*This blog does not endorse any particular product

Travelling post- stroke can be a rewarding and satisfying adventure as well as being wonderful for elevating your mood. We all know how easy it is to closet ourselves away when we are feeling blue, and wrap ourselves in sorrow and misery. I speak from experience when I say it sometimes takes a lot effort just to summon the energy to go to the store for a loaf of bread. Believe me, the struggle and effort to organize a trip are well worth it. If you’re a caregiver, spouse, or other travelling companion of a stroke thriver, it really helps to do a lot of the leg-work for the strokie because the effort of planning can be really exhausting. Make some reasonable suggestions, but don’t overdo it, the worst thing for ‘strokie’s’ sense of self-worth is not having a voice. It can be a difficult line to walk, but worth it in the end.

The photo at the front of my blog is one taken in Portugal, my first major excursion after my stroke and I loved it.

Once you’ve generated the will power needed to go, a kind of kinetic energy is released that feeds itself. In other words the more you do, the more you will want to do.


I will borrow an old saw from the girl-guides for trouble-free traveling after stroke: BE PREPARED. Do your homework. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to surprise. Plan for unforeseen events and you will do just fine. Preparation is the key
I can’t stress this enough. Prepare and then prepare some more.

March 5/2012

Read the Fine Print: Not All Travel Insurance is Equal

More Tips:

March 6/2012

More On Medical Insurance for Travelers

*The author does not endorse any one product or company.

March 7/2012

Watch Marketplace on CBC Friday March 9 at 8 pm to see an episode about the pitfalls of travel insurance. For those of you not in our viewing area, check their website. You will be able to view it in a few days.

March 8/2012

Goverment of Ontario Coverage for Travel Insurance


Another vital essential is to SAVE ENERGY WHERE YOU CAN.  Try not to exert yourself too much. Let others help, use the resources available to you and BE PATIENT. The wheels of transport move slowly at times and it is better to proceed knowing there will be delays and planning for them, rather than getting frustrated. You will get there eventually. Getting all worked about things will only exhaust you.


 My daughters told me once, when I was complaining about the crowds at malls, to “Bubble” when I feel stressed by people. ‘Bubbling’ involves visualizing that you are surrounded by a large impermeable sound-proof bubble, a silent sphere of peace. It works really well for me. Try it.

If possible travel in the morning when you are the freshest. If you have to travel overnight take a sleeping pill once on board and ask the attendant not to disturb you with meals. Take along eye shades and top-rated noise cancelling head phones (*a bit cumbersome) or an MP3 player with good ear buds that give a good seal in your ear.


Allow time for rest periods and naps. I usually find that after one or two days of sight-seeing I need a day of total rest. My husband adjusts for this and plans a day of alone time to do things I don’t want to do, or can’t do due to physical limitations. He loves a day just to potter about on his own. I stay at the hotel and read or watch a movie and sleep as much as I can. The next day I’m raring to go. Remember, accidents and mistakes are more likely to happen if you are tired.


There are many, many places that are handicap friendly and accessible. A trek in the Amazon jungle or bungee jumping may not be the best choice for you (although Rick Hansen tried it!).

If your spouse is dying to be extra adventuresome, take separate vacations. Caregivers need some time to travel unburdened, and your unselfishness will be rewarded many times over. Every two years my husband plans a trip to places that are not comfortable or easy for me, like the mountains of Ethiopia or the bustling cities of India. And he arrives home refreshed and (usually ;  > ) glad to see me.



Many hotels are required by law to have an accessible room-call ahead to see if one is available.

Some hotels have shower stalls separate from the bathtub or rooms with shower stalls only. When I first started travelling after my stroke I found these easier and safer to negotiate. Also, shallower tubs are occasionally available.

*Note that some hotel bathroom floors are extremely slippery when wet- marble floors are nasty-watch out for this.

Some older inns have many stairs and convoluted narrow hallways, but occasionally have rooms on the main floor that are easier to negotiate. Remember, not all hotels have elevators-ask, don’t assume.

Email the hotels managers in advance to inquire about accessibility-most are very accommodating and upfront about difficulties-remember they don’t want you to have an accident any more than you do.

The entrances of many European hotels are situated way above street level and may require hiking quite a few stairs. Sometimes you can access the hotel by a service elevator.


