We would like to share with you some travel tips, which will hopefully help in planning a holiday for a wheelchair and mobility scooter user. Most of the tips are common sense, but there may be a few you hadn’t thought of!
Locations & Hotels
Select the area you wish to visit.
Find out if the area is flat, There is no reason to pick a location on a hillside, if there is a hotel two minutes away which is on the flat.
Contact the hotel by telephone to check if they have disabled rooms. Many hotels now have a website which will tell you this, but send them an email anyway, you will then have written confirmation if you get there and they try to pass you off denying knowledge that you are in a wheelchair.
Ask for a disabled room on the lowest floor in case of an emergency. Lifts are often turned off in a fire.
Be sure when you email the hotel about the disabled room to state your wheelchair width, and ask them to confirm their door widths. There’s no point in getting there if you can’t get through the door. Get the hotel to confirm the bathroom door widths as well.
If the disabled room has a roll-in shower, ask if they have a shower wheelchair as well. If they don’t, you may have to improvise. If you have a manual chair, wrap your cusion in a bin liner, and put a bin liner over your backrest to keep it dry. You can then use your wheelchair as a showerchair, but be carefull, as soapy water on bin liners will make your chair very slippery to sit on.
Warning - You must only try showering in your wheelchair as a last resort and at your own risk, and never attempt this in an electric powered chair for risk of damaging the circuits in your chair and/or getting an electric shock.
Ask the hotel what the check in and check out times are.
If you book your hotel directly by telephone, email the hotel and ask them to confirm your booking by sending you a booking confirmation reference code. This will be evidence of your booking when you get there, just in case for some reason the hotel denies a booking was made, it can happen.
Flights & Travel
With more and more wheelchair travelers taking to the skies you would think that airlines would make improvements that keep pace with the changing demographics of their passengers. Sad to say, when it comes to handling wheelchairs and scooters, not all airlines are taking the extra efforts to see that these vital elements of our passengers' lives are making it to their destination unharmed. The bottom line of your airlines' performance depends on the airport staff, the airline staff, and the airline crew on duty at the time you check into the airport and board your aircraft.
Take painstaking steps to notify your airlines that you are traveling by wheelchair. Inform them if you are traveling with a manual wheelchair, an electric wheelchair, or a scooter. When reconfirming your flight, ask the airline for "maximum assistance" at all airport terminals. Reconfirm your request for "maximum assistance" when you arrive at the airline ticket counter.
At the airport, ask the ticket personnel to "gate check" your wheelchair and obtain a luggage claim receipt for your wheelchair. When you "gate check" your wheelchair it allows you to roll your wheelchair directly to the fuselage of the plane where you will either walk to your seat or transfer into an "aisle chair" for assistance to your seat. Before handing your wheelchair over to the airline staff, remove your leg supports and portable seat cushions and carry these into the plane....these do not travel well when attached to your wheelchair and are likely to be lost. We recommend a small, nylon sports bag large enough to hold the leg supports that is also light enough to fold into your carry on luggage when not in use. This light weight sports bag keeps your leg supports in one place and hopefully prevents them from falling out of the overhead luggage bin onto someone's head. If your wheelchair folds, collapse the wheelchair together and use a small strap or a piece of "duct tape" to hold the sides together. This process makes for a compact wheelchair that is less likely to be damaged with airport handling.
Travelers who travel by scooters and electric wheelchairs should follow all of the appropriate measures above in addition to other precautions.
It is strongly recommend that your electric wheelchair or scooter be equipped with "gel cell" or "dry cell" batteries. "Wet cell" batteries, like the one used in automobiles, are strongly discouraged since airlines must separate these from your scooter or wheelchair and store them in a leak proof container.
Scooter travelers who "gate check" their scooter should assume that some member of the airline staff will be appointed to drive your scooter into the belly of the plane. To protect your scooter, other passengers and other airline staff we recommend the following steps. Before handing your scooter over to the airline staff, place a piece of removable tape on top of the throttle control and secure the throttle control in the slowest position. This tape should read "Do Not Remove." Make sure your key, or power pin, is well secured to the scooter. Use a strong, durable cord to attach your key or control pin. Do not use a rubber band or an elastic strap to secure your key to the scooter. To secure your key or power pin to your scooter, we suggest using a 12 or 14 inch "60 or 80 pound steel leader" obtained from a fishing supply store. And last, remove any removable baskets and portable seat cushions and carry these into the plane....these do not travel well when attached to your scooter and are likely to be lost.
Electric wheelchair travelers who "gate check" their electric wheelchair should assume that some member of the airline staff will attempt to drive your scooter into the belly of the plane. We suggest making several extra efforts to prevent anyone from actually driving your precious and expensive wheelchair. Switch your chairs' transmission into "neutral" so it can be easily pushed. Unplug the battery connection between your chair and the battery and place a short piece of electrical tape over both connector ends. Better yet, if the power cord is easily removed take it with you in your carry on bag.
If the entire "joystick control" can be easily removed...remove it! It not, try loosening the knob that positions the joystick control and point the joystick downward, towards the ground. Or last, unscrew the "joystick knob" from the control base and carry it with you into the plane. In any event, try to prevent damage to the joystick! An unprotected joystick is an accident waiting to happen.
Search the internet for customer reviews and airline lifting policies before you book with an airline. The reason I say this, is because if you need lifting into your plane seat, not all airlines are prepared to do this.
Try to book a seat with extra leg room, behind the bulkhead, as it makes transferring/lifting into your seat alot easier.
Check with the airline to see if they have pre-flight boarding. This will mean you get on the plane before everyone else, and not be caught up in the mad rush for seats and overhead baggage space.
Take your cusion on the plane to sit on, if you are on an international flight of long duration, the last thing you want is a pressure sore.
Sometimes on international flights you may be able to get an upgrade on your flight. You will have to be first in the que at check-in though, so get there early. An upgrade is when the airline have not filled all the seats in first class, or business class, and if you are lucky, they will let you sit there instead of economy class.
if you have to sit in a normal seat on the plane, try to book a window seat. Once you are seated you will not be getting up, and if someone next to you wants to get up and you are in an isle seat, they may have to climb over you to get out!. On a 7 hour journey, this can be a real pain! Also, the window will give you something to lean against if you wish to sleep, and something for you to brace yourself against when the plane brakes during landing.
If you any mobility issue and you wish to visit Spain, you can rent a scooter in Accessible Madrid www.accessiblemadrid.com. Contact us to rent an electric mobility scooter. We offer a very convenient home delivery service.
If you are a traveler with disabilities or simply a slow walker and you are visiting Spain, we will be happy to help you to organize your Accessible Holidays in Spain. We offer a wide selection of 1-Day Private Accessible Tours in cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Cordoba, Sevilla, Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial, Aranjuez and Chinchón.
Accessible Madrid offers a broad and very focussed selection of Customized Accessible Vacation Packages for people with reduced mobility, disabled or simply slow walker travellers.
Visit our online store if you need to buy a mobility scooter. Accessible Madrid offers the widest selection of the best electric mobility scooters in the market.