Since discovering I have MS, going on holidays involves a bit more organisation. Travelling since being diagnosed hasn’t been too tricky, but I do have to make more of an effort to plan my trips. I now have rules that I follow before and during time away from home:
1) Time of Year- My holiday dates aren’t restricted by work schedules and I am able to take annual leave at any stage of the year. This is particularly important for me, because my nervous system reacts badly to the heat (as with other MSers). Trips to hotter climes are off-season in coastal areas with a sea breeze if I get too warm. Our last few holidays have been to Majorca, and the weather there in October and April suit me perfectly well.
2) Travelling Time- Let’s face it, travelling can be the pits and I find travelling quite tiring. Flying in particular can make me feel a bit rubbish. I get achy, and my fatigue is worse after a flight. I try to plan trips that don’t involve long flights. I pack scarves and books for as much comfort as I can squeeze into a carry-on bag- then I rest. I don’t want to waste precious holiday time getting over the journey when I arrive!
3) Packing Medications –The worst part of packing is sorting out my medications to take with me. And I only have a small amount to pack. I know some of my MS friends have to bring a lot more, and I greatly admire their packing skills. Before you go, check with your airline/airport about their restrictions. Make sure you have the required documentation in advance and the medications are easily accessible. And – this might seem a bit cheeky- when going through security, don’t mention you have the medication with you unless they ask about it.
I have my medications in my bag or placed in the tray and my letter neatly stowed with my boarding pass (bottom of my bag!). If they ask about it, I can easily show them the information. If they don’t, I’ll just be with the rest of the masses, trying to get my belt back on while keeping an eye on the little old lady behind me who is SURE to want to steal all my belongings.
4) Trips and Excursions – On holidays I like to relax and see a bit of the country we were visiting, so a couple of day trips are usually on the cards. I try to make sure I have a rest day between busy days. I also try to arrange trips that will happen at cooler times of the day, or plan to be indoors enjoying a cool beer when it gets very hot. I try to find out about the area before I go and what it will be like- if it’s going to be very hilly or uneven cobble ground, that can make walking very awkward for me, so I need to be sure.
5) Eating and Drinking – Wherever we go I love to try the local food and drink. Since starting the Overcoming MS Recovery Programme last year, it can be awkward to find something suitable on a menu, home or abroad. So, the places we go to have a wide choice of fruits and vegetables and vegetarian options. I drink plenty of water which is just good advice for anyone in the heat. If I have to alter my eating when I’m away, I do. This is my time to have nice meals with my husband, and not spend an age wandering around looking at menus.
6) Hotel Facilities– Sleep will mean a great or a grim holiday. Make sure your room, your bed is suitable for you. I don’t particularly care about the number of stars a hotel has as long as it’s clean and comfortable. I have to keep my medications refrigerated and use a cool-pack or cool gel on my injection sites. I also need a lot of chilled water; if I get too warm and dehydrated I feel terrible. A dark room is essential with air conditioning/fans to cool it down before bedtime. Otherwise, the next day I’ll have heavy legs and arms and really struggle the next day. While I can manage stairs fine most of the time a lift makes life so much easier particularly when I can barely lift my legs due to fatigue.
7) Home Comforts- Finally, I take some small home comforts with me to help me relax- ear plugs and eye mask and a little plug in fan to keep by my bedside. And a big wrap scarf I use to keep me shaded and doubles up as a blanket if I get cold - somehow I can feel cold when everyone else is roasting by the pool!!
Our main reasons for going on holiday are to get away from the normal day-to-day routines of life, to relax and relish the special things in life. MS comes with me but I’m determined to ensure that, with my planning, MS won’t be interrupting my bliss. In the future, travelling may become more difficult but until then I will plan and refine my holiday routine so I and my family are not interrupted by the other (unwelcome) travelling companion.
Now, I am off to tot up my remaining annual leave and try to squish in another trip or two, this year.