28 Jan

Travel Advice for Holidaying with a Disability

Travel Advice for Holidaying with a Disability
     BOOKING YOUR HOLIDAY, WHERE TO GO?

Selecting an exciting holiday destination that will accommodate all your needs can be daunting, especially when you are looking for places with specific access requirements... So where do you start?
  • It helps to do a little research to see where other people in similar circumstances have been. The internet is full of content created by active experienced amputee travellers with great advice on how to manage your prosthesis and access issues. See links at the bottom of this feature.
  • Luckily, more and more places are putting focus on making their cities completely accessible for everyone to enjoy. By simply searching for disability accessible cities, there is a wealth of information on prime holiday destinations for each country and the attractions available to you.  For example, according to Lonely Planet, Barcelona is one of the world’s most accessible cities. With 80% of the metro stations and 100% of buses wheelchair-accessible. Wheelchair users not only get to jump to the front of the queues for attractions such as the breath-taking Sagrada Família, they often get in for free! See links at the bottom of this feature.
  • Another suggestion for first time travellers is going on a cruise, as this is a great way to see more than one place, with no pressure to leave the comfort of the ship. hwoever with a clear travel itinerary you can really do your research about each stop prior to travel. Cruise companies generally accommodate for people with physical disabilities, although it is always best to ask before you book.
  • If you are nervous about planning your own trip there are travel agencies that cater to the specific needs of people with physical disabilities. Having an agency book your holiday relieves a lot of pressure, however make sure you are very clear about what it is that you require and confirm this with your agent, as well as transport and hotel companies to make sure all your needs are being addressed. If the travel agency book your flights and hotel, it is always best to call ahead of time to make sure the agency has made them aware of your needs and you are given the correct information. See links at the bottom of this feature.

      BOOKING TICKETS

Now that you have chosen a suitable destination. How do you get there?
Whether you are travelling by train, plane or bus, there will be a wide range of disability assistance services available upon request – everything from help getting onto the vehicle, through the station or just to inform them you have a disability, there are designated people to help. Be specific with the level of support you need and they will be able to cater to your needs.
  • When booking your travel tickets it is very important to communicate with your chosen transport company about your specific requirements. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, there will be assistance available to you. Make sure you book this at least 72 hours before you travel but preferably when you book your tickets.
  • If you are travelling by aeroplane and you are taking mobility equipment you need to inform the airline while you are booking tickets. You may be asked for the make, model, weight, dimensions and battery type. In some cases you will be asked to fill out some forms, so make sure you have this information to hand. Failure to do so could result in your mobility aid not being able to travel with you.
  • Familiarise yourself with how to deactivate and fold your devices away if they need to be stored in the hold as you may be asked how to do it.
  • If you do not have your own mobility equipment, it is possible to book mobility devices and escort assistance when travelling through airports and stations. This is highly recommended, as navigating your way around an airport can often be strenuous and there are often far distances between gates.
  • Booking seats - There are usually a limited amount of seats with more leg room. These may or may not cost extra depending on your airline. We suggest asking what seats are available to you and often you will find you will be allocated a seat with more room at no extra charge.
  • When booking seats, depending on your mobility issues we advise you choose an aisle seat to make getting up during the journey easier.
 
   PACKING, WHAT DO I TAKE?

Your holiday is planned, your tickets are booked, now it’s time for the hardest part. What do you take with you?
  • A common suggestion is to bring a medical bag containing medication and first aid items you may need. If you are travelling with your medical bag in your hand luggage and you have medication containing liquid above 100ml you will need a note from your doctor to confirm that you require it. There is no limit to the amount of medication you can carry with you as long as you present this doctors note to airport staff.
  • All liquids including toiletries and any medication in pill, solid or liquid forms, are required to be placed in a transparent plastic bag which you should keep somewhere easily accessible for when you reach security screening.
  • Another common suggestion is to carry an essentials bag with all of your “just in case” items. These things could include: anti-bacterial creams, plasters, spare prosthetic socks and any spare parts or tools you think you may need. The same carry-on rules apply to essential device bags so do not include restricted items.
  • When packing electronic items be aware that these will also have to be x-rayed separately from your luggage, so ensure these items are easily accessible while navigating around the airport check points.
  • If you use a wheelchair, walker, cane or crutches, be sure these are in good working condition before you travel with them. If you do not use any of these assistive devices, it is recommend you do carry a folding cane, as they are lightweight and may be helpful when you are standing or walking for longer than you are used to.
 
