Travel Anxiety Averted While Riding the Rails


For many of us with Parkinson’s disease, traveling can trigger anxiety, but a successful trip is still possible. While extra planning, extra time, and good shoes are a great place to start, sometimes they are not enough.

The method of travel that suits our needs may require asking for help, or as we say in the Parkinson’s world, asking for accommodations. This is difficult, even anxiety-provoking, for many of us. Why? Are we losing one more piece of independence?

The answer can be found riding the rails and using the Amtrak Red Cap service, which actually gives you back some independence by making traveling with a disability enjoyable and much less stressful.

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Angels in disguise

For me, this became clear on a few travel adventures using the railways and the Red Cap service. While traveling with my mom, we stumbled upon the Red Cap service area in Washington, D.C. We were greeted with, “Hello, ladies, we are here to get you where you need to go.” They were angels in disguise who took us and our luggage down a secret tunnel. We preboarded and settled in for the trip home. It was a success and a memory of a lifetime.

The next trip was to New York City. This time, my husband, Mike, and I had requested the Red Cap service in advance for the trip home. We arrived early, found a seat in the waiting room, and anxiously waited to see our train pop up on the departure board. A few minutes later, our Red Cap attendant greeted us with, “You’re mine today. Let’s get you on the train.”

But how? Our train was not listed on the board. Once again, the Red Caps used their magic: more secret tunnels and a swift preboard. Anxiety was averted, and it was another successful trip.

I don’t always look like I have Parkinson’s. I worry about other passengers around me. Do they think I am faking? No, I’m not, and I’m adjusting my thinking and asking for accommodations.

My fellow columnist Matt Lafleur says it best in his column about an adventure at the airport:

“Part of me will always be that headstrong guy who refuses to call for help in the bathroom until I have no other choice. But that isn’t the entirety of me. I’m trying to also recognize how much I can support others.” 

Perhaps we should take pride in being an example for others, one that shows it’s OK to ask for help when you know you need it. Just look for the the Red Cap.

Please visit our Parkinson’s News Today Forums and let us know about tips you’ve found helpful when traveling, and also share in the comments below.

Note: Parkinson’s 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 another 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 Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


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