Some are accessible and some are not-phone ahead.


Motels are often on one level and you can park your car in front or near your room, so are good choices when travelling. These are found less often in Europe however.


Again some are accessible and some not. Access at Last or other disability sites list available accessible listings in many countries.

I find it much easier and less tiring to stay in one place as long as possible when travelling . Less travel time and luggage packing and hauling help to conserve your precious energy. You will also have a familiar home base that you are comfortable with for those important rest times.


Don’t be a bore and over- stay your welcome. Unless you visit with extremely close friends or family members, keep it brief. Even then the patience of loved ones is limited. Let’s face it, we need extra help most of the time, and this is tiring for even the most gracious hostess.



Negotiating airport mazes can be exhausting and confusing for the most able-bodied of us, especially if you have to change planes en route. Going from point A to point B can be a very long haul if you are disabled, so use help that is available to you.

Book your tickets well in advance so you can reserve seats with the most leg room, usually under the bulkhead. These go quickly. If these are all booked, try and get a seat near the washroom. Airlines generally sit us gimps together at the front of the plane. This is so the flight attendants can more easily serve you. Usually you get your drinks and dinner first!

I find walking in a moving plane difficult. Not only are the aisles narrow but I find it hard to keep upright, especially if there is some turbulence. I end up being thrown into the lap of some hapless traveler or upsetting someone’s drink. Walking is especially difficult if you have only one arm to balance you. If you watch others, they tend to use both arms for safe passage down the aisle, so it’s no wonder that only having one for balance can be precarious.

When you are close to the bathroom you can more easily see when it is unoccupied, so you can make a (relative) dash for it. It’s no fun waiting in line on jerky airplane.

Unless you are a Lego man, using the toilet is a challenge because of the tight quarters. I always carry alcohol wipes for the seat because I find balancing in the air in a crouched position during turbulence nearly impossible. You would have a giggle if you saw me trying to haul up my pants in those close quarters.

Wear loose clothes that are easy to manipulate.

You men have it much easier. You could even use a bottle at your seat if you are very discreet and have a companion that could act as a shield. Ask the airline though, if this is permitted. Or if you are a wealthy inebriated actor you could find other ways to relieve yourself while flying ;  >

For these reasons I try hard not to use the bathroom when flying, though obviously it’s unavoidable for longer flights. I use the airport bathroom just before departure and try not to drink too many liquids en route. It’s important to stay hydrated while flying though, so don’t fast.

I waffle between choosing the window seat or the aisle, and the choice depends largely on having a travelling companion. Window seats allow you to tuck yourself away from the crowd which is nice, and if you’re accompanied by a loved one who doesn’t mind being the gopher, or being clumsily climbed over, this is great. When I’m alone, I sit on the aisle because I find it extremely difficult to negotiate my way out of several seats. It’s annoying for those people who sit in front of you, because you have to pull on their seat backs and jostle them in order to haul yourself up to get out.

 If you’re apologetic, most people tolerate some jostling. I have to make sure that I keep my affected leg clear of the aisle, however; it occasionally gets loose and trips people up (it seems to have a mind of it’s own) or I get stomped on, which is entirely my own fault.
Bulkhead seats are much easier for all of the above of course.


If you are travelling alone and need assistance, tell the airline in advance and they will have someone take you to the plane and meet you at your destination. Usually they provide a wheelchair to get you up and down the ramp and a motorized trolley to go between the gates. Check they have arranged this just before you leave home, but always be prepared for miscommunication. Be patient and repeat nicely that you require assistance. ‘Nicely’ does not mean being walked all over though. Be assertive; but you don’t have to be nasty. Poor behaviour gets you nowhere and it certainly won’t make you feel any better.


Keep your documents handy. You want to avoid fumbling about for things if you can.
“The Pup or Personal Utility Pouch” is one product that has been developed for disabled travelers.

An over-the-neck document holder such as the one pictured below, leaves hands (or hand) free.

Remember you  need  photo identification with in addition to your passport.

