Advance preparation is the key to a satisfying trip. With a little preplanning, people living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) can relax and enjoy the pleasures of travel. Break the trip into specific categories and questions to make preparation manageable.
- Ask your neurologist to give you the name of a doctor in the area to which you are traveling.
- Call the Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636) to find out if there is a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, chapter or support group in the area you are visiting.
- Don’t forget to rest the day before your trip AND the day (or day after) you arrive.
Bring your Aware in Care Parkinson’s disease ID bracelet and wallet card with you. If you do not have an Aware in Care kit, order yours for free by calling the Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636) in the planning stages of your vacation.
- Carry all medications in original bottles, with the name of the drug and your doctor’s name on the label.
- Bring a copy of your prescriptions (generic and non-generic names) and medication regimen, including your physician’s name and contact information. This printable medication schedule can help.
- Keep all your medications, for your entire trip, with you in your carry-on bag; include snacks, water or juice to take with medications. Pack some extras in case you are delayed or your supply is lost.
- Continue to take your medications as prescribed if changing time zones, with the same intervals between doses. Consider wearing two watches: current time and time at home.
Pack efficiently to ease the challenges of travel. Make an essential checklist in advance.
- Gather passports, tickets, money and special items.
- Put complete outfits together including socks, undergarments and shoes. Include Parkinson's-friendly clothing and accessories, such as wrinkle-free items with elastic waistbands, pull-overs or button-free closures to simplify dressing.
- Pack toiletries and personal hygiene items in a compartment-type bag that can hang on the back of a door for easy access.
- Add a name label to needed assistive equipment, such as a walker, cane or walking stick, before packing.
- Bring your passport. All American citizens require a passport to visit foreign destinations and to re-enter the United States.
- Check your medical insurance policy to be sure that you are adequately covered wherever you are going. Be aware of services provided (or not provided) in other countries.
Are you traveling by air, train, bus, boat or car? Does each mode of transportation offer the accessibility you need or extra time to board? Request special assistance at the time you make your reservations, and notify the carrier of your PD diagnosis and any mobility issues.
At Travel Terminals
- Request wheelchair or electric cart service within terminals if necessary. Your bags will be handled too.
- Check in early.
- Take advantage of early boarding privileges and if necessary, special accommodations to get to your seat.
- Ask for an aisle seat, as close as possible to the bathroom.
Air Travel Specifics
Airline carriers must provide meet-and-assist service (like help getting to the gate or aircraft) at drop-off points.
- Personal care assistants of passengers with disabilities are allowed beyond screener checkpoints.
- The limit of one carry-on bag and one personal bag (purse, briefcase or backpack) per traveler does not apply to medical supplies or assistive devices.
- Assistive devices such as canes and wheelchairs are permitted on board.
- People who require a wheelchair or scooter must have a physician’s written “certificate of need.”
- People in wheelchairs can request private checkpoint screenings.
- Syringes are permitted on board with documentation of medical need and proper labeling.
Rail Travel Specifics
- Bring valid photo identification.
- Amtrak trains can accommodate most wheelchairs. Amtrak may randomly check wheelchairs.
- Passengers can travel with a service animal.
Bus Travel Specifics
Call ahead to speak with personnel about available services for each bus company. Some companies offer the following:
- Buses equipped with wheelchair lifts.
- Assistance with boarding, de-boarding, luggage, transfers, stowing and retrieving mobility equipment.
- Personal attendants can travel one-way at no charge. Arrangements for a return ticket are made at the returning location.
- Space for service animals, oxygen and respirators.
Ocean Cruise Specifics
- Ocean liners offer scooters for rent during cruises.
- Most cruises offer "accessible" or "modified" staterooms.
- Determine in advance whether any ports of call require a license for a motorized wheelchair.
- If the cruise does not offer a wheelchair-accessible excursion, contact a travel agent or local tour operator ahead of time to book a wheelchair-accessible excursion.
Do you or a loved one need special accommodations? Most hotels offer them at no extra charge, such as shower seats. If you use a wheelchair or other mobility aid, confirm that your hotel room is wheelchair accessible and request a room near the elevator.
Ask specific questions before your arrival. For example:
- What does an “accessible room” actually mean?
- Is there a walk-in shower and grab bars?
- How close is the room to an elevator?
- Plan to see fewer sites and enjoy them more.
- Give yourself extra time for everything.
- Where possible, book tickets online to avoid entrance lines.
Now that you have done the work, relax and enjoy your trip!
Want more tips? Check out our Getting Around: Transportation and Travel with Parkinson's Expert Briefings webinar.