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Many MS patients can travel the world

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Italy. Australia. Norway. Russia. People who are physically challenged may wonder if they can visit these far off places, especially if they use assistive devices, scooters or wheelchairs.

The answer is a definite yes, if you ask Timothy Holtz, group travel coordinator of Flying Wheels Travel.

Holtz talked to the MS/Cancer monthly conference call informing participants that people with disabilities can enjoy wonderful travel experiences internationally. He also shared some helpful tips for traveling when one is physically challenged

Holtz recommends that people with MS avoid traveling to hot and humid destinations because these weather conditions could cause complications with their MS symptoms. Also, when planning a trip, make sure you pace your expeditions to help manage fatigue.

“Think about what your physical limits are and plan appropriately,” Holtz said.


If you use a travel agency, Holtz recommends that you select a qualified person so you can take the trip you want to take.

Another key to a successful trip is to plan carefully to ensure you have appropriate arrangements in place. For example, check to see if you will be able to navigate train stations that may have stairs.

“Some destinations are not necessarily accessible and your agent must know how you can maneuver and get in and out of these places. Conversely, we have taken travelers to the Sistine Chapel and other sites you might not know are wheelchair accessible,” Holtz commented.


Before you go on your trip, take your scooter or wheelchair to a dealer or reputable repair shop. You want to make sure your equipment is working well and that you are up to date with maintenance. Take a small tool kit specific to your equipment with you when your travel.

Holtz said, “We are able to provide or rent power wheelchairs, shower chairs and patient lifts at many destinations. Also, we can have these items flown with you.”


Holtz commented that cruises are popular because the ship is like a floating hotel and physically handicapped travelers can set up their cabins to meet their specific needs.

“Taking a cruise eliminates having to change hotels, which can help reduce fatigue and stress for the traveler,” Holtz said. 

Be aware that not all cruise ships are fully accessible. Before you book, confirm the size of the bathrooms, showers, doors, and balcony doors.

Make sure when the ship docks for shore excursions it has accessible ramps to disembark. At a regular port, the ship pulls up to a pier or dock, and you walk or ride off. At a tender port, the ship isn't able to pull up to the pier or dock and guests are transferred to a small vessel, called a tender, to get to shore.


A traveler with physical handicaps will be the first one on the plane and the last person off.

With a scooter or wheelchair, the traveler will ride it to door of the plane and check it at door. The traveler uses an aisle wheelchair, which is narrower, to get to his or her seat on the plane. At the end of the flight, you will use the aisle chair to get to the front of the plane, and the baggage handler will bring your scooter or wheelchair to the door of the airplane.

“We recommend removing the head and foot rests from wheelchairs if possible. Also, a joy stick can pop off, so wrap it in bubble wrap to help protect it. With a scooter, put the seat down and remove decorations or baskets,” Holtz advised.

Show the baggage handlers how to put the scooter or power wheelchair in neutral and back in gear so they can move it to the cargo area without damaging it.

Holtz recommends plan to have at least two hours between connecting flights.


The United States and most Western hemisphere countries use electrical systems operating at 110-120 volts. Most other countries use 220-240 volts. A direct current (DC) can destroy equipment that wasn't made to operate in that system.

You need to know about the difference between adapters, converters and transformers.

An adapter is a connector that changes the plug shape to match the outlet. It does not change the voltage or electrical output.

If your equipment requires a specific voltage, you need a converter or transformer. Converters use an electronic switch to approximate 110v to adjust the current from a 220-volt source. Use a converter for electrical items like hair dryers but for not electronics. Converters should be used for a short period of time.

Electronic items, such as those with chips, need a transformer. A transformer reduces the voltage of the electricity going through it.


Holtz recommends that you take all your medications with you in your carry-on luggage.

“Never check your prescriptions because your luggage could get lost. Another reason is that sometimes medication, especially pain medication, is stolen out of the bags,” Holtz warns.

Also, keep in your medications in the original prescription bottles. Wait until you get to your destination to transfer your medications to pill dispensers.

Have fun

Holtz concluded by saying, “The world is open to with people with chronic illnesses or are physically handicapped.”

Photos courtesy of Flying Wheels Travel.

The MS/Cancer telephone support group, which is composed of persons dually diagnosed with MS and cancer, is co-sponsored by the National MS Society and the American Cancer Society.

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