Power of Pain: Avoiding Summer Travel Pain Storms

By Barby Ingle, Columnist

If you’re flying somewhere this summer, chances are you’ll have to contend with overcrowded terminals, flight delays, and security checkpoints. There are ways to make traveling easier and less stressful for chronic pain patients.

My first suggestion is to pack your medications in a carry-on bag. If your luggage gets lost, you won’t have to worry about where or how to get your medications.

Airport terminals are hectic and people are at a frantic pace, so by arriving early you can go at a slower, more relaxed pace and make the hassles of dealing with disabilities more manageable. Your goal is to make it to your destination on time, in a low pain level, and in a good mood.

When you decide to make a trip, it is best to plan ahead. I use the Internet to get destination information. I check out the floor plans of the airports I am coming and going from, and what types of foods are available in the terminals. I also request handicapped services from the airline, bus depot, car rental company, and hotel ahead of time.

If you are on oxygen, let the airline know 30 days prior to travel or as soon as you know that you will be flying. In-flight oxygen needs to be prearranged, and there is typically a charge. Then call 24 to 48 hours before your flight to confirm the oxygen arrangements.

At the airport, if traveling alone, bring tip money. I try to bring one-dollar bills and tip a dollar for each bag that I am assisted with, both when I am departing and at my destination. I also pay the person pushing my wheelchair one to two dollars for their assistance. I also have a scooter, so I do not always have to pay for the wheelchair assistance.

It is not mandatory to pay for help; however, the person pushing you often works for tips only or tips with a low wage.

Be sure to let them know if you want to make any stops to use the restroom or purchase food while they are assisting you. When they bring you to your gate, ask to be “parked” at the door or the start of the line. Make sure that the airline person sees you. If you sit off to the side, they may miss you, and you will not be able to take advantage of pre-boarding.

If you need extra time and assistance, you may have a problem. Typically, the flight attendant or ground crew comes over to me and moves me up in the plane if I have a seat towards the back, and they ask me if I need any assistance walking, or if I need an aisle chair to get to my seat.

Sometimes I board with the first group, when they call for people who need assistance. I do not tip the attendant who brings me down the jet way.

When I pre-board, once on the plane, if I need to take medication or I am nauseated, I ask for a small glass of water. If they do give you a glass of water, they must take it back before the plane takes off, so make sure you drink what you need when they give it to you.

Let them know while in flight if you need assistance in using the restroom or need blankets and pillows for comfort.

When you arrive at your destination, stay in your seat until your wheelchair assistance has arrived. They typically ask you to wait until the other passengers unload so that you do not hold them up or so that they do not bump against you and cause you further injury.

At baggage claim, if you are alone, ask the assistant to get your luggage and to bring you outside to meet your party. Once you are in a place you do not need assistance, give them their tip and thank them, so they may go help other travelers needing assistance.

Barby Ingle suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the Power of Pain Foundation. She is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics.

More information about Barby can be found at her website.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.