Travelling with a person who requires a mobility aid such as a wheelchair or walker may be uniquely different but not impossible. The key is planning and preparing for your travel. Here are 7 tips to help get you started.
1. Prior to your trip, get medical clearance in writing from a doctor. Some airlines require advance notice of any medical conditions or special needs, so be sure to ask your travel agent or review the airline company’s website. Remember to carry the medical clearance forms with you at all times in case an emergency occurs and medical assistance is required.
2. Contact the airline, hotel, and any tourist attractions in the planning stages of your trip to learn about their service animal policies. Most places are happy to accommodate a service animal but it’s always good to be certain before committing to anything.
3. If possible, book your accommodations at least six months ahead of your trip. Not all hotels are fully accessible and some may only have a few accessible rooms available so they typically get booked quickly. Before you commit to a hotel, try to do some research into the neighbourhood where the hotel is located. What’s the point in staying at an accessible hotel if the surrounding area presents additional challenges (i.e. What if the hotel is located on top of a steep hill or if the nearby restaurants don’t have wheelchair ramps)?
4. Research the tourist attractions that you want to visit ahead of time. You might be surprised at how accessible popular tourist spots, facilities, and guided tours can be for guests with special needs. This will help you plan your route carefully to avoid mobility challenges such as cobblestone streets, steep hills, flights of stairs, or venues that are not wheelchair-friendly.
5. Try to arrive early. This is true for both the airport and meeting with the tour group. This doesn’t mean that you need to rush around and potentially miss out on your surroundings. On the contrary, being early means that you can take your time going through the check-in and security procedures at the airport and avoid the crowds at popular tourist attractions.
6. Let the screening officer at the airport know about any difficulties with vision, hearing, speech, or any other accommodations that the person you’re travelling with will require. Knowing this information helps airport staff assist the person you are taking care of in the most efficient and unobtrusive manner as possible. Let check-in staff know if you need help lifting carry-on baggage or getting the person to his or her assigned seat.
7. Have a back-up plan in case circumstances change at the last minute despite all of your careful planning. You may not be able to stop these circumstances from happening but having a back-up plan can help you avoid delays and disappointment along the way. Cancellation insurance will help recover some (if not all) of the money paid when the trip was booked.
In order to break down the barriers that not too long ago would have made travelling difficult, if not impossible, the tourism industry has found ways to offer services and amenities to those who travel with mobility issues.
Even the Grand Canyon, with its rugged and steep terrain, is accessible – proving that the adage “where there’s a will, there’s a way” is true.
Do you have additional travel tips when travelling with person who has a walker or wheelchair?