I originally wrote this in 2013. Everything in the article is true but thankfully, it didn’t all happen on the same trip! – Avery
Recently, I went on a trip to Washington D.C. DC itself was great and I would definitely go back in a heartbeat. However, I was reminded of the special challenges of traveling when you use a wheelchair. Taking into account this trip and other trips that I’ve been on, I’ve come up with some reminders to make your journey a little bit easier…
- When traveling with a disability, if you think something is going to take you an hour to do, schedule two hours. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
- If you use a wheelchair with a motor on it, know the weight and the type of battery that it takes. If your flight gets a little bumpy, you won’t have to wonder if you guessed wrong and get scared wondering if the weight of your chair is going to bring down the plane. As a bonus, resist the urge to wake up your friend sitting next to you who hasn’t slept for 24 hours, to ask him what the hell is happening during the bumpiness.
- Watch the flight attendants. If they are not panicking, you don’t need to either.
- If you are lucky, you’ll get to sit in First Class or the front of the plane because it’s easier than having to drag your butt back to Coach. The snacks aren’t any better but you may get a hot towel and the seats are great.
- If you happen to be in the last row by the bathroom, resist the urge to charge people money to use the bathroom.
- If you are in the last row and it is a very small plane, watch your feet so that the very nice but clearly nervous airline workers do not accidentally twist your ankle.
- Bring a book or something else to amuse yourself because as you’ll probably be the last person off the plane, you might be there awhile.
- Go to the bathroom before you get on the plane. You might have an understanding flight crew who will get you a blanket and some privacy after everyone is off the plane. However, you might get someone who flatly denies your request to go to the bathroom. Wear DEPENDS for underwear, in case you have an accident.
- Feel free to enjoy the uncomfortable looks the flight crew gives you after the previous incident, when you have to share a bus with them to the airport.
- Remember that book that I said 1 bring? Keep it handy in case the bus that you are on, runs out of gas.
- When on the bus, make sure they strap you in. If someone offers to hold the chair, say no. The driver just might have to stop quickly and you might just go flying to the front of the bus.
- If you don’t see your bags, don’t panic. It’s probably in the lost and found because it took so long to get you off the plane.
- If you are told by the conference organizer that there is a bus that will take you directly to your hotel, double check. It saves you the time and agony of having to ask a stranger going to the same conference for a ride after being stuck at the airport for several hours, not being able to get a hold of anyone. As a bonus, thank the stranger a lot, and Luck, for not falling on your butt getting into her car.
- Get your wheelchair into the shop before your trip for a tune-up. It may avoid looking like you’re sitting in a recliner.
- When you are from a small town and not used to public transportation, make sure to get on the subway as fast as you can, in order to avoid the door closing on your foot. As an aside, forget being polite and letting the person in back of you go first, who got on the subway.
- If airline staff look at you with a look of panic in their eyes when you show up at the gate, just smile and have a lot of patience, you might be here awhile.
- If your plane comes in at midnight and the transportation you were promised was going to be there to take you to the hotel, isn’t, wear warm clothes because you might be walking in a group to your hotel.
- Give praise to the airlines who get it right. I love you SouthWest.
- Don’t stop traveling. For all the misadventures I’ve had, I’ve had the opportunity to go on some great trips and see a lot of places that I would never see, otherwise. Try to have a sense of humor about it (not always easy to do). Look at it this way, didn’t you get a good laugh out of this article?
Until Next Time,