We’ve talked a lot on this site about the benefits of travel. We’ve also talked about how it’s possible to travel with different disabilities or limitations. Today we’re going to talk about planning for your special travel needs. Follow our steps below to help you out the door and on your way to your next adventure.
Outline your travel needs
Take time to evaluate the logistics of the trip in relation to your ability to keep pace. What modes of transportation will you be using? Airplane, motorcoach, train, ship, transit vans for ground transfers? Make a list, referring to relevant brochures, your trip organizer, or travel agent to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Now, make a list of your specific requirements. Be honest, what types of special needs equipment do you depend on at home? What do you use or need (or wish you had!) when shopping, sightseeing locally, dining out or going to the movies, attending concerts, the theatre, street fairs, or sporting events at home?
Can you hear and see clearly without special auditory equipment or visual aides? How far can you walk without a rest break? Are stairs difficult? Can you get in and out of the tub or shower at home without handgrips or other assistance?
Travel, whether solo or in a group, is full of challenges. This is no time for being a martyr or trying to “tough it out.” If a wheelchair, scooter, or portable oxygen will make your trip easier, place that item on your list. Many people who do not use wheelchairs or walkers at home feel more comfortable using these mobility aides for tours and excursions. In fact, most of our wheelchair and scooter rentals are to individuals who only use such aides when traveling.
If you already own a scooter or portable oxygen, it’s important to know the policy and procedures for bringing that equipment onboard all the transport vehicles included in your itinerary, from planes to taxis to ferry boats. Does that transport have a way to stow your scooter or wheelchair? Is oxygen allowed on board? Some airlines prohibit certain types of batteries, such as wet cell batteries, or oxygen cylinders. Airlines operate under strict rules, so there may be packing procedures to follow if they do allow the equipment. Keep in mind, most airlines need at least 48 hours’ notice to make special arrangements and be prepared to fill out forms.
Overall cruise ships are more lenient in allowing oxygen, but some disallow certain types of oxygen. All require that the oxygen be delivered to the ship and that you have enough for the entire voyage. Oxygen may never be brought aboard in your luggage. Requirements vary, so check your cruise line for proper instructions. Again, documentation and paperwork are required.
Whether you are headed for a cruise ship, hotel, or all-inclusive resort, double-check for wheelchair access at that venue plus any venues you will be visiting on the trip. Confirm that accessible hotel rooms, resort accommodations, or ship staterooms are available for your travel dates. The earlier you book, the better your chances of securing fully accessible accommodations. And early booking increases your chances of securing a ground floor hotel room or cruise stateroom near the elevator if these issues are important.
Check on the access to public rooms, restaurants, bars, toilets, the swimming pool, hot tub, beach area, and other amenities. Are there TDD phone devices? How will you get in and out of the shower or bathtub? Are there flashing lights to accommodate hearing? Braille room numbers? Knowing in advance the scope of your needs gives you time to arrange advance rentals of any necessary equipment, scheduled to arrive when you do. Everything from scooters, lifts, ramps, TDD kits, and special mattresses, including special needs cribs, is available for rental.
Will road travel or car excursions be part of the trip? Many car rental companies, such as Avis Access, have vehicles that are modified for drivers or passengers with mobility limitations. Check ahead to make sure a suitable vehicle will be available for your travel dates. If you will be hiring a car or van, make sure the company is aware of your special needs.
When traveling with a limitation or disability, full travel insurance for medical coverage abroad and trip cancellation insurance are even more important and strongly advised.
Simply stated, don’t take anything for granted. It’s easy to arrange for almost every situation, and the world is wonderfully accessible, once you know what’s needed, what’s available, and how to find the necessary equipment.
Planning for your special travel needs doesn’t have to keep you from traveling. Get in touch with Traci Conner to see the benefits of having a travel advisor with occupational therapy training, fill out our trip planning form and choose Traci as your travel advisor.