How to Survive Business Travel When You Have MS

Tamara Sellman avatar

by Tamara Sellman |

Share this article:

Share article via email
packing for travel

I just spent a week in Boston at an industry conference. I realized I’ve mastered the art of preparing for long-distance excursions since my last flare-up four years ago.

Business trips used to be so intimidating to me. Now, I’m much better at packing, traveling with medications, and making myself at home in a hotel. I hope these tips will inspire others to travel more frequently.


One of my worst MS symptoms is cognitive fog when I’m tired or stressed. It means I really need peace and order in packing successfully for a trip.

Make a list

I use my grocery list app to make multiple lists that help keep me focused when I sit down to pack.

Aside from the usual inventory of clothing and accessories, my list also includes sections for:

  • Technology: Battery backup for cellphone; charging cables; plugs for devices; thumb drive; power supply; earbuds; password book; and yes, the devices themselves.
  • Comfort items: Thermal mug for water or coffee; TENS unit; reading light; lavender spray; emergency tote with underwear and pads; eye mask; headphones; medications for travel-specific discomfort (analgesics, antacid, nasal spray); and a drawstring bag to use when sightseeing.
  • Things to do before I leave: Clean out wallet; charge and update phone, tablet, laptop, e-reader, battery backup; download itinerary and reservations with confirmation numbers; download registration receipts; check-in to airline digitally; load tablet with Netflix shows and podcasts; set email auto-replies; hold snail mail; and arrange for plant and pet care.

Plan ahead, pack ahead

I may never actually sit down and pack all at once like I used to. Instead, I open my suitcase a week before my trip and pack a little each day. This way I’m not in a mad dash at the last minute to get my things in order.

In the old days I waited until the last minute and found myself staying up too late the night before a trip, knowing I needed to rise early to catch my flight.

Now, sleep is my priority. Sleep on the night before a trip is critical: Flying is physically challenging, keeping in mind the fatigue factor, plus there’s sensory and social overload, maybe anxiety, and the occasional travel hiccup to create added stress. A full night’s sleep is necessary for the stamina you need to get through a full day of travel.

I also ask my family to leave me alone as I pack. Interruptions are a distraction, stealing your focus and adding stress to the process.

What about the meds?

I used to be intimidated about traveling with medication. While I’m lucky enough not to need drugs that require refrigeration, I do use a veritable “cocktail” of over-the-counter drugs, supplements, and prescription medicine, all stuffed into an AM/PM pill case that spans an entire week.

Airlines often recommend you pack your meds in their original containers. However, this would require a carry-on all its own! I have addressed this unwieldy suggestion in two different ways:

  1. In some cases, I prepacked my medications and mailed them to my destination in advance.
  2. Most of the time, I keep my prescription paperwork in an envelope that I’ve attached by rubber band to the pill case, and pack it in my carry-on.

I also always keep drug paperwork in my wallet: contact information for physicians, phone numbers for pharmacies, a list of the medications I take.

Of these, I indicate whether they are prescriptions, OTC, or supplements. I also list dosages, frequency of administration, time of day taken, and what they actually do (for example, melatonin is for sleep and jet lag).

Finally, I have medical ID tags that list my condition (multiple sclerosis), my neurologist’s name and phone number, and NKDA (No Known Drug Allergies). I keep one with the pill case and one in my wallet.

This takes up far less space than pill bottles, and the information packed should suffice for anyone concerned about the meds I’m packing. I say “should” because frankly, I’ve never been asked to show my medications in their original containers — or to show my medications at all.

I’ve arrived! Now what?

After a long day of traveling, I ensure good energy and focus for the rest of my visit by:

  • Taking a soothing shower (or a bath with Epsom salts) at bedtime;
  • Setting the room temperature so it’s cool enough for sleeping;
  • Checking the weather and laying out the next day’s outfit to save time in the morning;
  • Unpacking in an orderly fashion so I can locate items without fuss;
  • Planning recovery nap down time in the days to come;
  • Stocking up on bottled water and protein bars at the local market. If there’s an in-room fridge, even better. Store snacks and portable protein-rich foods like hard-boiled eggs, squeeze peanut butter and crackers, trail mix, yogurt and fruit. 

By literally “making myself at home” at the hotel, I save myself a lot of stress so I can focus on why I’m really there. I no longer dread traveling for work — and I have shorter recovery times once I arrive at my destination and again when I’ve returned home.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.

Dancing Doodle

Did you know some of the news and columns on Multiple Sclerosis News Today are recorded and available for listening on SoundCloud? These audio news stories give our readers an alternative option for accessing information important for them.

Listen Here