Travelling and holidays
Open Door - August 2012 pages 12-13
Around this time of the year, the Information Team at the MS Trust receives lots of enquiries about all aspects of holidays and travelling.
Getting away from the daily routine and doing something new can make a massive difference to your well-being. For some people travelling with MS may simply mean checking that any medications you might need on holiday have been packed, for others it may involve making sure that the facilities in an accessible hotel room adequately meet your requirements.
Most mainstream insurance companies have a sensible approach to MS and should provide a quote based on your own circumstances. It's worth shopping around to compare prices. Check the fine print of the policy to ensure that all your needs are covered. For example, mobility aids and disability equipment are unlikely to be covered by standard travel insurance policies.
The MS Trust works with Unique to provide a range of insurance products, specifically tailored to meet the needs of people with MS and their families. Unique will donate to the MS Trust for every policy sold.
Contact 01603 828 387, quoting 'Newsletter', or visit www.mstrust.org.uk/insurance
If you are visiting a country in the EU, the free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) lets you get state healthcare at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. Each country's health system is different and might not include all the things you would expect to get free of charge from the NHS. Keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies if necessary) as they might be needed when appling for any reimbursement.
EHIC application service
0845 606 2030 / www.ehic.org.uk
Keeping your cool
Holidays and travelling can take you to warmer climates. Many people with MS find their symptoms get worse in the heat, so here are some simple tips:
- Have regular cold drinks or suck an ice cube or frozen pineapple chunks.
- Spray your face and wrists with a mister - this can be cheaply refilled with tap water. There are also commercially available sprays, such as Magicool, that will stay cool throughout the day.
- Some people find eating makes them warmer, and so it may be an idea to choose salads and sip iced water while eating. A cooling dessert can help.
- Carry a battery-operated hand-held fan.
- A wide variety of relatively inexpensive cooling scarves, ties and wrist bands can be worn. These contain a gel or other substance that can be pre-cooled before wearing. Depending on the product, the cooling effect can last from a few hours to several days.
Most people with MS can have all the vaccinations that are required when travelling abroad. It's preferable to be protected than run the risk of contracting the diseases, many of which are serious and life threatening.
If you're unwell, for example in the middle of a bad relapse, you may be advised to delay vaccination. If you're taking a drug which suppresses the immune system, you should not receive 'live' vaccines as you may be at greater risk for developing the disease.
Make sure that your doctor is aware of all the medications you are taking.
Airports and aeroplanes
Travelling by air may mean that even if you are normally independent you will need help. For example, if you have walking difficulties you may find that you'll need to use an airport wheelchair or buggy to get to the departure gate.
If you will need help, you should give the airline, travel agent or tour operator at least 48 hours notice before you travel.
Airlines should let you carry up to two items of mobility equipment free of charge. You must tell the airline when you book your flight so that they have the details of your wheelchair or scooter.
You can't take your own wheelchair into the passenger cabin of a plane. It will be stored in the hold. Larger aircraft may have on-board wheelchairs which are narrow enough to pass along the aisles. Comprehensive information and advice is available from DPTAC (Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee).
Taking medications abroad
If you are taking one of the injectable disease modifying treatments, you will need a letter from your MS nurse or from the home delivery company. If flying, the injectable medication must be carried in your hand luggage as there is a risk it may freeze if carried in the hold. Your drug delivery company can provide a travel pack to keep medications cool during your journey. If the medication needs to be stored in a fridge or you are going somewhere where the room temperature is likely to be above 25°C you will need to liaise with the travel company before you leave to ensure access to a fridge. If you are concerned about any aspect of travelling with an injectable medication you should contact your MS nurse or drug specific support line.
Prescription medications can be carried in your hand luggage. Take a copy of your most recent prescription with you in case you are taken ill or in case you lose any of your medications whilst away. If you have any concerns contact your MS nurse.
Sativex, a cannabis-based medicine, is a controlled drug and its legal status varies between countries - see our factsheet for information about travelling abroad with Sativex.
Order/read the Sativex factsheet
Accessible accommodation and places to visit
Many hotels in the UK now have accessible rooms, but standards vary. If you have additional needs or specific requirements, check that these can be met before you make a reservation.
- OpenBritain - National Accessible Scheme (NAS) assessed accommodation in England
- Disabledgo - very detailed information about accessible accommodation and venues
- Ceiling Hoist Users Club - accommodation with ceiling hoists - 01604 805839
- Rough Guide to Accessible Britain - over 200 ideas for days out with hints and tips on some of the UK's best attractions
- Holidays Guide 2012 - includes resources, places to stay and things to do throughout the British Isles. Can be bought from the Disability Rights UK website - 020 7250 3222
- Direct Enquiries Nationwide Access Register - detailed information about accessible locations across the UK, including hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions - 01344 36 0101
Hiring equipment on holiday
You can hire equipment such as mobile hoists or wheelchairs from national and local organisations. Hiring from local organisations may save delivery costs.
National organisations include:
- Independent Living
- National Mobility Rentals - 0800 111 6232 /
- Direct Mobility - 0800 092 9322 /
- Local Red Cross branch - 0844 412 2804 /
- Some Shopmobility schemes are able to hire out wheelchairs for extended periods - 0844 414 1850
You may also be able to hire equipment when holidaying overseas. A travel agent or tour operator should be able to help you with this.