Consider this scenerio... Being in a foreign country and down to your last bit of medication, only to have the flight cancelled for mechanical reasons. Been there, done that! My medication allows me to live a better life, but what if it was something my life depended on, such as insulin or heart medication? It is so important to carry extras of everything while you travel.
When we go on a long trip, the last thing anyone thinks about is if they can handle excursions or portions of their vacation. Until recently, I was able to do most anything and I didn’t even bother to consider what my body could handle. Anything I asked it to do, it would comply. But as I have grown older and developed health problems, I have to watch what I do as well. And I have learned the hard way. Hopefully this blog will help you consider what you can do or cannot do on a trip or find out where we can find help.
At age 21, I was hiking up mountains in Austria. I was young and having been a high school athlete, I had the strength and stamina that would allow me to enjoy these adventures. But at age 62 I couldn't even begin to think of a trip that involved hiking up a mountain. When traveling we not only need to take into consideration our age, but our health and strength as well. The last time I went to Europe, I toured Italy by coach, thinking that booking such a tour would handle all of my needs. However, I didn't consider my stamina. By the time I returned home, I was sick for three months with mono, which permanently changed how I was able to travel and work. The company running the tour had warned us not to take on too much, but like many tourists I didn't want to miss anything, and tried it all.
Book a trip that fits you and your lifestyle. If you are fit and love physical activity, try zip lining, hiking up a mountain or try a trip to Machu Picchu. However, if you have physical, emotional or cognitive limitations, ask yourself what they are and take an inventory of activities that might challenge you. Can you have fun on your trip or will you have to modify it somehow? Remember you are paying money either way for your experience. Do you want to have great memories to last a lifetime or those in which you were in misery? Perhaps it is time to switch to a vacation at an all-inclusive resort where there is limited travel, walking and everything is taken care of for you. (All I can remember about walking around Rome was how much my hips hurt!)
The following are just some of the illnesses and limitations to consider when traveling:
Of course, there are many others. But each one of these poses it’s own set of problems to work around or overcome. Unfortunately, we need to learn to be very proactive in our travels and do additional research. In the last few years since I developed health problems, I have become more and more aware of my needs and the possible outcome of trip excursions.
Read everything you can about traveling with disabilities so you aren’t surprised. There are many opportunities on the web, in books, magazines, and organizations you can join to learn about how to travel with a disability. The following are a few of the top resources:
Invaluable website for the handicapped. Provides tips, updates, news, and information.
I made a rookie mistake when booking my accommodations for my last trip at my hotel in Oahu. I didn't tell them my age or my limitations. Consequently, I found myself on the third floor of a hotel without an elevator. Because of my disability I made it up and down a few times before finding the desk and begging them for a room on the first floor. But I am relatively new at this limitation thing and didn't mind asking for a change of living quarters.
So how can I help myself besides telling my travel agent about my disability?
A good agent will help you request wheelchairs or scooters, request help in the airport or with boarding, order special foods and notify the airline of other special needs. However, it is in your best interest to book your trip with an agency that specializes in disabilities if you are significantly disabled. However, be very specific about your needs. Specialized agencies can do the following for you:
If you need to find a good Travel Agent that specializes in disabilities, here are a few to start with, as well as a site to find agencies around the world
There are many resources for the handicapped or limited traveler. However, these are the websites that I found in doing my research:
I cannot emphasize this enough! When traveling alone, I always buy insurance! Make certain you have a reputable insurance that includes medical and covers preexisting conditions, medical evacuation or medevac. Go to the U.S. Dept. of State for a comprehensive list of medical providers. Read the fine print on the insurance contract before signing, or have someone read it to you or for you. You might want to consider trip cancellation insurance as well, especially when you have a disability. Shop around as insurance varies in both price and what it covers. Make certain you have a trusted and reputable travel agent as well. Finally, make sure that insurance covers any care received outside the continental United States.
Learn phrases or words relating to your disability in the language of the country you are traveling to. Bring a translator.
This website may be useful as well in translating what you need to say.
Blue Badge Style, Disability Phrasebook – Handy Translations For Holidays Abroad
I find Google Translate, a free app for the phone, will allow me to use my phone to translate what I wish into the language of the country I am visiting.
As a person who has traveled extensively, I know how important this is. As a person with an unpredictable disability, it can be frustrating, painful and just plain maddening to be running behind in an airport. The regular rule of thumb is to be at your airport 1 ½ - 2 hours for an international flight and 1 hour for a domestic flight. Adding an hour to each of these will give you plenty of time to check in, even with lines, and check out areas such as bathrooms, kiosks, food courts to make your flight easier. You may even check out opportunities to go on a dry run of your trip, but call before as not all airports offer these services. Remember this important rule of thumb, it is always better to have too much time at the airport than not enough!
