Posted by: Kelley Dees | November 14, 2011

Vacation Salvation: Traveling with a chronic condition

It’s getting to be that time of year. Are you planning a trip over the hills and through the snow? Or maybe a little farther than that? Do you or a loved one have a chronic condition or disability that makes travel difficult? Not to worry! Today, we’re going to look five steps to take to make your holiday travels smooth.

Know the Feds’ Rules:Most of us know that airport Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents will snatch big shampoo bottles from travelers’ carry-on luggage, but ill or disabled passengers can bring larger than normally allowed containers of health-related fluids on a plane–including juices or nutritional gels. How do you get through security though? If your medication is larger than 3.4 ounces or doesn’t fit in a one-quart, ziptop plastic bag, you must declare it to a TSA agent. To be on the safe side, bring the prescription label and a letter from your physician.

Put the “Air” in Airline:

No, you can’t just bring an oxygen tank on a plane. But the government does require airlines to let passengers bring on board portable oxygen concentrators (POCs), which don’t use compressed oxygen. There are currently eleven devices that are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Be sure to call your airline ahead of time to be certain that your device is approved and to also alert them of your use of that device during your flight.

Most cruises allow portable oxygen onboard, but call the cruise line at least four to six weeks in advance and get a letter from your doctor. Amtrak permits supplemental oxygen, but you must give at least 12 hours’ advance notice and book your train reservation over the phone, rather than online.

CPAP devices (which treat sleep apnea) are also permitted on airliners, but be sure to disclose this to your airline prior to your trip to ensure no snags on your date of travel.

Know the rules:

Most airline carriers allow travelers with assistive devices (such as a wheelchair or CPAP machine) to carry those items in addition to other carry-on allowances. However, it’s best to check ahead and let the airline know as far in advance as possible so that they can be prepared to accommodate those items. Also, if you will need assistance from check-in through the airport to reach your gate, the sooner you make arrangements with airport staff, the better.

Solve the Dialysis Dilemma:

Airlines can’t deny boarding for a passenger with a dialysis machine, as long as it can be stowed. If you’re planning a cruise, there are companies that have ships that provide dialysis while at sea, just do a Google search to find one such company. You can also find dialysis centers where your ship will be docking or wherever you plan to travel by searching firms such as DialysisFinder or Global Dialysis.

Plan for emergencies:

Getting emergency care or transportation home when you’re sick or injured can cost a fortune. For information on evacuation services and traveler medical insurance, see the U.S. State Department’s website.

Before you go…be prepared:

  1. Have your doctor provide required medical paperwork for carriers and tour companies.
  2. Call the company you’re traveling with to confirm its rules and restrictions–and get them in writing.
  3. Consider getting a medical ID bracelet or card, or carrying your medical records on an encrypted USB computer drive.

This information is provided courtesy of the Wyoming AgrAbility Project. For more information, visit our website or call toll-free at 866-395-4986.

This information is adapted from AARP Magazine, Volume 53, Number 4C.


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