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Tips and tricks on travelling with varying abilities could fill a 1000 page book I’m sure, and just when we think we had it all covered new technology would come out and so would new ideas. In the meantime, I, like others, use shared and newly created tips to help us get the most out of any experience. Here are a few more that I have picked up from others and my travels. I do hope you will find some use in at least one idea.
As I stated in 9 Tips On Travelling with A Disability Part 1, don’t be shy in asking questions and enforcing your needs. Get ALL acknowledgements of accommodation, hiring and mode of travel in writing and check the day or week before you leave.
When flying, make sure the airline has all your specifications and notes regarding:
Transferring– Describe how you need to transfer from your device to the plane.
Dimensions– Advise the dimensions (when adjusted to fit under the hold), and weight of your devices. Kellie L from The Accessible Group encountered a problem with Virgin who incorrectly noted her scooter weight at booking, and she wasn’t able to have it delivered to the plane on arrival.
Connecting flights– Let the airline know if your device is to be checked through to a connecting flight. Not communicating this instruction can result in not having your device with you on arrival, as Patricia F from The Accessible Group discovered when her wheelchair didn’t follow her home but remained in Singapore.
Your battery– It is of vital importance to communicate to the airline how to disengage any battery, what type of battery (lithium, gel, etc.). Also, advise whether it should be taken on board or dis-engaged and left on your device. I hang a laminated sheet onto my wheelchair for ground crew with this information as well.
Folding your device- Also, advise and write instructions on how to recline or fold down your mobility device to fit it into the hold. And anything else the airline request that you specify. We have mostly used QANTAS and have still encountered hiccups in their internal communication. We would not have left Melbourne if we had not made sure to speak to the ground staff ourselves on the day of departure to explain how my wheelchair reclines and what height and length it then becomes.
Bed risers– they are terrific when we encounter those oh so low beds when semi-ambulant or needing to adjust the bed height for direct self-transfers using a slide-board. They take up little luggage space, but some accommodation places may provide them for you too.
Portable suction grab-bars – I used these quite a bit while semi-ambulant. It’s best not to use if there’s a chance that your full weight may bear down on them, but for helpful balancing, I found them invaluable when travelling.
Cushion your butt- If you, like me, have a bony tuchas, or get back pain a cushion is essential. Your comfort ensures a better quality of enjoyment and energy levels.
Compression socks– when flying may be life-saving to those of limited mobility and circulation issues. Check with your doctor to see if you could benefit.
Chargers– I discussed device chargers in the last blog. Chargers for smartphones and communication devices are also vital to remember.
Toilet stops– If, like me, you have continence issues and are contemplating limiting fluid and food intake to limit toilet stops check in with your urologist. You may be pleasantly surprised at the non-invasive options available that allow much greater ease of travel. While we’re there – sometimes a spare empty bottle is useful too…
Walking stick- Don’t be a hero, if you have a condition in which you can’t consistently rely on your capabilities, it might make sense for you to have a collapsible walking stick or rollator on hand. I loved my foldable, lightweight walking stick. A useful rubber stopper at the bottom makes loose surfaces not so scary, and nowadays most sticks come in various colours and patterns for accessorising.
Your Meds- It goes without saying, ensure you pack enough for your trip (plus a few days extra, in case you miss your flight). Also, recommend taking your scripts with you. Every country is different when it comes to medications, so it is safe to take them with you. Thanks, Sue F and Patricia F in The Accessible Group for this tip.
Allen keys- If you have access to a handy companion, then carrying an appropriate set of Allen (Hex) keys and spanner/s can be a real bonus. We have adjusted my headrest, tightened footplates and headlights at various times.
Charging your chair– If you are planning a trip where you will be sightseeing and staying in your power chair for long periods, it may be helpful to check for charging stations. The RECHARGE Scheme™ is a valuable place to check out when travelling in Australia. I’m sure there are more in other countries. If you know of any of these schemes in other countries, share with us on The Accessible Group. We’d love to hear from you.
Roof pods for car travel- We have a converted Kia Carnival with rear entry ramp and harness points to allow for my transport needs. We take as much of my equipment as possible when enjoying driving holidays, and have invested in a roof pod to accommodate this need. They are not cheap but so worth the convenience of extra storage. We save on hiring costs but, more importantly, have the comfort of familiar devices.
Air Mattress- Good sleep = sanity + vitality. This actuality is true of anyone, and the comfortable delightfulness of using your own pillow should not be understated. The same goes for hiring or providing your own air-mattress. They are cumbersome and expensive but planning for them can be the difference between waking refreshed or not.
The tray table. I LOVE my three tray tables. I use them at home and when out and about. They substitute for an actual table when your chair does not go under one when dining or writing or using your laptop. The humble, inexpensive tray table can be used for applying make-up, for reading, crafting, and so much more, especially when our arms need elbow support.
EarPods and headphones– allow better and more private, phone communication if you can’t easily use your arms as well as allow listening to audio or watching inflight movies more enjoyable.
A lightweight magnifying, portable mirror- this is pretty close to an essential necessity in my book. Seriously this ode to vanity has been a brilliant solution when a bathroom mirror is too high or too far from the bench or not positioned in a well-lit spot. Even in a so-called accessible bathroom, this can be a problem.
If you missed out on Leanne’s 9 Tips On Travelling With A Disability Part One, click HERE to read.
CASA – Travelling with a disability guide. Click HERE for more.
AIR TRAVEL FOR WHEELCHAIR USER – Ebook, click Click HERE to download.
Bon voyage, Leanne
P.S. What tips do you have to share?
I have a neuromuscular condition called Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. The symptoms of which have progressed over the last decade.
I use my experiences and my newly acquired knowledge of living in an ableist world to advocate for social equity and justice for people with disabilities and their support networks. I write and speak, support and contribute through various groups and committees to promote greater awareness as to what it means to live as a disabled person. My goal is to improve understanding, empathy and quality of life for all. A truly inclusive world for everyone can be a reality.
Read more of her excellent blogs HERE
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