     PREPARING FOR EVENTUALITIES

Before you travel anywhere it is extremely important to check in with your prosthetist to make sure you’re in the right condition to travel, and all of your devices and limbs are in working order and safe to take with you. 
  • Do an overall check of your prosthesis and devices. Make sure you are comfortable and there are no faults that come with regular every day wear and tear. Listen for any unusual sounds, and contact your prosthetist if you feel there is anything wrong with enough time to get anything replaced or fixed. 
  • It is suggested that you visit your prosthetist at least two weeks before you travel to ensure any adjustments and concerns can be dealt with in time before you leave. Your prosthetist will also be able to suggest some useful things to take with you based on your individual situation.
  • Plan ahead in case of any accidents. To avoid any panic or confusion, compile a list of useful contacts for emergency prosthetic facilities and hospitals in the area you will be visiting.
  • For extra security and peace of mind we highly recommend taking out travel insurance for you and the people you are travelling with.
 
     AIRPORTS

Prosthesis checked, bags packed, medical bag in tow now you’re ready to go! What should you expect at the airport?
Below we have included a link to a handy video guide to flying with a disability.
  • Get there extra early! Airports are always very busy and there are a number of things that could delay you getting to your gate on time. It is recommended getting there at least five hours before any international flight, and 3 hours for a domestic flight.
  • Wheelchair assistance – this is the fastest and most efficient way to travel through an airport. Alert your airline that you require this service and you will be escorted through fast track security and if required you may be escorted onto the plane earlier to give you enough time to make yourself comfortable and stow away any devices you may have before the rest of the other passangers embark. The flight crew will be able to help you in and out of the plane, however if you require assistance to use the bathroom or to eat it is best to travel with a partner that can assist you.  
  • If you decide that you do not need wheelchair assistance but you have mobility issues due to amputated limbs or disabilities you may still head to the express line, depending on the airline. If your prosthesis is not visible you may be asked a few questions, simply show the attendants your prosthesis and any doctors notes and it will be determined whether you will have access to the express line or not. If you are unsure call your airline ahead of time.
  • Let the agent that pre-checks your boarding pass know whether or not you can go through the metal detector or X-ray machine, with or without a wheelchair. If you cannot pass through the metal detector, a pat down will be required by a same-sex staff member. Usually the staff are very respectful whilst doing this but you may request a private room if you do not feel comfortable doing this at the gate.
  • Airport staff may need to test your prosthesis for traces of drugs or explosives. During this process you may be asked to lift portions of your clothing to give better access but you are not required to remove it at this stage. Again, you can request a private room where this can be done and the agent is required to explain the process before they begin.
  • If at any point you get stuck or you need help in the airport, there will be airport help points that are easy to find. These will either be help desks manned by people or telecom points where you can call an operator and arrange for someone to meet you.
 
     BEING COMFORTABLE ON THE MOVE

When travelling you often have to stand or sit for longer than you are used to, not to mention the extra amounts of walking and carrying you may do while exploring. It is important to know your limits and rest periodically throughout your journey. Below are some 'travel hacks' for while you are on the move. 
  • Depending on your situation you may prefer to remove your prosthesis while seated on the plane to be more comfortable. Be aware the cabin pressure may lead to swelling of your residual limb meaning putting your prosthesis back on after your flight may be difficult. We recommend travelling with your prosthetic sock on to reduce this swelling or arrange wheelchair assistance for when you land.
  • You may need to be lifted off your mobility device either for security checks or into your seat on the plane. If you have your own slings and prefer to use them we recommend bringing these along. Do not be afraid to be very specific with staff about how you would prefer to be handled.
  • Wheel chair suitcase holders will allow a little more independence as this will allow you to carry your own luggage without assistance.
  • Travel in light, breathable clothing that can be removed and stored easily as you pass through changing tempretures. If you are travelling through an airport it is recommended that you wear clothing that clearly shows your prosthesis as this makes it more obvious to staff that you may require assistance.

Now that you are well informed on what to expect from planning your holiday, the fun part starts...research!
Below are some useful links to get you started. From informative and useful travel blogs written by experienced amputee travellers themselves, to a list of popular travel destinations fully equipped for people with mobility restrictions.


USEFUL WEBSITES
Amputee travel blogs:
https://www.theactiveamputee.org/blog/
http://www.jamiegane.com/blog/2018/3/14/flying-as-an-amputee
https://wheelchairtravel.org/
Accessible travel experts:
https://www.enableholidays.com/
https://www.roadscholar.org/
https://www.sagetraveling.com/
Destinations:
https://wheelchairtravel.org/
Your video guide to flying with a disability:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjPR4BGi1zQ&feature=youtu.be