You will need accompaniment in order to go through customs at the special booth they have reserved for diplomatic employees and others, and those needing assistance. Occasionally if you just show up and it can easily be seen that you’re disabled, the officer at the gate is happy to serve you. But be prepared for scrutiny, there are a lot of cheaters out there. Don’t feel guilty about using this gate; standing in long lines is exhausting and personally I can’t do it.

Get over the uncomfortable feeling of being stared at. People are by nature curious, although there are some more slack-jawed than others. Ignorance will always abound. Don’t let it bug you-remember just bubble.

 If you are heavy like me, ask for a strong person to wheel you- ramps to planes are steep and sometimes the airline companies send tiny ladies to help you. These exhausted employees inevitably complain verbally, or by looks and heavy breathing. I find this humiliating. Sometimes you have to be firm and ask them to stop. Or ignore it. Most folks though, are extremely kind.

When it’s time to board, keep an eye on the flight announcers. Sit in the designated pre-flight handicap area so you are visible. Let them know you’re there. Remind the employees to give you enough time to board before they let on the rest of the passengers. Ninety percent of the time it’s fine, but I have been stampeded occasionally.

Be very careful when storing your things in webbing in front of your seat. I’ve dropped things occasionally and it can be the devil to retrieve them. Wearing eyeglass strings can be useful. Ask someone to help you store your coat and bag in the overhead bins, don’t waste your energy struggling with them.



Bring along a week’s worth of medication on the plane. I use a 7-day container. You don’t want to lose your luggage and be without your pills.

Keep taking your meds on time, your body doesn’t know you are going into another time zone (well, your brain does). You don’t want to try and remember what to take and when, when you are fuzzy-headed. Gradually change your medication regime to the new time.
Customs require the original prescription bottles to be in a plastic bag like this one.

I always comply, but have never been asked for them. But it’s just when you don’t bother that you get zinged. Very small amounts of liquids may be allowed on the plane-check with customs. Again don’t take a chance and assume anything.
Write a list of current medications and put it with your other documents. Include the phone number and name of your General Practitioner, and document allergies. I also include a short medical history. In an emergency your medical personnel will want to have a quick overview of your past illnesses.
Include the phone number of your pharmacy. If you lose some medication you can go into a local pharmacy and they will phone your pharmacist at home for verification, and supply you with replacements.

Constipation is a real problem when you are travelling and it’s important for your travelling companions to be aware of this. Ask your doctor for a gentle-acting laxative that you can take at bedtime if you need it. Try to get some exercise in the early morning (in the hotel gym or go for a short walk) and allow yourself some time for your morning ablutions. Eat well, make healthy choices, and include plenty of roughage.
Wear a medical alert tag. It’s the first thing emergency workers look for in case of accident. And they are not all hideous anymore.


Always get the most comprehensive medical insurance available. Don’t scrimp here. International medical fees can kill you.
Bring well-worn comfortable shoes for travel-this is not the time to get blisters.

Well, perhaps not this well-worn.
If you do get a blister, Moleskin works well.

I usually leave on my shoes on a long flight because my feet tend to swell, and on arrival I can’t get my shoes on again (I have walked off a plane in stocking feet!).  But if you do bring slippers, make sure they fit well in order to prevent trips and  falls. As a physiotherapist friend of mine says, “carpets can be unforgiving”, and planes always have carpets; some that are not in the best condition.


An embolism is a detached mass (often, but not always, a blood clot) that can travel in your bloodstream and obstruct an airway or block a blood vessel (this precipitates some kinds of strokes). They are dangerous, can be life-threatening, and are a very real potential hazard when travelling.

When you sit still, blood tends to pool in your lower extremities and this static state can lead to clotting. Anti-embolic stockings provide gentle pressure on your leg muscles (normally taken care of by your muscles when walking), thereby improving circulation. These stockings can be quite difficult to put on however, and when I travel alone I ask my husband to help me on with them before I leave.
Development of blood clots is something you must be attentive to. Try to get up and walk every few hours, and contract your leg muscles from time to time while seated to keep blood flowing.
See the following web-site for the proper method for applying compression stockings:
*The stockings pictured above are intended for people with wounds and I haven’t used them professionally or personally, but they look as if they may be easier to put on, especially for those of us with one functioning hand.
There are compression socks and stockings available at pharmacies and sport or travel stores that are more attractive than the white ones, but make sure they go up to your knees or higher. Take them off when you’re not travelling unless your doctor advises otherwise.


