In the US, schools have let out for the summer and you know what that means? Family vacations! But if you suffer from neuropathy, vacations can be a bit of a daunting prospect. How can you be sure everything will be accessible for you? It’s so easy to forget medications when away from home, how can you keep your schedule intact? Luckily, we’re here to help so you can enjoy time with your family without stressing the details!
Planning ahead is the best tool in your toolbox! Going into a trip fully prepared is the best way to make sure you can relax and enjoy the experience without worrying about the what-ifs, because you’ve already planned for them!
First, make an itinerary! It can help you keep your schedule consistent away from home and makes trips a lot less stressful if you know you’ll be able to visit everything you want to see. Make sure you schedule in meals and plenty of breaks! Traveling is tiring (especially if you’re in a different time zone) and it’s far too easy to overestimate how much energy you’ll have. If you’re travelling with grandchildren, building an itinerary might seem like a waste of time. After all, kids rarely keep to a schedule, so why make a plan that will end up getting tossed out anyway? But having an itinerary, even if only a few people use it, makes it easier for the whole group. If the kids want to deviate, it’s good for them to know where to meet up with you if they’re alone or if they’re going with a guardian.
Second, contact everywhere you’re planning to visit to arrange any accommodations you might require. All public transportation and businesses in the US are required by law to provide a certain level of disability accommodations, but some of these accommodations might need to be booked ahead of time. So it’s always best to call in advance to make sure everything is set up for you.
For some, just getting to your destination might be the most stressful part of the trip. Luckily, there are ways to make your trip as comfortable as possible. First of all, make sure you’re dressed comfortably. Wear comfortable shoes, loose clothing, and compression socks (though we highly recommend learning the risks and benefits of compression socks beforehand). If possible, book seating where you can move and stretch as much as you need. And remember, even if you reserve disability accommodations ahead of time, you might still need to provide proof of disability upon arrival if your disability isn’t immediately visible. So make sure you have your documentation close at hand.
If you’re flying to your destination, you can always request assistance such as boarding in advance (though this will typically need to be booked ahead of time). Most airplanes also have special wheelchairs that can fit down the aircraft’s aisle if you can’t walk to your seat. Since the shoe and clothing removal typically required for security checks can be difficult for some people with neuropathy, you can always call the TSA helpline ahead of time to request assistance with security screenings.
Subways and trains are a cheap and fun way to travel, as long as you know what you’re doing. Some subways systems have reduced fare for elderly and disabled customers, but might require you to get a special card, so don’t wait until the day of your trip to start the process! Another important thing to remember, not all subway or train stations are accessible! In fact, only about 25% of subway stations in NYC are considered accessible. So make sure you're checking maps and websites so you know which stations will work best for you. Amtrack recommends calling their stations ahead of time to get up-to-date information on their accessibility options. They also recommend making a special reservation if you use a wheelchair or require a service animal.
If you’re going on a cruise, make sure you know your cruise line’s policies on mobility devices! Some companies provide them at no extra cost, but are only able to accommodate a limited number of passengers with mobility restrictions. Other companies will only provide assistance for embarkation and debarkation, requiring that you bring your own mobility device or rent one for the rest of the trip. Most cruise ships will include their dimensions on their website so you can make sure your mobility devices will fit through the doorways and hallways.
If you’re going on a good old-fashioned road trip, make sure you stop often for breaks, stretching, and short walks!
Make sure you pack extra medication and medical supplies (such as diabetes test strips) in case of emergency or delay in returning home. Carry all medication and medically necessary items in their original containers in your carry-ons. This will ensure that they arrive with you and stay on your person, even if your checked luggage gets lost or delayed. If possible, request a written prescription from your doctor so you can refill your medication if need be.
If you use a mobility device or occasionally require one, make sure you plan them into your trip. Most places can provide mobility accommodations if requested ahead of time (scooter rental, beach wheelchair rental, etc), but always make sure you have a backup plan in case something goes wrong. Remember, bike shops are a great place to find replacement parts for wheelchairs if you’re in a pinch!
If you’re concerned about longer distance travel, consider booking a tour guide or as part of a tour group to help you travel long distances.
Even if you don’t usually use a mobility device, consider bringing one just in case. Though you might not use a cane at home, it might be beneficial to use one while traveling. As we’ve said before, traveling in general is tiring, so having that extra tool on hand can help make your trip just a bit easier.
Traveling outside of the US has its own complications. Each country has its own laws governing disabilities and accommodations, so it can’t be assumed that accommodations will be as readily available. For instance, if you use an electric mobility device, find out if you’ll need a power adapter or voltage converter in order to charge it. One of the best sources for information about countries you intend to visit is the US State Department website. We also highly recommend that you visit Mobility International USA’s website to identify overseas disability organizations.
If you’re taking any medications, you should read up on them to make sure they aren’t banned in the country you’re visiting. If they are, make sure to contact your physician to make an alternative care plan. Additionally, find out how your insurance handles out of country expenses. Most insurance plans don’t cover medical costs overseas, so you should consider getting travel insurance. The best plans will cover medical and evacuation expenses.
Phone plans also don’t typically transfer internationally. To protect yourself from outrageous roaming fees, you should consider setting up a roaming plan with your cellular provider. Another option, if you prefer working with local companies, would be to buy a new SIM card once you arrive overseas and purchase a prepaid data plan for your visit. Though be warned, if you’re on a payment plan through your cellular provider, you might need to finish paying off your phone before putting in a new SIM card. It's best to explore your options to make the best decision for your situation.
Finally, all US citizens and nationals should sign up for the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This program allows the State Department to keep travelers informed on safety conditions abroad, contact travels in case of emergency, and help family and friends get in touch with travelers.
Treatment on the Go
No matter where you’re traveling or how you’re choosing to get there, consider bringing the ReBuilder® with you to treat your neuropathy! The ReBuilder® is a sophisticated medical device created to relieve your neuropathy symptoms with absolutely no side effects, using gentle electrical pulses to retrain your nerves in just 30 minutes. Its battery-powered, compact design makes it perfect for packing in carry-on bags without having to worry about finding a power socket for charging while you’re on the go.
Feel free to call us directly at 877-717-5487 with any questions, or check out our Find A Doctor page to try the ReBuilder® for yourself! For extra information on traveling with the ReBuilder® or to print a travel form, check out our Traveling with ReBuilder page.
- Traveling with Peripheral Neuropathy - The Foundation For Peripheral Neuropathy (foundationforpn.org)
- How to Manage Neuropathy Symptoms While Traveling - FAP News Today
- Wheelchair-Accessible Transportation | Mobility International USA (miusa.org)
- Traveling with Disabilities (state.gov)
- Considerations for Older Travelers (state.gov)
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