Patient Blogs | Multiple Sclerosis
Holiday Travel Fears
photo of man in a wheelchair in office building

I want to accept an invitation, but I’m scared.  Our family is having a reunion at the end of December. We haven’t gotten together in 7 years, and I’d like to go, but we’re meeting at my late brother’s farm in rural Oregon. This trip brings up a lot of issues for me, and I wonder if I should go or stay home and join with WhatsApp. Some of my concerns relate to my mobility scooter, but others might resonate for most people with multiple sclerosis (MS). 

Travel. I will have to fly and bus to get to Oregon, and then ride in different people’s cars to get to the farm and get around to events.  The planes will be small, and I won’t be able to ride my scooter on them. (it will ride in cargo. Will it be OK?)

I see on the airline website that we are supposed to tell the airline about wheelchairs when booking a flight, but I cannot see how to do it on the online booking site I’m using.  The phone numbers the airlines give for customer service just take me to government disability hotlines, which tell me to ‘hang up and call the airline.’ Should I just come to the airport early and hope it all works out?

On the ground, some cars, such as SUVs, give me problems in getting in and out. I’ll have to check what my family are driving. I already checked with the bus line to makes sure the buses are accessible. 

Living arrangements. My sister-in-Iaw, Jane, has generously invited my wife and I to stay at the farmhouse. It’s a nice place; I’ve been there before, but that was before I was scooter-dependent.  The entrance is accessible, but I don’t know about the bathrooms or the doorways.  I don’t know whether to take the armrests off the scooter to avoid scraping up her doorways the way I’ve left rubber marks on my own walls.

I wonder how easy it will be to transfer from the scooter to a bed or couch when I need to rest my back. I guess I have to ask Jane some more questions. 

Imposing on them. The reunion is for my nephew’s 40th birthday, and he’s envisioning 5 days or so.  I don’t feel comfortable disarranging Jane’s house for 5 days. I can’t really stay in a hotel because the nearest one is hours away by car. She says it’s not a problem, but maybe we won’t stay for the whole 5 days.

Weather. It’s likely to be heavily snowed in. That happens a lot where she lives. The scooter won’t go through the snow, so I might be trapped inside most of the time. 

Compensation. How should we compensate her? I suppose we should gift her and try to help out. I don’t know about financially; she’s saving us a ton of money and driving time that a hotel would involve. 

Needed equipment. When one is disabled, one gets used to having supplies and modifications. For me, I will have to make sure to have my urinary catheters, lube, and alcohol.  I need to bring chargers for my scooter and phone. I might have to ship some things up in advance. My exercise equipment will have to stay home, but I can exercise without it for a few days.

Downtime. Most of the time will be visiting, but I know from experience I can’t be in a party setting all day long with people who talk a lot, such as some of my relatives. I don’t want to get exhausted physically or mentally.

I’ll need some time on my own.  I can’t bring my computer with me, so I won’t be able to write. At this point, I would rely on my phone’s notepad app and bring something to read.

Food. Fortunately, I’m not too particular about food. I like all of it, and MS doesn’t really stop me from eating particular foods, except maybe for sugars, which I find knock me out and promote urinary tract infections. Some people, such as people with diabetes, have to be more careful. The overload of sweets is a big problem at holiday time for a lot of people, but I can resist them, except maybe donuts.

My wife will probably go with the family to shop, and my nephew and nieces love to cook, so I’m sure I’ll have good food, just not what I’m used to.  

I’m not going into their kitchen to cook because I don’t want to bang into things with the scooter and dent them or smear rubber on them. So I’ll be a little less independent than usual.

One last concern that few of you probably share is I don’t like the carbon emissions that come with travel. I know that doesn’t make much sense when everyone else is traveling around, but it still bothers me. 

I’m glad to have written this article, because now I feel much more confident. Nothing will come up that I can’t handle.  When I consider whether or not to do a particular thing, my decision rule is, ‘Will this become an ordeal? If it’s a real struggle, I won’t do it, even if I want to. But I see now this reunion will not be an ordeal.  I will go and have a good time.

I’ll let you know how it goes.  Wishing you good holidays, too!


To connect with other people living with multiple sclerosis join our MS Facebook Support Group.




Photo Credit: ljubaphoto / E+ via Getty Images

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David Spero, RN

David Spero, RN

Diagnosed since 1989

David Spero, RN, became a writer and health coach after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1989. He writes books and blogs about living with chronic illness and the social causes of illness. A married father of two and grandfather of one, Spero is active in causes including health care, peace, and the environment. See his books; follow him on Medium or Twitter.

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