I have COPD (emphysema). My wife and I enjoy traveling and plan to continue for as long as we can and have had to make many adjustments to meet the challenges COPD presents.This website is a way for us to share what we've learned ( and are still learning ) in the form of tools and resources that will enable the COPD traveler to plan safe and enjoyable trips.To many of us, leaving home to venture into the unfamiliar, is a scary idea. But,with good preparation, we can enjoy the pleasure travel brings.Truly,you can do it. We will focus on the basics of what you need to know and do in order to be truly prepared to embark.
We've started a Blog where we'll be providing detailed information and suggestions about national and international destinations that we're familiar with along with general observations relevant to traveling with handicaps. BLOG
NOTE: This website is written from the perspective of my experiences and my current COPD status. Some of you are less able than I am and some are more able. You'll need to adapt the information we present to your current condition.My current status: my most recent FEV-1 number was 34, placing me at the "top of my class", ie. the top of the "severe" range. I'm not using oxygen at this point and walk for 20 minutes daily - well almost daily . I walk OK on flats but any climbing is hard. It's amazing how much difference even a little slope can make.Ditto for surfaces: a rough, uneven surface makes walking much more difficult.
The planning that you do prior to departure will have a huge impact on the quality of your trip. There are always surprises when we travel – that’s part of the mystery. But it’s crucial to minimize the "surprises" that make trips difficult. Thorough planning increases the likelihood that your trip will be successful and can alleviate anxiety associated with travel . For readers who aren't using oxygen or a wheelchair, the main considerations will be elevation, air quality, topography, and temperatures. People in wheelchairs must also be aware of accessibility issues.
If you visit medical websites seeking travel tips for COPD sufferers, you’ll find overviews treating important medical matters. Here are links to representative sites.
The advice found on these sites describes the medical arrangements to make prior to traveling,including arranging for oxygen use .Every COPD traveler should read these articles and make the medical arrangements appropriate to their health needs.
Weather - Weather conditions also affect COPD. For most people, extreme heat or cold worsens symptoms. Wind and high humidity can also exacerbate COPD. The following link takes you to a useful article about COPD and weather.COPD Weather Article
Is your hotel located at the top of a hill? Hope not. Relatively low elevation locations with good air quality can be quite hilly. It’s important to know the contours of your destinations, particularly regarding your hotel and intended activities. Perugia, Italy is a beautiful but astoundingly hilly town.(see photo below). If your hotel is not situated " on top " of Perugia, where most of the historic sites are found, you will often face daunting ascents.Be sure to find out if your hotel has an elevator.In some hotels, the lobby and desk are one floor up rom ground level. So even if there's an elevator and you have a ground floor room, you may face a climb just to get into the hotel. Follow this link to an excellent guide for figuring out whether a hotel will work for you: Accomodations Checklist
Getting topography information may require using several sources. The forums on Trip Advisor and Slow Travel allow you to pose questions about topography ( or any other topic ) to the forum as well as read responses to questions of interest that were previously posed by other readers. Find the Forum relevant to you and just ask your question.
Further, if you shop hotels in Trip Advisor, the reader reviews of hotels often mention problems involving accessibility and availability of elevators. Plus, don't hesitate to call or email the hotels, which often have English speaking staff.
The description of hotels in Trip Advisor usually provides a map showing where the hotel is located on the town or city map. If you already have an idea of the " lay of the land" you may be able to tell if the hotel is in what you know to be the steep part of town.
Finally, don’t forget Google Earth as a way to actually take a peek at where you may be going.
In order to plan outings, you need to know your limits and energy patterns: for how long or how far can you walk? How many activities can you comfortably manage in a day? When during the day are you strongest? weakest? This is the information that you'll need to be able to anticipate and plan your days and stay within your “comfort zone”.
Most of us have "good days" and "bad days", and these day-to-day fluctuations will, in all likelihood, occur during our trips. Remember not to push yourself. Your travel partners need to know and accept that you may need to take the day off occasionally.The need to rest is as - or possibly more - important while traveling. Be sure to pack good books, crosswords, or whatever sedentary activiies you enjoy. Scout out nearby spots where you can sit and simply enjoy "being". The importance of resting, underlines how important it is to have comfortable lodgings. We will probably spend considerable time in our hotel room, or wherever we are staying, and it needs to be a place where we can rest comfortably.
Transitions, i.e. moving from town or Hotel A to B, use up a lot of energy : packing,checking out, actual relocation, checking in, unpacking, and learning new surroundings. Besides the time spent actually moving, there's often an additional hangover day devoted to resting.
While it's tempting to want to visit as many places as possible, think about cutting back on the number of transitions you schedule and use one or two towns as your travel base(s). So, for example, you could stay in Santa Fe or Siena for a week, really immerse yourself in that location, and plan day trips to other interesting destinations. Then, if you have time, move to your second base, settle in and explore from there.Given the importance of preserving your energy, reducing the number of transitions can really help.
The medical sites offered earlier, provide considerable guidance regarding various forms of transportation to or between destinations:" planes, trains, and automobiles". Once we reach a destination, we must deal with how best to navigate there. It's hard to generalize about local transportation because of the huge differences between cities, between small towns and cities,and between different countries.
We assume that the primary options will be walking versus buses versus subways versus rented cars. Length of the trip, the weather, and your strength at the moment will factor into your decision. Obviously, the accessibility and condition of local forms of transportation will make a difference, and local tourist information offices and hotel staff can help with questions about local transportation. At this point, we use taxis often. They cost more than public transportation but less than car rental. The main advantages are accessibility, availability, and simplicity. Taxis are usually easy to find or call and take you to where you want to go. You can arrange for a return trip. Depending on local circumstances, taxis can be a good alternative. Availability of taxis varies a lot from place to place, so be sure to contact tourist information or ask about taxi service in a travel forum.
We don’t rent cars when we travel in Europe or large U.S.cities. Renting isn’t necessarily a bad idea for everyone, but, for us, it’s just one more thing that could go wrong - and it’s expensive. In addition, driving in cities can be difficult and parking is often hard to find. Given how good the train and public transportation systems tend to be in Europe and some U.S. cities, there are definitely alternatives to rental cars.
Contact Amtrak for information about Handicap access:
Handicap Access to Italian Trains : Trenitalia Access
Access to European Trains: European Train Access