Before anyone takes a trip, even if it’s a spontaneous one, there is planning to be done. If you or a loved one has Parkinson’s disease (PD), there are even more challenges and possibilities to plan for. However, traveling with Parkinson’s can be made easier and safer with proper planning, and we’ve gathered some planning tips to get you started.
Make a list. Before you start packing, create a checklist of everything you will need, including clothes, medications, toiletries, assistive devices, and IDs or passports.
Know before you go. Research how to get from point A to point B, like how to get from the airport to your hotel. If you’re taking a road trip, scout out the rest stops or towns with restaurants where you can take a break and stretch your legs. Print out copies of maps, your itinerary with all reservation details, a list of all medications, and your doctor’s contact information and keep them together in an envelope or folder in your carry-on bag. It’s helpful to leave a copy of your itinerary and where you can be reached with a friend or family member at home, too.1
Organize travel and activities during “on” times. As much as possible, schedule travel time and activities such as sightseeing during periods when medication is “on” and symptoms from PD are minimal.
Get a doctor’s note. Sometimes, people with PD are mistaken as drunk, due to symptoms like slurred speech or unsteady gait. Plan ahead for any misunderstandings, like with security personnel, with a doctor’s note explaining you have PD.2
Pack more than enough medication. Planes, trains, and automobile traffic can all have unexpected delays, and you may find your trip extended for a day or more for unknown reasons. Get all prescriptions refilled before you go and pack extra medicine for all contingencies. Keep medications in their original bottles with their labels for ease with security.2
Ask for assistance. Take advantage of accommodations wherever possible to make travel easier on yourself. If traveling by air, ask for wheelchair assistance or early boarding to allow yourself more time to get settled. Many hotels offer rooms that are handicap accessible, and you can also request a room on the first floor or near to the elevator.1,3
Put medications in carry-on luggage. Make sure you keep your medications in your carry-on luggage, for easy access as well as preventive insurance in case your checked baggage gets delayed.3
Allow extra time. PD can cause your movement to be slowed, and it may take you a little longer to get where you’re going. Allow for extra time to arrive for scheduled departures or activities.
Consider medication-dosing schedule. Traveling interrupts your usual daily schedule, but it’s critical to keep taking medications on their recommended schedule to keep symptoms at bay. Set reminders or alarms on your phone to signal when your next dose is due, and keep in mind any needed changes if you’re traveling across time zones.2
Bring walking assistance devices, even if you don’t always use them. PD can cause fluctuations in your ability to move and walk easily, so even if you don’t use a cane or other walking assistance every day, take it along with you in case you need it.1
Keep up with your exercise. Regular exercise is essential for people with PD to maintain balance and mobility, so make time to exercise even on trips.3
Take it easy. There’s a tendency to want to “do it all” when we go to new places or visit dear friends and family. Pace yourself and stay aware of your energy levels, taking time to rest when needed.2
Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Accessed online on 6/12/17 at http://www.pdf.org/traveling_pd.
National Parkinson Foundation. Accessed online on 6/12/17 at http://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/newly-diagnosed/traveling-with-parkinsons.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Accessed online on 6/12/17 at https://www.michaeljfox.org/foundation/news-detail.php?tips-on-traveling-with-parkinson-disease.