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Here are 7 of the Most Important Travel Tips for Wheelchair Users:
1) Have a shower cap with you at all times!
This may seem like a weird tip for wheelchair users, but a simple shower cap can come in very handy. Imagine that you are out exploring a city and rolling from place to place, then suddenly it starts to rain. What do you do to protect your chair from getting soaked and potentially malfunctioning? If you have a shower cap, just throw it over the joystick controller area. It is the perfect size to completely cover the joystick area, but you will still need an umbrella to protect the rest of your chair of course.
2) Whatever you do – FIND A LOCAL WHEELCHAIR REPAIR SHOP BEFORE YOU TRAVEL!
Before you even think about traveling somewhere new, use the magical powers of Google to locate a wheelchair repair shop in your desired destination city. You never know when your chair will tear up or when the airline will damage your chair. There is nothing worse than arriving somewhere, only to learn that your chair isn’t functioning. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
3) Take more money than you think you will need.
This is one of my favorite travel related quotes and couldn’t be more true. I always try to calculate how much money I need to take on a trip to cover meals, attractions, taxis and souvenirs, and then add at least $250-500 for unexpected circumstances that could arise.
4) Book transportation before you leave home.
Many cities do offer wheelchair accessible transportation of some sort, but it may not always be readily available when you want it. At the least, book in advance an accessible taxi from the airport to your hotel and then from your hotel to the airport for your departure. After arriving at your hotel, the concierge should be able to help you get transportation around the city, but feel free to book as much as possible beforehand. It’s no fun sitting at your hotel waiting on a taxi. Trust me, I know from experience. I once waited almost three hours for an accessible taxi that never even came.
5) Take parts of your wheelchair as a carry-on.
Plan to take an empty bag to the airport with you to put parts of your electric wheelchair in as a carry-on. I always detach the footrests and the joystick of mine, and I have detached the headrest before as well. I have heard horror stories of disabled travelers arriving to their destination to discover that parts of their wheelchair are banged up or even missing completely. Luckily, I’ve been pretty fortunate to not have experienced this, other than losing a joystick knob once. Also, take your wheelchair cushion on the plane to sit on throughout the flight. It is much more comfortable than the plane seat.
6) Check the voltage at your destination.
Wheelchair chargers can be tricky when traveling. So tricky in fact, that my charger has blown up twice in two different countries. I took a converter to charge my USA charger with in Germany and England, but as soon as we turned it on to charge it blew up. The chargers are so powerful that they just can’t convert properly as needed. In London I ended up finding a repair shop that sold chargers so I had to buy a 240 volt charger on the spot. This wasn’t cheap though. It cost a whopping 250 £. For future trips that you have planned, do some research and see if anywhere will let you rent a charger while you’re in the country.
7) Never ever EVER book a vacation over the internet!
When you are booking flights and hotels, always be sure to call instead of booking online. Sure, it’s fun to browse online and the web can definitely help you make a decision as to where to stay, but somewhere saying that it is wheelchair accessible online can mean many different things. I once found a hotel online that said it was wheelchair accessible, so I called them to reserve it and I asked what was accessible about the hotel. The receptionist responded by saying “We have an elevator”. They did not have a roll in shower, wide doorways, or anything that I needed… just an elevator. As far as flights go, when you book a flight you have to request bulkhead seating (the front row of seats) over the phone. The bulkhead seats usually have much more room to get into the seat and sometimes the armrest will lift up, making these seats ideal for wheelchair users.
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