Holidays require some serious planning but accessible travel can be a new mission entirely. Guest blogger Emma loves to travel – from avoiding mishaps to excellent initiatives she’s sharing her experiences as a seasoned traveller.
Booking accessible accommodation can be a daunting task. There are so many options available and factors to consider, making it difficult to choose which one is best. Start by looking online and make a list of potential hotels. Consider price, amenities, location and most importantly – accessibility. Check the hotel’s website for any information on accessibility and make a note of questions you want to ask or anything you want more information on. With your questions ready, you now want to call (or email if you’d prefer) the hotel. Once you have the answers to your questions you’ll then be in a better position to decide whether the hotel is going to be ‘accessible’ to you and your needs.
Don’t forget to ask for photos if you’re still not sure whether the room or bathroom, for example, is going to work for you. Usually seeing a photo helps clarify and you’ll be able to judge if it will be suitable. If in doubt ask, ask and ask again! Take confirmation of any email conversations you’ve had with the hotel in case there are problems when you arrive at your accommodation.
Access to Transportation
I always travel by my own car throughout the UK, but whenever I travel out with the UK I always research the accessibility of transport in my chosen destination. Once I know what my options are I can then plan my routes to and from the airport and around the city throughout my trip. I learnt this lesson on a trip to Prague when I assumed there would be wheelchair accessible taxis. There was no accessible vehicle that would allow me to remain in my wheelchair, so I had to be lifted into a seat and three people lifted my heavy powered wheelchair into the boot of the vehicle. Not accessible or ideal!
Also check public transport accessibility including buses, trains, subway etc. This will help you when planning how to get from A to B especially during a sight-seeing trip when you want to see and do as many things as possible. Planning this before your trip will make everything a lot easier for you once your there. You don’t want your precious holiday time being taken up with avoidable obstacles.
Booking Flights & Airport Special Assistance
I prefer to book my flights over the phone by speaking with a customer service agent. This way I can explain exactly what special assistance I require and double check I’ll be seated in the bulkhead, which has extra legroom. Having a note of the wheelchair dimensions and the type of battery when calling to book the flights is handy as they always ask for this information. This is to ensure the wheelchair will fit in the hold and for safety reasons.
Being manually lifted from your wheelchair into an aisle chair and then into the plane seat might fill you with dread, it does for me. Thankfully there is an alternative option called Eagle Lifter 2A, which provides a more dignified and safe transfer for you, the passenger, but also for the special assistance staff as its less strenuous for them. Remember to book the Eagle Lifter in advance. It’s available at the following UK airports: Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, Heathrow and Gatwick with many more airports around the world.
It’s important to take out travel insurance that covers pre-existing medical conditions. Don’t always go for the first travel insurance quote. Have a look around and you may find one that is cheaper and better. Double check with the insurance company that your condition, wheelchair and other medical equipment is covered. You may find you can insure your wheelchair under your home contents insurance. If your wheelchair is damaged by the airport or airline staff, they should pay to have it fixed/replaced. Travel insurance is highly recommended and protects you against medical emergencies, cancellations, travel delays, lost baggage and more. We can’t predict what’s going to happen before or during our holiday, so don’t take any risks by not having good travel insurance.
Bonus tips and advice:
- Take your own wheelchair cushion on the plane to prevent pressure sores.
- Remove any wheelchair parts that may get damaged in the hold. Take them on the plane with you – joystick, footplates etc.
- Tell Special Assistance how you need/like to be lifted in and out of your wheelchair.
- Remain in your own wheelchair until boarding if possible.
- Be prepared and know how to disconnect the wheelchair battery before your flight. Practise if necessary.
- Pack a few extra days’ worth of medication in the event of flight delays, cancellation etc.
- Take a small repair kit with you in case you suffer a flat tyre.
- Research the accessibility of tourist attractions – do they have lifts/ramps, accessible toilets, free admission for people with disabilities and carers
Follow Emma on her adventures and read more about her experiences: