Planning a trip can be stressful at the best of times. Planning a trip when you have to take accessibility concerns into account adds an extra level to that stress, but it is so worth it! We love to travel with our wheel love’s and have gotten a lot of requests to do a post on travel, so we thought we would start off with some of our travel tips and tricks.
- Do your research. Check out where you want to travel too; google, blogs and forums are all great resources when your looking to see how accessible a certain destination is. Also look into the things that you are interested in doing there. Checking to see if a tourist attraction is accessible before getting there is a great way to avoid disappointment. Use the internet, talk to other people and make some phone calls. Being prepared is key.
- Book an accessible hotel room. We have found that sometimes regular rooms work just fine, but other times they don’t. We’ve been in hotel rooms where we have had to take the door off the bathroom so the chair would fit, and we have also broken a vanity leg off in a bathroom that was supposed to be accessible but just wasn’t wide enough. If you’re still a little skeptical, call the hotel with your questions; how wide are the doorways, does the room have a roll in shower, is there a shower bench available, are the beds too high to transfer onto, etc.
- When your booking your flights, pay attention to where your seat on the plane is. Our men hate that dreaded aisle chair… Shawn says he feels like Hannibal Lecter when he’s strapped into that thing. Most times you can upgrade to first class (or the first row) and the wheelchair will fit up to that point so the aisle chair isn’t needed. We’ve even gotten lucky enough to be given this upgrade for free after explaining the situation.
- Shop around for travel insurance and don’t think of going anywhere without it. You never know what can happen or when an unexpected UTI or femur break is going to put a wrench in your plans, so make sure you are prepared. Don’t just pick the cheapest travel insurance you can find, make sure you are getting exactly what you need and that they realize you have a pre-existing condition, like your wheelchair.
- Bring extra medications with you. You never know if you are going to be delayed somewhere without access to a pharmacy. Or, if you are prone to something like UTI’s, you can talk to your Dr before leaving and get a prescription for an antibiotic to take with you just in case. It’s better to be prepared than caught without the necessities.
- Invest in a travel toilet seat. This has been a life saver for our wheel love’s and their tiny, bony butts. You can buy something as big as a travel commode that folds up, or just a small seat that fits in your suitcase, but it makes doing your business much easier, much safer, and much more comfortable.
- Skip the morning coffee. If you do intermittent catheters, like James, on shorter flights he likes to keep the liquid intake at a minimal. This decreases the chances of having to start world war 3 on an airplane just to get to the bathroom.
- Keep calm… it’s just a wheelchair! We find airport staff extremely accommodating most of the time, however, the odd freak out does occur. When seeing someone in a wheelchair board a plane, staff tends to talk faster, breathe harder and sweat a little more. Just reassure them it will all be ok, we can get through this together and it’s just a wheelchair!
- There is no shortage of help. After a trip to Italy with cobble stone roads and stairs on every corner, we have learned that there is always someone able to help. You will, however, have to be willing to ask for it. In order to go on a date and eat the most amazing pizza I have ever had, James and I had to conquer 3 sets of stairs in Venice. Here, we discovered the most amazing secret: if you roll up to the bottom of a staircase and look up, maybe look a little desperate within 5 seconds someone always gives you a hand!
- Pack an emergency carry on bag. It doesn’t matter where we are going, we always pack a carry on bag with all the essentials. You never know when your luggage is going to get lost so it’s just peace of mind to have a bag with everything to hold you over until it is returned. We pack catheters, jelly, everything needed for bowel routines, medications, a change of clothes, an extra leg bag and night bag, and anything else that you would be hooped without. We also make sure to take the cushion off the wheelchair and bring it onto the plane with us because those things are expensive and who knows what happens to that wheelchair when it’s in cargo!
So, don’t stress too much! You are on a fun adventure with your loved one. Part of the fun is overcoming challenges and creating new ways to solve problems. The world is far from accessible, but don’t let that deter you from seeing it! What other things have you found super handy while travelling? Be sure to share your tips and tricks with us and in the mean time, keep calm and travel on!
Sam & Chelsea