Travelling with MS

Tue 25 July 2023

Craig Watson

Craig Watson, from Falkirk, Scotland, enjoyed travelling before his MS diagnosis and he wasn’t going to let his condition put a stop to his trips. He just does things a bit differently now.

Never let MS be a blocker to travel. Let’s be honest, you were never going to visit Machu Picchu (it used to be on my bucket list) or the Great Wall of China anyway!

Picking a hotel can take some effort, but in the end that effort is always worthwhile. If, like me, you spend hours poring over hotels on the internet, looking for a hotel with disabled access is only a tick box away. And reading reviews from an accessibility point of view is only as time-consuming as reading any review.

Talking temperature

I’m sensitive to the cold (not great when you live in Scotland) but there are always heaters to consider. Or I can choose a venue that would suit better, remembering though that there are others on the holiday too and it’s not all about me.

When I go to the airport, I always use the assistance services available. Getting assistance is a great way to help. And you can also skip queues!

Find out more about accessible transport and MS 

Reducing stress

Since my diagnosis I've travelled extensively. I’ve gone from wearing a sunflower lanyard to using a wheelchair. I always, always use the accessibility services that are on offer. It helps to make the start of your holiday as stress free as possible. And let’s be honest, the less stress you experience, the better for you and the better your holiday will be.

Read Manisha’s experience of travelling with the sunflower lanyard

I'm not going to lie, getting to and into the toilet on a plane is awkward. But you can get an aisle wheelchair or get help from the aircrew. Due to a huge queue, and showing my ‘I have MS’ card, I was once taken by aircrew from economy to 1st class for the loo! I have found airline staff are always keen to help, especially once they know you are differently abled.

I’m fortunate I can stand and stumble a step or two. So I take my own wheelchair and check it in then use one of the airport’s to get around and up to the plane.

Arriving in style

Getting to the hotel is a whole different, and better, experience. I don’t have to try and get on a coach, then spend hours waiting while they’re dropping people off around the area. I tend to get private transfers to and from the hotel, as managing the coach steps is no longer possible. This tends to mean taxis laid on by the travel company. It costs a bit more, around £50, but I feel it’s worth it. You even get made to feel important by someone holding a sign with your name on it at the airport!

Once I get to where I’m going, having the option of an accessible hotel room is great. Okay, I may have a lower room than I would like, but I will have a room I can use.

Accessible rooms tend to be bigger and newer (and this is one occasion where size does matter!) Hotel and resort staff tend to look out for me more. I’ve been places where the staff have been relaxed and it's been the customers who have looked at me strangely.

Words are important

Each country has its own way of dealing with disabled people. In Dubai, you are not disabled or handicapped but ‘a person of determination’. This is only a change of wording but it is so important. We're not disabled, we're determined in our abilities. And we are differently abled, not disabled.

Little things make a big difference

Small things that were never thought important before, now mean so much to me. Yes, that means more thought than just quickly booking a break. A shower over the bath to some is just a shower, whereas to me it’s impossible and the difference between getting washed and not.

Puerto Rico in Gran Canaria is nice but it’s not great for wheelchairs. But Playa del Ingles just along the coast (where I’m heading soon) is flat and, unless you are accompanied by the Hulk, much more suited to wheelchairs.

Read about financial support available for holidays, short breaks and respite care

I try to do whatever it takes to avoid as much stress as can (I always say yes to the boss!) That way our sanity is protected and my companions can enjoy the break as much as possible.

We're just as entitled to enjoy a break as anyone else. Just because I can no longer take the stairway to Heaven (the steps to the plane) I should not be consigned to the highway to Hell (hours on the road needing the loo!)