By Megan Seckman
Creating the perfect vacation takes vision, research, and preparation. Preparation for travel with a loved one with mobility issues takes a team. There are so many details to consider. How do you travel from the hotel to a museum or restaurant? How do you get down the narrow aisle of a plane? What type of room should you reserve? What if you’d like to take a stroll on the beach? What equipment should you bring or what can you rent?
With a little help from Sharron Akin, a seasoned caretaker of a friend with atypical Parkinsonism, let Today’s Transitions be your travel team. We will help you so that you don’t forget the intricate details necessary for successful travel.
- Call ahead. Sharron suggests calling the airline six months prior to your travel date to reserve the bulkhead seat, which is roomier and closer to the front of the plane for a shorter walk when boarding and deboarding.
- Be specific about the condition. Sharron’s client has “Freezing Gait Syndrome,” which means she suffers from frequent starts and stops while walking. Sharron will call the airline to ensure they know just how long it takes her client to walk a very short distance. The airport provides them with a wheelchair through the airport and a “transport chair” to assist in boarding the plane (this chair fits down the narrow aisles).
- Arrive at the airport two hours prior to departure to ensure that all the necessary equipment is ready.
- Avoid connecting flights unless the disability causes discomfort while remaining seated. If connecting flights are necessary, be sure there is at least a 90-minute layover.
- Upon check-in, be sure proper transport from the plane and airport is secure at the arrival destination. Reserve a handicapped accessible vehicle upon check-in.
- Check in with the flight attendant before landing to secure a plan for deboarding the plane.
At the Hotel
- Call ahead with measurements on hand. All U.S. hotels have a handicapped accessible room, but depending on the age of the hotel, these rooms may not meet your needs. Know the measurements of walkers or wheelchairs and make sure the bathroom can accommodate these. One time Sharron reserved an accessible room but had to move to a larger room because her client’s walker and the client couldn’t fit in the bathroom at the same time.
- Plan ahead. Accessible rooms sometimes are reserved up to six months prior, so the sooner the better.
- Get to know the concierge. Wheelchairs can be reserved at most hotels in advance, but the concierge can also help you with transportation from the hotel and suggestions for restaurants that can accommodate your needs.
- In larger cities, Sharron found it most helpful to stay at hotels that had several dining options available.
- Historic hotels will not have the same accessibilities as newer, more luxurious hotels.
- Sharron found sightseeing the most difficult. At most museums, due to security, driving up to the entrance is prohibited. Therefore, reserve a handicapped accessible vehicle (and return), but prepare to have a walker or wheelchair handy to make it to the entrance. Even though Sharron called ahead of time to arrange for a wheelchair, upon arriving at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, she and her client had quite a distance to walk to get to the entrance. When they left, they had to traverse the same distance — in the rain — back to the street. They were unable to find a taxi and ended up having to hail a limousine to get them back to the hotel.
- Call ahead to the museum or destination to see what accommodations they offer and for advice on which cross-streets are best for arrival.
- Call ahead to restaurants to reserve a table that is easily accessible (and for parking recommendations).
- Allow for extra time. Crowded streets and venues will take longer to navigate. Consider the location of the hotel to your “must sees” to free up transportation time.
- Do your research. There is a host of equipment that can be rented to enhance your traveler’s experience such as beach wheelchairs, motorized wheelchairs, and walkers.
For more ideas on some of the best places to travel when you have mobility issues, check out these websites:
Here’s What Mint Julep Tours Does
Lisa Higgins is owner of Mint Julep Tours, a Louisville travel company specializing in coordinating tours of Kentucky’s finest: bourbon, horses, and cuisine. If you or a loved one has a taste for our region’s finest, don’t let a mobility issue keep you at the starting gate. MJT specializes in custom experiences, and can not only partner with handicapped accessible buses and vans to meet your transportation needs, but will provide a guide to ensure your experience is enjoyable and accommodating — a little southern hospitality on wheels (if that’s how you roll).
Illustration by Jennifer Wilham