I‘ve travelled by rail several times since I’ve had a stroke and it’s a relaxing way to go, although some trains were more pleasant than others. I spoke with a disabled person who travelled recently with Via Rail, and she told me travelling on the new trains they recently purchased are like riding on an amusement ride….and its not amusing. Very jerky.

 The most difficult things about travelling on a train, like on a plane, is going to the bathroom, and walking in the aisles. In fact, on a train it’s much worse than on a plane due to the continuous rocking motion. Train bathrooms generally have very heavy sliding doors that I find difficult to open and close. Depending on the speed the train is going, and the terrain it’s going through, you can easily be thrown from side to side. If this happens when you are in the process of disrobing there is a good chance you will fall. You may have to swallow your pride and have someone in the bathroom with you. Performance anxiety can be a problem.

Or maybe not....

If possible, wait until the train stops before getting up. And if you can’t wait, ask for assistance. It’s helpful to have a travelling companion (see below). Try to reserve a seat next to the bathroom for “easier” access. The gap between the last seat and the bathroom can be very wide and you may have to make a dive for the door. Not fun.

In 2008 Transport Canada passed a law requiring some airlines and railways within Canada to allow one care-giver to travel for free if it can be shown that the disabled person cannot travel without help. It’s called One-Person-One Fare. For more information see
This does not apply to international travel…yet.
To qualify you will require a physician’s note no older than 9 months or a card from certified agencies like The March of Dimes.

Information about "One person,One fare" Program From the March of Dimes

My name is Katie Canning and I am the Coordinator of Recreation and Integration Services at March of Dimes Canada.  Your email was sent to me when you had inquired about the Travel Pass (one person one fare) program.  The one person one fare program is a fairly new program that was created in 2008.  Canada based airlines have been ordered to offer travelers with disabilities or whom are clinically obese accompanied by an attendant the ability to fly using one ticket.  The three Canadian based airlines, Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and Westjet follow fairly similar guidelines.  The person traveling with an attendant needs to submit a medical form signed by a doctor stating that they have a disability that requires then to travel with another person. 

Here is the link for Westjet’s policies in regards to the one person one fare program.  The forms that are needed to be filled out by a doctor are printable right from the website.  This is an excellent option for people with disabilities who want or need to travel because it would significantly decrease their travel costs.  Generally the person needing an attendant are expected to pay for an attendants way as well as for their time and services.  This can add up to a very costly vacation.  The ‘one person one fare’ program really opens up doors for people with disabilities who want to travel. 

Within our recreation program we run an accessible travel programs and we organize vacations for people with disabilities as well as for their friends and family throughout the year. 

You can find all of our day trips, and overnight holidays on our website.  In the costs of our trips we provide attendant care as well as all of the taxes and gratuities, any equipment needed ie hoyers, commodes, etc and selected meals and excursions.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like any more information about our travel programs. 

Best regards,

Katie Canning, Recreation and Integration Services Coordinator
March of Dimes Canada

10 Overlea Blvd, Toronto, Ontario  M4H 1A4  
Phone: 416-425-3463 ext. 7288 or Toll-Free: 1-800-263-3463   Fax:  416-425-1920
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Support March of Dimes Canada, celebrating 60 years: 1951 – 2011, by visiting

You must give 48 hours notice of intent to travel to the transport company.

 It can be difficult to board the train depending on the height between the platform and the train. A stool can be provided to make the climb easier or a special moveable platform can lift you to the entrance.


Travelling by car is one of my favourite means of transport. I renewed my license a year or so after my stroke and I drive short distances frequently. I am a confident driver and have never had an accident, but I put limits on highway driving. When younger I was very comfortable driving great distances; I learned to drive in Quebec where you drove well, or you were in trouble. But because fatigue is always a constant with me now, I won’t take a chance driving long distances again, for my sake as well as others.
Of course you will have to determine your own robustness after you’ve been cleared to drive by the Ministry of Transport, but I hope your judgment won’t be clouded by pride and stubbornness. Lives are at stake- and not just your own.

