Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE
Author: Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE, General Practitioner (GP)

Dr Sarah Jarvis is the Clinical Director of the Patient Platform, an active medical writer, broadcaster, and the resident doctor for BBC Radio 2.

While having Parkinson’s Disease shouldn’t stop you from travelling, it could ruin your holiday if you discover certain aspects aren’t accessible to you. Before you book, consider your personal needs. For instance, you may want to avoid hilly destinations if mobility is a challenge.

If you find it hard to hold a tray, you should probably steer clear of hotels with buffet service. And if you need regular access to the bathroom, tours which involve long coach trips aren’t advisable.

Once you’ve picked your destination, some simple precautions will let you make the most of your holiday.

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Travelling with Medication

  • Avoid booking a trip if your medication has been recently changed. It often takes some time for symptoms to stabilise after you start on a new medicine.

  • If you’re travelling through different time zones, you’ll need to think about the timings of your medication. You may need to take an extra tablet, or take your medicine spaced in the same way but at different times. Your medical team can advise.

  • Do make sure you order your regular medicines well in advance from the GP. Take enough to cover the whole holiday and at least a couple of weeks to spare, in case of loss or emergencies.

  • Always carry your medication in your hand luggage. Ideally, split it and put some in your travelling companion’s hand luggage (but do be aware that you’ll need to be together when you go through airport security).

  • Always carry your medication in its original packaging, and take a copy of your repeat prescription with you. Ask your GP or Parkinson’s hospital team for a letter or medical certificate detailing all the medications you’re taking, and any medical conditions you have. This can help with security but is also invaluable if you’re taken ill (there may be a charge for this letter).

  • If you have liquid medicines or dietary foodstuffs, or hypodermic syringes for injections, you are allowed to carry them on board, even if they’re over 100ml. However, your doctor will need to document clearly in a letter what you’re taking and why you need it.

  • Always check with the foreign embassy of the country you’re visiting about their rules for taking medicine into the country. Some medications are restricted or not allowed in certain countries, even if they can be prescribed in the UK. You can find out more about what to do from our blog on taking medication abroad.
Hohenzollern Castle

Before You Travel

  • Think about the timing of your travel – there may be some times of the day when your movement is less good or you’re more drowsy.

  • Consider ordering an alert card from Parkinson’s UK. This wallet-sized card can be used if you’re having problems with communication or movement, to tell people you are living with Parkinson’s.

  • A MedicAlert bracelet or pendant is also a good idea. If you collapse, or can’t move or communicate, it will allow people helping (and ambulance staff) to know what medications you’re taking and provide emergency contact details.

  • Even if you don’t usually use a wheelchair, you may want to use one at the airport, where there are often long walks to the gate. You can request a wheelchair or other assistance free at every airport in the UK – but you’ll need to ask for this at least 2 days before you travel. You can do this through your travel agent, airline, or tour operator.

  • If you’re taking your wheelchair, you’ll need to give the airline information (including make, model, size and whether it’s collapsible) well in advance. You can usually carry two mobility items free of charge and you may be able to use your wheelchair right up to the gate.

  • If you’re parking at the airport, there isn’t usually assistance until you get to the terminal building. However, airport bus services are usually wheelchair accessible (do check when you book parking)

  • When you get to the terminal, go to the assistance point (marked on online airport maps) – there will be a telephone or buzzer if there’s no staff member there when you arrive. A staff member can take you through security to the gate and staff there will help get you on board and help stow your luggage.

  • If you have an implanted device such as a pulse generator for deep brain stimulation, check with your team whether airport scanners could affect this. If your doctor advises that you shouldn’t go through a full-body scanner, you can ask to be scanned differently.
Calming Lake

Whilst You're Abroad

  • If you need a particular seat on the plane (for instance, an aisle seat or a seat with easy access to the toilet) many airlines will allow you to pre-book this. However, be aware that there may be a charge.

  • Low blood pressure (postural hypotension) is a common issue for people with Parkinson’s. Make sure you keep your fluid intake up both while you’re travelling and at your destination. This is particularly important if you’re going to a hot country or if you’ll be out and about for long periods while you’re away.

  • Most European airports offer free assistance at your destination – but do check with your travel agent, tour operator, or airline in advance. Remember that not all destinations have accessible.

  • If you need other aids such as a raised toilet seat while you’re away, check with your hotel in advance whether they provide them. Otherwise, your hotel or travel agent may be able to advise where you can hire equipment locally.

  • The UK is no longer part of the EU Disabled Parking Card scheme. However, If you have issues with mobility and have a badge through the Blue Badge scheme, you can use this in some EU countries, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. However, do be aware that parking concessions vary in different countries. Make sure you check the details for the country you’re visiting. For instance, in some countries, you can use your blue badge but need to display it along with a notice in the local language. You can download and print one before you leave from the UK website.

  • If you’re travelling in the EU, Switzerland, or Montenegro, you can use a UK GHIC card. This offers you access to reduced-cost (or sometimes free) emergency health care. However, it doesn’t cover all medical conditions or eventualities, so it’s always essential to take out private travel insurance or medical insurance even if you have a GHIC.

  • Always make sure you take out specialist insurance which covers any medical condition you have. If you don’t, you could be denied cover and medical costs can be prohibitive.
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A pre-existing is any medical condition for which medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment was recommended or received before applying for a travel insurance policy. For some conditions, we'll need to know if they have ever been present, whilst for others if they occurred within a certain period.

A pre-existing condition is a diagnosed medical condition that existed before taking out a policy. We'll ask a series of questions about the medical history for you and any travellers on your quote. If you answer yes to any of these, you will need to tell us about the traveller's conditions. This could be a condition that a traveller has now or has had in the past. If you are not sure what conditions you need to declare, we have online support available to help you 24/7!

No, we are unable to provide cover with any of your pre-existing medical conditions excluded.

If you don't travel much then a single trip cover is perfect as you can cover specific dates suited to your trip. If you have cancellation cover, you'll also benefit from this as soon as you buy your policy.

If you travel 2 or more times a year, it may be cheaper for you to go for an annual multi-trip cover. It's best to start your annual trip cover as soon as possible, as if you have cancellation cover, you'll only benefit from this from your policy start date.

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