Preparing for a trip is both exciting and anxiety producing for the average traveler. However, for the solo disabled traveler it can be downright terrifying. When a challenged traveler sets out there are many things to consider:
STEP - https://step.state.gov/step/
There is so much to prepare for when flying. And even though I was flying since I was little, I still get stressed at the airport. People with significant disabilities are brave indeed! Beyond that, they must be informed and very detail oriented. Here are some of the items to consider if you are traveling with a limitation.
Because people who are physically, emotionally and cognitively challenged are often financially challenged too, it is important to make the most of the opportunities provided. Below you can find a short list of ways to stretch your money to help you enjoy your trip more.
3. Organizations that provide discounts for the disabled.
As US citizens we all have the right to travel with disabilities unless our disability threatens others. If you are newly disabled, read up on your rights by checking out the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and ADA rules. U.S. hotels, all transportation, and cruise ships in U.S. waters need to be compliant with ADA rules. If you feel that your rights have been violated on a flight as a handicapped individual, you should ask to talk with a Complaints Resolution Official or you may contact someone at DOT Aviation Consumer Protection Division’s disability hotline at 1-800-778-4838. To file a complaint with the DOT, go to the website at www.transportation.gov/airconsumer.
No one asks to have a prosthetic device or limb instead of one of their own. I can only imagine how limiting it would to be without one in everyday life or traveling through security at an airport. Those who use prosthetics along with the other items in this segment, need these items to live life on a trip. None of us want to run to the nearest doctor's office or hospital when we arrive at our destination. Check out rules and regulations on the airline's website before planning your trip and let them know far in advance if you are planning on bringing any of these items.
Oxygen filled tanks
Let security know that you are carrying medically needed liquids before going through screening
A smart traveler will do three things; plan, plan, and plan some more! This is the credo of the experienced traveler. The more we plan for trips, whether we are disabled or not, makes our vacation that much more stress free and fun! But for the disabled, there is SO much more to worry about, which can make travel very stressful. Those who are mobility limited as I am at present, need to plan out trips with many stops and have scooters, wheelchairs, or drivers of airport vehicles ready if and when needed. Those with a hearing problem, have to organize devices that either amplify sounds around them or have them visually sent to them in messages. Those cognitively challenged or are blind must navigate airports and everything else on the trip, and may need to have a travel companion to help out. And those emotionally challenged may need help with the stress of traveling as well. If you are unable to do this alone, ask a friend who has traveled before to help out in your planning, or better yet, contact a travel agent who deals with disabilities.
Wheelchairs and scooters provide mobility for those unable to get around on their own. Here are a few tips on how to help you while traveling with one and how to keep them and you safe..
Websites to give you more tips:
We must all consider what may happen on our experiences while on vacation. The best way to do this is to plan ahead. But when we have limitations we may have multiple components to consider. We must know everything about our needs and what we can and cannot do, plan for these and tell others how they can help us.
I am still discovering my limitations as these have changed in recent years. But I do know the way I traveled as a twenty or thirty year old is much different than now. On my latest trip to Hawaii, I knew I would have to watch things like walking too much and snorkeling. But when I stepped out of the van on Mauna Loa, I was hit with an altitude sickness I hadn't even considered. Before we swam with the manta rays, I put my seasick patch under my ear, but still experienced seasickness with the motion of the waves. I had planned for my manta ray swim, although now I will ask for an extra strong patch, but hadn't for Mauna Loa. I paid the price for both. Lesson learned.
When traveling with a service animal, you will need to provide proof that it is indeed a service animal, such as documentation, identification cards, and tags.
One of the biggest realizations for travelers when vacationing outside of the USA is that other countries don’t have the same laws regarding disabilities. When traveling, look for the local health, medical and disability organizations before you leave and be informed!
Thirty years ago I lost my wallet in the ocean while beach fishing off of the Central Coast of Australia. Everything in it was lost until this past week when I got a message from a NSW swimmer who had discovered my plastic encased license. That brought back a flood of memories about a panicked 32 year old student teacher who had to call home to cancel everything and have money wired over. Now it is much easier with mobile phones, but it would have been helpful to have photocopied everything I had and have a copy on hand when my originals were lost. Here are some of the cards you might wish to copy and store in a safe place while traveling:
It is very important to factor in the stamina of a person with mobility problems. When I went to Italy 4 years ago, I pushed myself to see everything even though I had some mobility problems and wound up with mono after the flight home. It's not worth seeing that extra site if you are going to get sick. Experts suggest you try to plan your trips around your home schedule. If you take naps at home, make certain you take a break on your trip too. If you need to sit a bit after a couple blocks of walking, make certain that you have scheduled time into your day for this too. Don't stay up late and get up early without resting during the day, if you want to stay healthy. If you must to do this, make sure that you have a day on a bus or plane following so you can sleep.