Limited mobility can make your world feel a lot smaller. Planning for a trip when you have to consider several additional factors – like your ability to easily get around locations – can make travel feel nearly impossible.
Luckily, travel with limited mobility does not have to be so difficult. Here’s how you can get started putting together a travel plan that’ll minimize your stress and ensure you’re able to fully enjoy your vacation.
Build a Mobility Needs Checklist
Before you get started planning your trip, it’s important to take stock of what kinds of assistance you’ll need. Compile a checklist of needs you can refer back to when considering locations for your next vacation. Examples of items you might include on your checklist include:
- Any special transportation
- Lodging with ramps and doorways big enough to accommodate your wheelchair
- Proximity to tourist destinations
- Accessibility to needed medical assistance
This fully compiled checklist will help shape your travel plans. Whether it be a large metropolitan area or a remote vacation, ensure that all the items on your checklist are covered.
If you’re traveling overseas, you should use this site provided by the U.S. State Department which lets you see if your travel destination has existing laws or standards for persons with disabilities. Here you can also find a variety of links to government guides on how to travel safely with disabilities or limited mobility. You’ll likely have to rely on public transportation like trains and buses once inside the country, and if you’re visiting more remote locations, obtain limited-mobility friendly transportation, whether it be a cab or your own rented vehicle.
If you choose the former and are spending a day getting to know a major metropolitan area – like New York City, for example – you’ll likely have much less planning to do when it comes to picking accessible trip locations, but still might want to take some time to ensure every stop on your trip can accommodate your needs.
Thankfully, none of these tasks are too difficult and can be easily accomplished with an appropriate period of planning prior to your trip.
Invest in the Right Gear
You should also make sure your wheelchair and any other travel gear can hold up to the stress of your trip. To make things as easy as possible, you’ll want a rugged, lightweight wheelchair which is also, of course, comfortable.
Generic, drug store-bought chairs just won’t hold up under the rigorous stressors that can be put on a chair throughout travel. From having to haul around a cumbersome chair on planes, transfer it from vehicle to vehicle and generally being unable to navigate challenging terrains, these chairs will substantially limit your travel options.
At Troy Technologies, travel wheelchairs are our specialty. Here’s a helpful guide that breaks down the differences between our chairs specifically.
Along with a travel wheelchair, consider what else you need to make your travel experience go off without a hitch. Maybe your chair needs to be outfitted with new wheels, or you might require inserts for your backrest if you’re traversing bumpy terrains, for example.
Smarter Travel recommends travelers with disabilities or illnesses take a doctor’s note and phone number with them on your doctor’s official letterhead. This statement should include information on your condition, medications and any special needs. They also recommend you bring medical alert information with you, like a wallet card or necklace, that will be easily found in case of a medical emergency.
This year, the TSA has introduced new disability notification cards that travelers can print, fill out and bring with them to security checkpoints. These cards have space for travelers to enter information about any pertinent health conditions or medical devices, which may somewhat ease the headaches of getting through security. It should be noted, however, that presenting these cards do not exempt you from TSA screening.
Rely on Key Voices
As you review your checklist of needs and apply them to your actual trip to ensure everything is covered, it can be helpful to hear from others with limited mobility who have made trips similar to the one you’re planning.
There is a large and very helpful limited mobility travel community which extensively breaks down travel and destinations. Mostly bloggers, this community oftentimes shares their firsthand experiences traveling throughout various locations – offering guides for how you can make the most of your trip.
Below are a few resources you can rely on for assistance in planning your next trip:
- Wheelchairtravel.org – This site is run by John Morris, a “27-year-old car accident/burn survivor, triple amputee and wheelchair user.” John’s site has a wealth of great information for travel enthusiasts, but really sets itself apart with its perspective. John realizes that many like him don’t know what to expect when it comes to suddenly facing a limited mobility lifestyle. This empathy carries through in many of the guides he has on his site, like his Wheelchair Users Guide to Air Travel, for example. If you’re unsure of what to expect from various aspects of traveling with a wheelchair, this is a great resource to boost your confidence, along with learn about a variety of wheelchair-accessible cities.
- Curb Free with Cory Lee – Cory Lee is a renowned accessible travel blogger who has been featured in national news and even met with former president Barack Obama. His blog includes tons of great information on destinations, breakdowns of his latest trips geared toward helping others with limited mobility learn from his experience and relevant articles like technologies wheelchair users can employ to make travel easier.
- Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality – Or “SATH” for short, this nonprofit is geared toward raising awareness of the needs of “all travelers with disabilities,” and ties together travel agents, consumers and corporations to support this mission. Here you can find a ton of great information; from suggestions on the best places to travel, to a wide-range of resources on services and companies who are more than willing to provide assistance with your travel plans.
- TripAdvisor – This forum on TripAdvisor is geared specifically to individuals traveling with disabilities and features tons of user submitted information on a variety of issues wheelchair users might find helpful. Examples of popular posts include “Disabled friendly holidays abroad,” and “Accessibility checklist for hotel accommodation,” which gives a list of questions you should ask a hotel to ensure they really are accessible. This is a great place to find some crowd-sourced wisdom.
A little bit of research and planning is all it takes to help you plan a vacation you’ll never forget. With the resources available to us today, there’s no reason limited mobility means your horizons have to be limited as well.