Many people who have Parkinson’s regularly travel domestically and internationally on holiday or for business.

There is no reason why Parkinson’s should prevent you from travelling. Even if it does occasionally present problems these can be overcome with careful planning and advice is available from a number of sources. Talking to others who have travelled while living with Parkinson’s is a great way to get some hints, tips, do’s and don’ts.

Taking Medications Overseas
When planning a trip overseas, organising your medicine is one of the most important things you can do. If you require prescription medicine, it is important you have this medicine with you so you remain in good health while you are away.

Carrying the amount of medication required in your hand luggage during the transportation part of your journey is vitally important so that your medication is immediately at hand as required. When flying, if your hand luggage is placed in a locker, let staff know that you will require assistance when the time comes to take your medication so they are prepared and aware that you will require assistance.

Some medications such as the Neupro Transdermal Patch (Rotigotine) needs to be stored at a specific temperature. For those a small cooler lunch box style pack with a chill block placed inside can help to keep them cool while in transit. You should discuss any other concerns about medication with your doctor or pharmacist prior to travelling.

When on domestic travel, it’s not enough to rely on taking a prescription with you. Some medications are not readily stocked at all pharmacies. If they need to order it in it will mean having to wait which can pose a problem if you run out or won’t be available in that area to collect it. If you will be staying domestically in an area for a long period that will require a prescription being filled, contact a pharmacy prior to make arrangements for them to have it available for you if it is not something they readily stock.

When travelling internationally it is illegal to take Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines out of Australia unless the medicine is for your personal use, or the personal use of someone travelling with you.

If you are planning to take PBS medicines overseas for your own personal use or the personal use of someone travelling with you, you should:

  • read the travel advice and check with the embassies of the countries you’re visiting (Contact the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for details) to make sure your medicine is legal there
  • carry a letter from your doctor detailing what the medicine is, how much you’ll be taking and stating the medicine is for your personal use or the personal use of someone with you (for example, a child)
  • leave the medicine in its original packaging so it can be easily identified.

More information on travelling with medicines and medical devices:

Language and Communication
It may be helpful to find out how to say “I have Parkinson’s disease” and other useful phrases in the language of the country you are visiting, in case of emergencies. For people who have speech or hearing impairment, particularly when using visual tools, having a pocket translator can be helpful to be able to communicate in other languages

Transportation and Mobility
It is important when booking transport including flights, transfers, cruises, barges, trains, buses and taxis, to notify them of any mobility assistance you may require. Not all facilities are suitable for people with mobility assistance requirements. Make your reservations with your airline, railway service etc early, wherever possible, and let them know what special assistance you may require.

Remember however that most airlines and other transport services are often very helpful with disabled passengers if they know in advance. They will arrange wheelchair escorts or arrange for you to be boarded first. This can be particularly important on long haul flights or flights involving transfers.

You may find it helpful to call several airlines and compare the different levels of service offered, choosing the airline that best suits your particular needs.

Travel Insurance
Like all insurance you need to read the fine print. Check the PDS from your insurer and clarify any concerns with them directly prior to travel. Ensure you notify the insurer of any pre-existing conditions and ask for information on what may be excluded from your cover because of that.

In Case Of An Emergency
Always keep your emergency info on you. A medic alert bracelet or a card that you carry in your purse. In the event you are rendered unconscious or are unable to communicate, whomever is providing assistance will need access to as much information as you can provide. Remember to include somewhere the medications you CANNOT have. For more information on these, speak to your doctor.

Comforts of home
Keep a bag specifically with all the bits and pieces you keep handy at home along with medication. Straws for people with swallowing difficulties, hand wipes, band aides or a mini first aid pack, an eye mask for sleeping and comfortable clothing.

General Tips
It is important to drink plenty of fluids. Bottled water is safest in many international countries and should be carried with you on outings. Drinking plenty of water or soft non-fizzy drinks and avoiding alcohol on flights will help to lessen dehydration and jet lag. Jet lag can seem worse on the return home. Don’t be surprised if you feel extra tired for a few days.

Many people increase their activity on holidays. Some people benefit from changing dosages of Levodopa during these periods and you should discuss this with your doctor.

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