In the past, going on holiday as someone with limited mobility meant both the journey and the stay could quickly turn into a nightmare. Things have changed though, and from airport assistance to care-assisted holidays, taking a break can be a seamless, comfortable and enjoyable experience, provided you ask the right questions.
If you have limited mobility and are planning a trip, here are some tips on making sure everything runs smoothly.
When you have reduced mobility, it's always wise to ensure everything is planned ahead, checked and confirmed, right from the moment you leave your front door. If you're taking a taxi to the airport, for instance, you'll need to check with the taxi firm that the vehicle is suitable for your needs. Similarly, if you require assistance getting from the airport car park to the check-in, you'll need to contact the airline in advance to advise them, particularly if you'll need a wheelchair.
Contact with your airline is essential, no matter what your medical condition. For instance, if you need to take oxygen canisters, they will need at least 7 days' notice and you may have to pay a charge, and if there could be any doubt as to your condition affecting your ability to fly safely, you should come equipped with a doctor's certificate advising that you are well enough to travel. Some airlines will allow you to keep your own wheelchair until you arrive at the aircraft, but again, check in advance. If not, the airline must provide a suitable alternative.
And don't forget to double check the details of assistance and transfers at your destination airport so that you know your needs will be taken care of. If you're renting a car and have specific needs, you must request these well in advance.
Doing your homework well ahead of your date of travel is a must, and it is advisable to ask for detailed confirmation in writing. A handy tip is to make a list of questions you want to ask at the time of booking, writing down the answers from the travel firms as you go. This will enable you to compare operators, and ensure that you've covered all bases.
Just as with your travel needs, checking the details of your destination accommodation is essential. Whether hotel, cruise ship or self-catering property, make sure you ask about everything from wheelchair lifts or ramps, to bathroom grab rails, accessible showers, emergency pull cords, and even suitable telephone equipment or light switches at the right height.
If you are checking into a resort, do your homework in terms of the leisure facilities and how accessible they are, as well as information about possible excursions or attractions and their suitability for people with reduced mobility. It may be easier to hire the necessary equipment at your destination, but again, advance notice is advisable, so that you know it is available and how much it will cost. A little research into the local area is a good idea, from knowing how far you will be from the hospital, just in case, to finding out how easy it will be for you to get around town. Specialist operators will likely provide all this information, but local tourist information can also prove useful.
As with your travel plans, when making a reservation, check, double check, and get detailed written confirmation in order to make your stay as worry-free as possible.
There are a number of holiday firms specifically aimed at people with disabilities, and these could be a great help if you're a first-time traveller, require care assistance, or are just worried about doing it on your own. Depending on the destination, there are varying options, from simply finding a resort or accommodation that is fully kitted out for wheelchair users, to those that provide staff who can help with getting up, showering and dressing, or even on-site physiotherapists. Some may even have nurses on call 24/7, with doctors available on certain set days. Unico Care provide such care-assisted holidays in Spain, and Enable Holidays and Chrysalis Holidays are others to consider.
Have you recently travelled abroad as a person with reduced mobility? What advice would you give to others planning a getaway? Leave your comments below...