a quick look using our favourite search engine, and found Disabled Holidays as an example to get you started.

I am lucky at the moment that my walking is pretty ok..although as I know from my past experiences, that can change at the blink of an eye! If you are someone who uses a wheelchair and needs this to be a consideration on your trip – you might want to head over to Wheelchair World which is a really useful website that allows people with reduced mobility easily find information about travel destinations around the world. This website is fantastic as it covers so many different things such as sight seeing, travelling about on public transport, dining and eating out, accommodation…

Before you go on any trip, it is also useful to think about what your needs really are. It can be difficult to think about how they might have changed since the last time you went abroad

  • do you need transport considerations?
  • do you take regular medication?
  • do you have any special dietary requirements or allergies?

There are so many things that I had not considered when I first went abroad after my diagnosis of MS… however, ABTA (the Association for British Travel Agents) have put together a checklist to help you gather your thoughts and share any requirements when travelling by plane or on a boat. I found this really useful to think about the many aspects of my special requirements – maybe you will too?

Check your medications

This is one of the things that I didn’t think about in too much detail until I saw an article about a British traveller who was arrested for travelling with some codeine into a country where it is illegal. The traveller did have this on prescription but did not have the prescription with her.

Now whenever I travel I make sure all of my medicines are in labelled boxes and/or I have my prescription with me.

Here are some extra tips:-

  1. Check what medicines are allowed in the country you are travelling to (or just passing through). Some countries such as India and Pakistan have a strict list of medicines that they will not allow into the country.
  2. Chat with your GP or prescriber a couple of months in advance, they might be able to give some advice about any special arrangements you might need
  3. I recommend carrying the medicines in their original packaging and I always put my medicines into my hand luggage. I would suggest carrying a copy of your prescription as well
  4. Some medicines need storing in a certain temperature – think about this before you set off. You might need to carry a cool bag, insulated bag or thermos to keep the medicine at the right temperature
  5. Consider taking some information about your health condition with you (maybe get some of this translated into the language of the country you are going to?)

Book some assistance

Until I had difficulties with mobility I did not realise how big airports were! Nor did I realise how much mental and physical challenge was involved in the logistics of getting to the airport and getting through the airport (let alone the actual travel itself).

The first time I booked airport assistance, I was pretty embarrassed. My pride did get in the way a little. However, since then I have come to accept my MS diagnosis and am just grateful for the support.  There should be free assistance for any disabled person or person with reduced mobility in European airports (although I have also found international airports to be very obliging too).

As someone with reduced mobility you can get help with:-

  • checking in
  • travelling through the airport including stop offs at any shops!
  • help with getting on and off the plane
  • help with your baggage

Before this last trip, I had always booked my assistance through the airline in advance. Ideally, you should book assistance at least 48 hours before you fly so the airline can meet your needs properly. However, I most recently had a great experience booking some last minute assistance at Amsterdam airport, where I was more than catered for.

One thing to note is that some places struggle to recognise hidden disabilities. I have come across some challenge when trying to access services when travelling at home and in abroad.

UK airports have now started rolling out a sunflower lanyard which helps others recognise those with a disability although I struggled to get mine at Manchester Airport due to shortages of them. I only hope that those without disabilities aren’t taking them?

You can also get some pin badges for any transport in London .

Allow plenty of time

The final thing that I will say is leave plenty of time – time to plan, time to pack and time for yourself in the airport. It will take you longer than you think to travel through the airport… I nearly missed my connecting flight recently because I had not accounted enough time for my slower pace of walking (and the airline did not have any assistance available)

I will share more Top Tips for a Stress Free Time at the Airport in a later blog 🙂 stay tuned…




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