By Kyla N Daniels
There is no feeling like confidence when traveling alone, especially when you’re disabled. Most people think that when you’re on crutches, in a wheelchair or powerchair you can’t really travel. Well, they are wrong. I love traveling and never let my disability stop me from doing what I love. Here are tips to help you feel more confident, whether traveling alone or with a companion.
Before Your Trip
Before you travel do some research about where you want to go and where you would like to stay, how you want to get there, and how accessible it will be for you. When booking your hotel room, book early to get an accessible room that is spacious enough for a wheelchair and has a roll-in-shower in the bathroom and lower countertops. Don’t be afraid to ask about discounts, if you have AAA or AARP use them.
After doing some research and talking to friends, I never expected to find a travel website for people with disabilities. Accessible Go makes life so much easier, they have literally everything you think you need for traveling, and things you didn’t know you needed like caregivers or equipment rentals. They have deals if you join ClubGo, their free membership program. All you need is a permanent disabled parking placard or license plate number.
Always pack responsibly not just with your clothing. Bring comfortable clothes, don’t forget medical supplies and medicine. Pack extra chargers or battery packs for powerchairs, motors, phones, and other equipment. You never know what may happen. It always helps to be prepared.
On the Road
Look for accessible vehicles for road trips. Some rental companies may not have accessible vehicles or RVs, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. One option for renting is Mobility Works. They sell accessible vans. If you’re not looking to buy, you can rent. They include roadside assistance from locations all over the country. www.mobilityworks.com Phone for rentals at 877-275-4915
Make sure you’re comfortable if you’re driving or riding long distances. Car rides can be tiresome depending on where you’re going and can be uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to bring a blanket or pillow, even a seat cushion can help if seats are awkward.
Make stops. No one wants to be stuck in a car or van for over 5 or 6 hours. Stop to see the sites and take pictures or a restroom break and a bite to eat, not necessarily in that order. Truck stops have cleaner, and accessible restrooms than most rest areas, gas stations, and fast food restaurants. Don’t be afraid to try them.
If you need directions or assistance, it helps to have GPS or a service such as On-Star or Car-Net depending on the brand of vehicle you have. These companies provide directions that can be downloaded. Roadside assistance is available. An operator will stay on the line, so you won’t feel alone during an emergency.
On the Fly
Not sure where to sit? Seat Guru can help. Simply type in your ideal flight and pick your seat. Nearly every model of aircraft with a map is listed for a certain flight and can make choosing the right spot easy for you. www.seatguru.com
Arrive at the airport at least two hours early. You never know how far the gate is or how long the line at TSA is. You might also have to wait for assistance to your gate if you’re traveling alone. It really helps if you don’t want to be late for your flight.
You can call or when you’re checking baggage, ask for a preboard. Preboard allows you to board the plane first so you can get to your seat without a problem.
When you’re going through TSA, have your ID, passport, and ticket ready to be checked. It helps the process go a bit quicker. Be prepared for a pat down. You can choose to have it done privately, but it is mandatory. Chairs, whether it is yours or not, must be checked.
If you’re traveling alone and receiving assistance to the gate, don’t be afraid to ask if you can have a bathroom break or want to grab a bite to eat before your flight, they will take you. Most will ask you before dropping you off, but there are some you may have to ask.
When you are in a wheelchair or powerchair most likely your chair will have to be stowed under the plane, so to get to your seat you might need to use the lift, a narrow wheelchair that can move up and down the aisle. You can slide into your seat or go to the lavatory.
These tips make me feel more independent when traveling alone. They also help when I am traveling with family or friends. They make the trip more comfortable and so much easier.