Traveling can be
stressful for people with Parkinson’s who travel alone, travel with a companion
or spouse, or travel with friends and family. The following are some tips for
bringing back some of the fun to your travel experience.
In Preparation to Travel
Being well prepared for
your trip can reduce a lot of your anxiety. To help you get organized, set up a
binder to keep all of your travel documents in one place. Use sheet protectors
for documents that you don’t want to hole-punch. Set up dividers and tabs in the
binder such as: Air, Hotel, Car Rental, Passport, Contact Persons, Physicians
and Medications, and Maps.
Prepare a list of
contact information of those people you are visiting at your destination,
including dates and times that you are visiting, as well as their names,
addresses, home and cell phones, and driving directions.
Bring your hotel
If you are renting a car,
bring your car rental confirmation information and your automobile insurance
Prepare a list of the details
of the activities and events during your trip e.g., dates, times and locations
of the activities you have scheduled and the events you are attending.
Prepare a list of the contact
information of your neurologist including name, organization, address, phone,
Prepare a list of your medicationswith names, dosages, and timing of medications. Make sure that you have
enough medication for your entire trip plus a replacement supply. Talk to your
doctor and request enough medication refills to get you through the trip. Carry
on all your medications in their original bottles in your carry-on luggage. Bring
a small weekly pill organizer to hold the pills for a week while you are en
route. If you are staying longer than a week, you can refill your pill
organizer from the original bottles. Bring a pill-cutter, if needed.
If you have Deep Brain
Stimulation (DBS), ask your doctor for the phone number of a DBS Therapy specialist
at your travel destination in case you need some help with your DBS system.
Other Things To Do In Preparation For Traveling
Check the passport’s
expiry date to make sure that your passport is current.
Know the details about your
medical insurance coverage in case you should require medical care while you
Even if you generally don’t use a
wheelchair, you may want to consider getting a wheelchair to get through
airports if you have tight connections and gates that seem miles apart, for
sightseeing and to help prevent fatigue.
When Booking Your Flight
Try to book a non-stop, direct flight.
When you make your reservation, request
preferred seating, either disability or a seat near the plane’s entrance.
Provide advance notice to your airline,
travel company or travel agent if you require assistance at the airport. Often
there is a designated person who coordinates travel, provides information, and
answers questions ahead of time.
Consider purchasing trip cancellation
insurance so that if you need to cancel, you will be covered. Review the
details of your coverage under your trip cancellation insurance.
Arrive at the airport well ahead of
your check-in time.
Bring your medications in your carry-on
Carry-on luggage limits do not apply to
medical supplies, equipment, and mobility aids carried on and/or used by a
person with a disability. Mobility-related items are allowed through security
checkpoints after they are cleared through screening. These include: wheelchairs,
scooters, crutches, canes, walkers, orthopedic shoes, tools for wheelchair
assembly and any other disability-related equipment and associated supplies.
If you require a family member or
companion to accompany you through the security checkpoint, obtain a gate pass
for that person at the same time you get your gate pass/boarding pass.
TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) has a program for
screening people with disabilities and their equipment, mobility aids, and
companion may accompany you and assist you during your screening.
If you need to sit down
during the screening, you should be allowed to remain in your wheelchair if you
Screening For Those With DBS
For those with DBS, traveling
by air gets a little more complicated.
You can go through the
security line until you reach the metal detector.
Do not go through the metal
detector. If you go through the metal detector, your neurostimulator
device may set off the alarm and
the security equipment may turn off the neurostimulator.
If they try to force you to go through
the detection device or be screened by means of a security wand
device, calmly and firmly insist that you need
a pat-down instead.
The TSA employee will
call for a male or female “assist” to provide the pat down, and will advise you
where to wait.
When the pat-down person arrives,
repeat to this person that you need a pat-down. If they asks you “why,” tell
him or her that you have an implanted medical device. Don’t try to explain the
intricacies of DBS.
Show the person your Medtronic Patient
Identification Card, if necessary. It contains information about you, your device,
and your doctor, plus Medtronic’s Patient Services number. This card will NOT exempt
you from the screening process.
Once your carry-on
items have cleared security, they will be taken by the TSA employee so that you
can keep them in your view during the pat-down.
Before starting the
pat-down, the TSA employee will ask if you want a personal screening or a
private screening. My suggestion is to have a screening in public view in the
event that anything inappropriate occurs and you might need bystanders to
The TSA employee will
do the pat-down with his or her hands instead of a metal detection wand.
When the pat-down is
finished, don’t forget to pick up your belongings including your carry-on
luggage which has gone through the same screening machine as everyone else’s.
Once you’ve cleared security, use your
patient controller to make sure your DBS system is still on. If it has turned
off, turn it back on.
During Your Flight
Let airline employees know your needs
during travel, like stowing luggage, opening beverages, and bringing water to
take with your medication.
Make sure you stand up and stretch
every hour or so and/or do a set of seated exercises.
On long flights, your doctor may
recommend compression stockings to manage the circulation in your legs.
Bring some snacks and bottled water to
enjoy during your flight.
On Your Trip
Maintain your usual medication schedule
and diet, drink plenty of fluids and keep yourself hydrated with water.
If you are changing time zones, most
doctors suggest that you continue to take your medications as prescribed with
the same time intervals.
For those with DBS, check your
neurostimulator once a day. If you suspect that it was turned off, make sure
you and/or someone is able to turn on your DBS system again.
Pace yourself and balance busy days
with restful breaks.
Speak up and let others know what you need. Most people are happy to help.