Summer Travel Tips for Flying With MS: Part 1

By Jeri Burtchell

Summer travel by air with multiple sclerosis doesn’t have to mean anxiety and exhaustion. With a few tips your journey can be smooth sailing. Here are some timely tips gathered from MS patients who travel frequently.

Before you leave home, search the internet for your destination to learn about the terrain you’ll be visiting, the weather, and your hotel’s amenities. You can even use Google Maps’ Street View to plan your excursions ahead of time. Having an idea of what to expect allows you to design your trip for maximum comfort. Likewise, when making hotel reservations, ask for an “accessible” room. They have more grab bars in the bathroom, and often lower toilets and sinks, wider doors. They are usually located closer to the elevators or on the ground floor.

When booking your flight, request a wheelchair. Even if you don’t use one at home, it makes conquering an airport much easier. Not only do you conserve energy and stave off travel fatigue, but the assistants who push you know where they are going and can get you there quickly–helping you catch connecting flights with ease. If you have a cane, bring it. Like a red flag, canes signal disability and airline staff go out of their way to assist you. No matter if you are having a good day at home and don’t expect to need it, air travel is taxing and you will be glad you brought your cane at day’s end.

If you are using a carry-on bag larger than a purse or small backpack, invest in a roller bag. The wheels and long handle are going to make lugging it around with you a lot easier. When checking bags, tie a bright piece of cloth on the handle of each one so you can spot them quickly in a sea of luggage that all looks the same on the carousel in baggage claim.

Security check points are notorious for long lines and hassles, but you can make things easy on yourself. Leave your belt at home and empty your pockets into a baggy stored in your carry-on ahead of time. If there is an outside zippered pocket on your roller bag, use that space for your ticket and ID, along with your ziploc full of liquids that need to be separate from everything else for inspecting. Slip-on shoes are a convenient alternative to ones that lace up and requires no sitting or bending to put them back.

Stay tuned for more tips on Wednesday!

*Jeri was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999. She has spoken from a patient perspective at conferences around the country, addressing social media and the role it plays in designing clinical trials. Jeri is a MS blogger, patient activist, and freelance writer for the MS News Beat of She lives in northeast Florida with her youngest son and elderly mother. When not writing or speaking, she enjoys crafting and photography.

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  • Nanc Ranger says:

    Jeri, Your tips are useful for those of us who don’t have MS. I’m 82y
    and often find airports exhausting & confusing even tho’ I’m still pretty mobile.
    Thanks for your blog. Looking forward to the next installment.

    • Jeri says:

      Hi Nancy! Thanks for your comment and I hope this tips do help you as you travel. I did much traveling for 2 years while I was a patient speaker on behalf of my medication, and I know it can be exhausting.

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