If you feel that you can drive long distances, please:
Discuss it first with your doctor. There are medications available that can help you to stay alert. Modofinil is one.
Get adequate sleep before you drive.
Take frequent breaks.
Stop if you’re tired.

Know well where you’re going. Study maps in advance or use a GPS system or both. You don’t want to get lost and confused-it will sap your energy.

Carry a fully charged cell phone with you (but don’t use it when you drive unless it’s ‘hands free’).
Buy a local Sim card to put in your cell phone to make sure you can get cell-phone connection when you are driving in foreign lands. Find out the service distance. These cards are available in most gas stations and convenience stores. Some companies offer cards that work in more than one country.

Put emergency numbers in the phone, especially local ones, so you can call for help if you need it. Different countries use different emergency codes. Make sure you add prefixes and long distance codes where appropriate.
If you don’t own a cell phone, you can buy prepaid phone cards useable with most landlines. Just follow the instructions that come with the card.

   Don’t go too far off the beaten track without advising someone where you are going.

Take lots of water and snacks, a blanket, shovel, candles , flashlight (checkbatteries) and a good emergency kit. A hand-cranked radio is not a bad idea.

Don’t try left-hand drive (or right, depending on your country of origin) unless you’ve had lots of practice).

Be honest with yourself. Don’t try to do what you really can’t.

Of course never, ever, drink and drive.

These days I prefer to be a passenger, and my husband and I love to take driving vacations. We generally stay on smaller country roads (which are usually far more interesting) and stop well before dark. We plan our route before we leave home and book hotels at reasonable distances.
Although, to be frank we sometimes get a bit lost on purpose and as a result see the most beautiful countryside. Just don’t overdo it.

One time we were mesmerized by a beautiful sunset in Surrey, England and it became dark before we knew it. Surrey roads are convoluted and not lighted, with few poorly visible road signs. It took us a long, nail-biting time to get back to our hotel, and boy, were we famished. Fortunately, when we turned one dark corner seemingly in the middle of nowhere, there stood a brightly lighted and delightful Indian restaurant. Good old England! Nothing like a good curry to soothe the soul!

Keep a pillow on hand to support your arm if you need it. I find right-hand drive cars have little support for my affected right arm which gets very painful after a while if just drooping. I jam a small pillow in the space between the 2 seats to rest my arm on.


Take along your handicap sticker, most countries will accept them, but check the rules for disabled parking in each country you are to visit before you leave home. Handicap parking spaces are pretty much the norm these days. But be careful where you park. My husband and I parked in a no parking zone (by mistake) in Portugal and our car was towed. We had quite a time retrieving it. We had to go to the local police station where they spoke no English, and we ended up driving miles in the pitch black in the back of a  police car to pick it up..and it cost! In Canada towing is prohibited for vehicles with handicap stickers, even in no tow-zones (but you can be ticketed). 


Cruise ships are a great option for many people. My mother-in-law, who goes on cruises often, says it’s nice to only have to unpack once. There are loads of on-board facilities and you can eat your face off. There have been some problems with some cruise ship lines regarding disability tolerance, so beware.
The ‘Cruise Critic’ provides some good tips about accessible cruising.


It’s wonderful to have everything planned for you, but the intense pace of bus touring may be a little too much and leave you little time to rest. I have read criticism that some tour drivers have little patience for those with special needs. If you think this sort of holiday is right for you, research it well and heed reviews. There are special bus tours for the handicapped that may be preferable.


Not all subway stops are accessible. Many, like Toronto, have designated handicap accessible stops and buses. Check before you go.

Subways and trains in some countries are required by law to have designated seats for the disabled. I’ve often seen them occupied by able-bodied people. Don’t be afraid to kick them out (nicely).

I wouldn’t suggest a hiking holiday unless you are really fit, but taking time to explore the countryside by walking is very rewarding.

Many parks have designated their trails by difficulty, and clearly indicated accessible trails on their website or pamphlet. There are ‘mother and baby’ sites which have accessible trails too.
Walking sticks or canes, as well as small lightweight foldable seats, are useful on long hikes . Canes Canada is a good source for these.

I always bring a folding cane while travelling because I don't normally use one except when walking long distances.

As always drink gobs of water, you can get easily dehydrated, and bring along energy snacks.

Speaking of water…..

