As my trip to Europe with my mom and step-dad draws nearer, I’ve started to think about what I’m going to bring along. For me, one of the most stressful parts of planning a vacation is figuring out what to pack. What if I pack too much? What if I forget something? What if the weather is crazy?
Having a packing list can help you remember what to bring, especially if you have MS induced memory loss. To fight back against this symptom, I have a couple of suggestions.
First of all, don’t leave packing off until the last minute. It’s easy to tell yourself you have plenty of time to pack, but departure day will sneak up on you faster than you might think! Give yourself time to double check what you have packed so you won’t be up all night before the flight worrying about forgetting your essentials.
Next tip, consider leaving your large luggage at home. On most international flights, you are allowed to board with one complimentary carry-on bag, in addition to a personal item such as a purse or a briefcase. Try to pack light and squeeze your things into these two bags. It will make getting from place to place much easier, particularly if you are in a wheel chair or walking with a cane.
Our suitcases packed and ready for our adventure!
Speaking of a cane, you can bring a mobility device like a cane or walker on the flight as well. These do not count as carry-on items and are not considered weapons.
Traveling light will allow you to skip the baggage claim frenzy. But how do you travel light? Pack clothes that can be worn multiple times and layered. Many hotels have laundry services, and your bathroom sink is a good alternative if you bring along a small bag of laundry soap. You can also find cheap space saving bags that will optimize your bag’s capacity.
What should you bring along? This varies from person to person, but for those traveling with MS, there are some essentials you should definitely include in your bag. To help you sift through the information out there, here are my recommendations for what to pack based on my preparations for three weeks in Europe!
Passport and Visas:
Store this in a place you’ll remember, and don’t leave without it when you leave. As far as visas go, requirements vary from country to country. Click here to find out if you will need one for your next international trip here.
Traveling can be hectic sometimes, and stress can cause MS flare-ups. Just in case you find yourself needing medical attention, it’s important to carry a list of your medical history, a list of all the medications you are currently taking (including the dosage and prescription brand), and your doctor’s name and phone number.
To get through security without any hiccups, keep your medication in its original packaging along with a signed doctor’s note. Make sure to get the note in advance of your trip. Doctors are busy, so it might be a while before you get your letter back.
To make the process a little faster, you can also send a form letter for your doctor to sign. In the letter, list the brand name and generic name of each medication you are taking, as well as the dosage. Be sure to include your passport number and your diagnosis in the letter as well. Here's an example for you to reference.
Bring enough medication to last you the whole trip (and then some).
If you can, bring enough medicine to last a few days longer than your trip. Insurance companies will sometimes limit you to a certain number of pills per month. In this case, you may have to time your refills so that you have enough medication to last slightly beyond the length of your trip. Once in a while, a travel barrier will pop up that’s out of your control, and you’ll be glad you prepared!
Bringing medication a plane is trickier if you are traveling with injectables such as Avonex, Betaseron and Copaxone. If needed, pack these medications in an insulated bag, such as a lunch bag, with cold packs that freeze solid. Frozen solid cold packs do not count toward TSA’s 3-1-1 rule. However, a cold pack that is gel or partially thawed does count and will be confiscated. Also, check with TSA before you leave to see if the international airports you are traveling through have different rules.
If you tend to have motion sickness, stomach problems or headaches when your routine changes, it’s a good idea to bring along over-the-counter medicines like Dramamine, a pain reliever, and Imodium or Tums. I also recommend getting your fill of vitamin C while on the trip, either through foods or supplements like Emergen-C. Airports can be pretty dirty places, so don’t risk your health!
Incontinence products can be bulky to pack. Do some research and find out if your brand of incontinence products is available where you are traveling. If it is, bring enough to start you out and plan on buying more once you reach your destination. Unless you are traveling somewhere remote, you should not have a problem finding a pharmacy or shop that sells health care products.
Before you leave, print off a copy of your passport identification page, a copy of your health and travel insurance cards, your first flight’s e-tickets, and all of your flight information, hotel confirmations and car rental reservations, etc.
Make copies of all necessary travel documents!
Why? While most of this information will be stored on your smart phone, always be prepared. Just in case the invisible technology gremlins decide to attack and you cannot access your email or files, pulling out a piece of paper with the information you need will be a huge relief.
Ice Packs and Rain Gear:
The weather is a funny thing, and it’s pretty hard to predict what it’s going to do. You probably aren’t planning to spend your vacation suffering through debilitating heat. Packing a few ice packs is a great way to keep yourself comfortable if a heat waves does move through or if you find yourself in a hotel with poor ventilation.
Conversely, it’s also bound to rain at least once if you go for an extended trip. Make sure to bring along a small umbrella, light rain coat or a poncho to keep yourself dry.
There are a lot more packing essentials than just my recommendations. Click here to download the printable MS packing guide for a full, customizable packing list you can check off as you go!
We are taking off for our European adventure soon! Stay tuned for more tips on traveling with MS.