Sun, Sea, Sand & MS

This week Ciara O' Meara shares her top travel tips and advice when travelling with MS.

I work and live to travel – that’s what my wages have been allocated to over the years- city breaks, sun holidays, volunteering in rural villages in Africa – anything that entails a plane, my passport and an adventure. I always say that one of my happiest places is on the runway in Dublin airport, whether it be for a weekend, a week or 6 months. With the arrival of COVID-19, my travel and holiday plans were quickly and quietly curbed; parked to one side for a while, with the engine ticking over until I would get the green light to go. With the arrival of MS into my life, I never let it stall the car – I wasn’t going to be the one to park up and wave the rest of them off from the departure lounge. 

I have been fortunate enough to travel around the world with my MS in tow – acknowledging it as always, but not letting it take the wheel. From Africa to Atlanta, MS has boarded the plane with me and along the way, experiences have made me make just a few adjustments to how I travel, contributing to: 

 'Ciara’s Top Travel Tips'!

1.    Book that Trip – don’t let the worry of what if’s and maybe’s put a damper on your holiday. You need it and you deserve it. It’s a scientific fact that us MSer’s need our Vitamin D so think of it as Doctor’s Orders – You must take that sun holiday for the good of your health!

2.    Plan – Stress is one of the major triggers for our MS and exacerbation of symptoms. Plan, prep and avoid the panic of scrambling for the passport at 6am. Have the suitcase and carry on packed and waiting in the hall 2 days before you travel so that we have ample time to navigate through our MS cog fog and run through our checklists on numerous occasions. 

3.  Give Yourself Time – Allow extra time at the airport (and this is something I really need to be better at listening to my own advice on!). If I have to try and run to a gate I can guarantee overheating, stress, tears and double vision – absolutely not the ideal way to start any holiday.

4.  Book Assistance if needed – If you are flying Ryanair from Dublin airport you need to have the hiking boots packed because Gate 110 is nothing short of a trek! Invisibility of symptoms is such a major factor with MS that we often deprive ourselves of the help we need because we don’t ‘show’ our disability or we feel guilty that we can walk down the steps from the plane but need a wheelchair to navigate through the airport. We don’t want special assistance but sometimes we need it. Take it, book it and enjoy that extra glass of Pinot while your waiting for the rest of your party to arrive!

5.  WC - Speaking of Pinot and pre airport drinks and take it from someone whose been there and done that – the second glass is never worth it when your sitting in the middle seat, that fasten seatbelt light is ablaze, the plane is perched in the middle of the runway and you are bursting!

6.  Pack Your Medication/Needles, etc. at the top of your carry on – No body appreciates waiting for you to dig them out from the very bottom! Also don’t let them run through the scanner and not declare them – nobody is going to let you through security with vials, ice packs and 500 small needles!

7.  Itinerary - I love a travel itinerary! I love to have researched places to see, things to do, where to eat before I even leave Ireland. And I have been known to develop an itinerary so intense that it leaves my body needing a second holiday! So I have learnt over time to remember that I am on holidays and that it’s okay to sit on the beach, under an umbrella and do absolutely nothing!

8. Hydration - Pina Colada’s will not provide hydration in the sun! While we need Vitamin D and sunshine, we also run the risk of overheating and need to stay shaded and hydrated throughout the day. Now a few Pina Colada in an air-conditioned bar – absolutely what the doctor ordered!

I am sure I have only touched the surface with my travel tips and there is so much more I could include but the most important thing when it comes to a summer holiday or break away is to just go. With a little bit of assistance and forward thinking, everything and anything is possible. With our head in the clouds and the warmth of the sun on our face, we can leave MS behind us for that little while and just be free