Life with MS

Using Technology to Stay Safe While Traveling

By Joanne Fortunato
Traveling is exciting, but there are certain stressors linked to traveling even for healthy people. If you have any health issues, it can add a level of complexity that requires a lot of extra forethought and planning. Technology can help ease this stress so you can spend more time enjoying your trip and less time worrying about your health and safety. Whether you’re traveling in the United States or abroad there are helpful ways you can minimize your anxiety and manage your basic travel needs. Unless otherwise noted the ideas presented in this article are for general travel and any modification needed for travel outside the United States will be noted.

Protecting your info

It is really important for pertinent information and documentation to be easily accessible. This should include medical information, emergency contacts, and identification such as a passport or any other picture ID. If you travel overseas with a companion, you should give them a copy of this information. In addition to a paper copy that you keep in a hotel or wherever you are staying, you and your companion should store a digital copy on your phone or tablet. The easiest way to store it is the note app. However, almost all current technology has a built-in health app you can use to store this data. Just put the health app on your home screen or in the task bar with your other important apps.

You may have heard about RFID (radio frequency ID) chips. They are on everything from credit cards to passports. This means a device that reads frequency information can be used by someone with nefarious intentions just passing nearby. The chip can be buried in your purse or backpack but it is still emitting a frequency that can be intercepted. Purchase an RFID sleeve protector for each item that has a chip. They are simple sleeves that block the frequency from being emitted until it is removed to be used. They can be purchased easily from most stores or online.

Unfortunately, technology products are high targets for thieves. There are many companies that make travel accessories that are “theft proof.” Travelon is a good place to start your search. For example, good theft-proof accessories with steel cables that can’t be sliced and have built-in RFID protection. A good theft-proof purse or backpack is a necessity. A neck strap or clip for your phone is a good idea. You can purchase a steel phone clip on Amazon. This prevents theft and loss.

Staying energized, connected

You need a charger and the cables needed to connect to the charger. If traveling outside the U.S., you may need a universal electricity adapter that can be easily purchased at almost any large retail store or online. It is also recommended that you buy a spare battery that you can put in a purse or backpack. Buy one with built-in cables. The spare battery needs to be charged before you use it and can be charged with a cable and a standard charger. If your phone or tablet battery runs low while you’re out and about, you can easily recharge it on the go.

Keeping in touch and getting Internet access while traveling is easy if you’re in the U.S., but if you’re traveling abroad, it requires a little more technical savviness. If you have access to Wi-Fi, you can talk, text, and search just like you normally do. However, without Wi-Fi you need to connect to a cell tower. There are two basic ways to handle this issue. The first, but usually more expensive way, is to purchase an international plan with the company that you use to provide your Internet such as AT&T. Secondly, you can purchase an international SIM card. You can buy it before you go. If you’re not sure how to change your SIM card, a store such as Best Buy will have staff that can help you.

There’s an app for that

If you have specific issues you are concerned about, it is almost guaranteed that an Internet search for traveling with disabilities will yield great results with helpful information and ideas. Because MS presents with such a variety of symptoms, the number of useful apps will also vary widely. The few resources and apps listed below will get you started. Scoot Around has a wonderful checklist for travelers with disabilities. Start your exploration at this site. Rick Steves has great guide for international travelers with disabilities. It is a must-read for all travelers, but especially those that are disabled. A particularly common problem for all travelers and especially those with MS is finding clean, accessible bathrooms. Tom’s Guide to Best Restroom Finder Apps is a great place to start.

In addition, just getting around can be difficult, especially with a wheelchair, walker, cane, or other mobility aid, and can present various obstacles. It is highly recommended that you book your trip with a company that is disability-friendly, if possible. They will have guides that will be able to assist you and will know which sites are accessible and therefore, avoid potential issues. Use the Internet to gather as much information about the sites you have chosen to visit beforehand. It is extremely helpful to get a visual image if possible, that way you can spot potential problems.

Visiting the places you have read about or seen on TV is an experience that is unrivaled. More and more historic places are updating their facilities to accommodate travelers with disabilities. Pack your suitcase and explore with confidence. It’s only a disability if you let it hold you back.