Ladies, when you can't find a washroom, and there is no waiting, there’s a product called ...(ahem)... a Shewee, that allows you to discreetly pee without getting your bottom cold and makes walking in the woods “bearable”. (I’m sorry, I couldn't resist)

 "Depends" are an option too (who's going to know?)
Another type:



PACK LIGHT- hauling around heavy luggage is exhausting and you pay a high price for weighty luggage these days. Besides you'll have liitle enough room with your neccessary accoutrements. Mail any 'must- have' purchases home.
The easiest type of luggage to move around is luggage on wheels. Companies are making, newer, lighter more durable bags all the time.

Lug’s Rocking Roller
A fine Canadian luggage company is leading the way with light but spacious bags with lots of pockets.

Small rolling bags are now designed that fit under the seat and are much easier than big purses or satchels.I always bring my CPAP machine (for sleep apnea) on the plane in one of these. I never want to lose this piece of luggage.

Handbags should have over-the –shoulder straps to free up hands.

There are lots of luggage firms-shop around until you find something that is comfortable for you. Many intrepid disabled travelers prefer back packs to allow hands free for manipulating canes etc. For some good tips on this topic see the following link:

LL Bean Drop-Bottom Rolling Duffle

Mountain Equipment Co-op is also good source for backpacks


As previously mentioned, well worn comfortable shoes are a must.

Water proof hikers are good for wet and slippery environments. Remember, break them in before you go.
Scarpa Kailash GORE‑TEX Day Hiking Boots (Women's)

Water shoes are a good bet if you go to the beach:

For a review of water shoes see;


Tilley’s is a great source for travel clothes and they carry plus sizes. I don't think they carry moo-moos though ;  >, but you can get styling hats!

Choose lose mix and match clothes that are easily washable  and crunchable; some dry overnight. I usually find I wear one or two outfits that are really comfortable and I feel good in, although I still take  too many. I'm working on it. Loose layered clothing is the key because weather can be so changeable. Neutral colours that coordinate are ideal so you’ll be able to interchange you clothes.

A waterproof, not water-resistant, raincoat with a hood is a must, preferably one that has a liner if its gets cold. Rain pants help. Don’t bother with an umbrella-it’s just an extra thing to carry.


It’s so easy to succumb to sunstroke when you are travelling in a hot place-protect yourself- wear a hat (or two!)-even if you look goofy like I do. Protect the back of your neck too:



If you must be glamorous:


You can’t always count on safe bathtubs and shower stalls. I take a long, light bath mat and I’ve been glad to have it many times. Look around-I found a very light woven washable mat with suction cups (sorry can't remember where) and I always feel safe when it is in place .

Suction Cup Grab Bar

I always take a portable grab bar when travelling because I need support getting in and out of a tub, and safety bars are not always present in hotels. *NB these grab bars are not always created equal and can come off with weight bearing –ask the health store clerk for assistance to get the best kind. Read reviews. Be cautious and apply them on the diagonal to improve adherence. Remember-they are not meant for weight-bearing.

Don’t forget to bring a travel voltage converter. There are ‘world-wide’ ones if you are travelling to many countries. The appliances you bought at home may not work in the wilds of Africa, and plugging them in may be the end of them.

Voltage map

Laundry bag

Take at least one waterproof laundry bag-preferably one for each suitcase, so the loads are equal when weighing in.

Beach Wheelies

Some countries have free passes to some sites if you are handicapped and accompnied, but they won’t always tell you-so check their travel sites before you leave. And ask-you may be pleasantly surprised.

Sound like a lot of work? It is, but its well worth it. Travel can be very rewarding, and once you have realistically decided what you can and cannot do, and what you do and do not need, it gets much easier. I store many of the items I need to travel with my luggage so they’re ready to go at a moments notice. And I’m eagerly planning my next trip!

“The careful foot can walk anywhere.”


Travel review sites

My favourite site and one that has not let down so far. Remember, the most expensive does not necessarily mean the best. Trust the articles written by inveterate travelers. These people have reviewed many different places, be guided by the number of  reviews they have made. This is indicated above the text. One-time reviews are often put in by the owners of hotels, and one-time grouchers can also be generally ignored.
Give useful restaurant reviews world wide.


Equipment And Clothes