If you’re honest with yourself then you’ll know that travelling is a stressful event. Even people that travel a lot find their trips hard work, and have to build lots of comforts in order to make the process more acceptable. When you travel with a disability, the stress is likely to be even more but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t travel. It just means that you need to plan well, understand what is available in the airport you are travelling through, and that you prepare yourself mentally for the trip.
Here are some tips to help you travel more comfortably with a disability.
Be clear about exactly what you need
If you have a medical condition or disability then you are the person who is the expert in your situation. You know how much you can do, and what you can’t do. You know when you need to take breaks at certain walking distances. Make sure that you are very clear about this with the staff in the airport that you are going to, and on the aeroplane itself. Find out about accessible features, facilities and apparatus that is available. If you don’t have a readily visible disability then you really do need to make sure that it is clear to others, so that it is easy for you to get around.
Ask for help
Airlines are used to dealing with people with disabilities, and helping them move through the airport safely. Quite a lot of the airlines actually have designated employees that can meet you at drop off, take you through security after checking, and get you on the plane. Make sure you ask for assistance, and plan both your outward journey and your return journey.
Most airlines will help you free of charge but do check the policies of the airlines you are travelling on before you book your flight. If you are visually impaired then many airlines will enable you to take your guide dog, but you may have to have reservations 48 hours beforehand, although guide dogs are normally free to travel.
Think about your baggage on your journey
You don’t want your medication to be stuck in checked in luggage when you get on the plane. Think about what you need to take in your carry-on luggage, and what you can put in your checked in. If in doubt ask people there in a similar situation to you. Make sure you don’t have too much carry on luggage as it can be a real struggle.
Think about the different legs of your journey
If you are getting connecting flights you need to make sure that you have time to move between terminals or gates. If you need to pass security again then you need to add more time. Be realistic about how much time you actually need for each leg of your journey. Planning some extra time just in case something goes wrong.
Think what it without getting negative
Think about the what ifs that could happen on your journey. For example, what if there were no wheelchairs available? What if the lift is broken? For these things you need to build in extra time and it is also worth checking will chair access and perhaps taking a wheelchair repair kit if you are taking your own chair. When you cover all eventualities, you will have far more peace of mind.
However, as you think of these potential occurrences on your flight out don’t get negative or anxious. Make it a game rather than making it predictive gloom.
Plan your parking
Airports have lots of different airport parking options. If you are taking a car then make sure you are parked in a place that you can easily access the airport. You don’t want to be on a packed bus, or having to jump on a shuttle if at all avoidable. Phone the airlines that you are travelling to and find out what the best options are. If you are getting a rental car to make sure you have to travel a long way through the airport to organise the car and then a long way to pick it up. Many rental companies will be amenable to the idea of arranging things directly and then processing at your car.
Travelling with a disability can be anxiety producing. You have to make sure that you do everything you can to give yourself peace of mind and then take a positive approach to the journey. Get your mindset ready to deal with any challenges that may arise, and understand that at the end of the journey you have your destination, where, hopefully you have some time to relax.