Whether you are booking a package holiday with a travel agent or arranging all the details independently, it is important to plan in advance and book with service providers who have experience with your needs. It is often best to arrange a holiday through a travel agency that deals directly with the needs of wheelchair enabled travellers.
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Don’t book any accommodation without checking if the hotel room, villa or self-catering apartment is wheelchair accessible. This means that the room needs to have been adapted. If you are booking directly, ask the accommodation provider if there are wheel-in showers, pool hoists, ramped pool access, ramps instead of stairs and less abled & disabled bathrooms. Look for accommodation that provides lowered hand rails and plenty of space. If you are booking through a travel agency, get them to confirm this in writing from the accommodation provider before you confirm the booking with them.
Airports and Airlines
When you are booking flights, ring the airline in advance and ask what their policy is when dealing with wheelchair enabled people. Ask them what assistance they provide. Check if they have an ambulift in place if the plane is not connected with an air bridge. Check that there will be someone there who can provide assistance to your seat using a transit chair if you require it. Ask what assistance security can provide in escorting you around the airport and onto the plane. Allocation of extra leg room seats varies considerably and is dependent on individual airline policy and the type of aircraft used. Check in advance with the airline as some airlines will say that the extra leg room areas are for emergency use only and others charge extra.
Ask about the transportation of a manual foldable wheelchair. You can sit in your chair up to boarding the gate and then it will be stored in the aircrafts hold. Alternatively you can check your wheelchair in with your bags and use an airport wheelchair to the aircraft. Make sure to check if your insurance covers your wheelchair just in case it is damaged while on holiday.
Taxis and Transfers
Transfers can actually be one of the biggest problems for wheelchair enabled people on holidays. Make sure to check with your travel agent in advance if the taxi or shuttle bus is adapted for wheelchairs. If it is not, you will need help to fold up and store your wheel chair and be comfortable enough with someone lifting you into a seat. If you are booking independently, you will need to arrange transfers in advance. You cannot depend on turning up at the airport and expecting a taxi rank to have wheelchair adapted cars.
If you are staying in a resort check in advance if they have mobility equipment to hire. Examples might include commode chairs, electric scooters, mobility hoists, power assisted wheelchairs, manual wheelchairs, bath lifts, walkers, profiling beds, standing and rising aids. If there is a pool, check about ramps and lifts. Ask to be placed in a room on the ground floor if there is no elevator. Ask about the rest of the resort in terms of the dining areas and bar.
Visit your doctor in advance of your trip and be specific in describing your trip to your doctor. Your doctor can often prescribe measures for coping with a long haul flight, limited medical facilities at your destination, lack of unavailability of prescription drugs and any other pitfalls of travelling. Be prepared to take on board your doctor’s advice as he or she may not always advise on certain holidays if he or she feels your medical needs will not be met. Always travel with a statement from your doctor on his or her medical practice letterhead, outlining your condition, your medications, potential complications and any special needs you may have. Be sure you have a number where your doctor can be reached in an emergency situation. Source a local doctor in advance of travel as a precaution.