Tips for travelling with a disability

Posted on November 5, 2014 by Guest Writer
Woman on a wheelchair on a beach

Most people agree that there’s nothing glamorous about seemingly endless queues, unexpected delays at departure gates that don’t open on time and squashing into cramped seats. Travelling with a disability often means that these things can be all the more inconvenient but, with a little advance planning, they should never stop you from enjoying a well-earned holiday.

If you are new to travelling with a disability or you’d simply like to make travelling easier, we have come up with a few travel tips to help you on your way. Although some may seem like common sense, it’s surprising how many people forget to sort out the basics in all the excitement of jetting off on the holiday of their dreams.

  • A good travel insurance policy is vital to cover your costs should you need emergency medical treatment while you are away. Staysure offers cancellation, curtailment and trip interruption cover to protect you against any unforeseen illness or accidents which may prevent you from travelling after you have booked your holiday.
  • Declare all your medical conditions. If you fail to do so you may find you are not covered in the event of a claim.
  • Make sure your travel insurance policy includes cover for help replacing any lost medication or prescriptions while you are away. Staysure’s Comprehensive policies include this cover as standard.
  • The free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) does not cover you for anything more than standard state run emergency treatment in EU countries plus a few others with healthcare agreements with the UK. If you need an ambulance or treatment, you may need to pay, depending on which country you are in. Don’t expect the card to cover you for things like cancellation, repatriation or lost baggage and belongings.
  • Check out the health care system in the country you will be visiting. Find out in advance where your nearest doctor and hospital are and avoid countries where the health care system is inadequate for your particular needs. Staysure’s Personal Assistance Services, available with all Comprehensive policies, are on hand to help you with information about your holiday destination and the medical facilities you can expect.
  • Bring a doctor’s letter with details of your medical condition and a list of any medicines you are taking, plus their doses so that they are at hand should an emergency arise. Keep this in your wallet or purse so that if you lose your medications, you’ll also be able to replace them more easily.
  • You may need a licence for taking some medicines abroad (e.g. morphine based pain killers). This can be obtained from your hospital, GP or hospice, but this will often need to be applied for well in advance.
  • Check with your doctor and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) if your destination requires vaccinations. You are required by Staysure to have any necessary jabs before you travel.
  • Select a destination and accommodation which will give you the break you need. The last thing you want is to feel like you need a holiday when you get back home. Don’t expect to be able to walk/wheelchair long distances without feeling tired. It’s best to book somewhere where the facilities you want are close by.
  • Don’t underestimate the toll that being late and stressed has on your health. Give yourself plenty of time when leaving your home or hotel and allow far more time than you think you need which should allow for unexpected delays.
  • Instead of sticking to a strict agenda, be careful not to pack too much action into your days. It could be better to limit your activities, so that you can plan around how energetic you feel each day.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to pack. Last minute planning and errands can be stressful.
  • If possible, allow yourself a day before and a day after travel in order to recover and rest.

Travelling with a wheelchair?

If so, with patience and the right arrangements in place, you and your wheelchair could be in for the trip of a lifetime.

  • At flight check-in you should be asked if you need wheelchair assistance to your seat. If you are not asked, then ask for this assistance yourself. When booking your flight, check with the carriers beforehand to find out what their exact procedure is for passengers travelling with a wheelchair.
  • Ask for early boarding to avoid bumping into people and being rushed in a crowd.
  • Check in early and request an aisle seat near the main door to make getting in and out of your seat and into your wheelchair as easy as possible.
  • Make sure the check-in staff tag your wheelchair so that it gets put on the right plane.
  • At security, you will be guided around the metal detector as your wheelchair will not fit in the usual passage. There they will search you in much the same way as an able bodied passenger.
  • Check out the disability services at the airport you are using. Some airports even have disability lounges for your comfort.
  • If you are hiring a car at the other end, arrange for car hire from a booth at the airport or your point of arrival and make sure they can deliver the car to a place which will make it easy for you to pick up.

Check out this video for one experienced wheelchair user’s first-hand experience of travelling by air with a wheelchair.

These tips are non-advisery and are merely meant as a general guide to avoiding problems when you go on holiday with pre-existing medical conditions. For professional advice, please consult your doctor.