Going abroad when you have a disability is no easy task. Unlike most people we can’t just book a flight, hop on a plane and away we go. We have to take certain things into consideration such as;
- How long will the flight be? Can I manage a longer flight?
- Can I take medications in my hand luggage?
- How do I get my mobility aids onto the plane? Do I have to check them?
- How much will holiday insurance cost?
- Can I sit with my partner/carer on the plane?
- Will I get help at the airport on both ends?
- Will assistance be available during the flight should I need it?
- Will there be help to get to my destination from the airport?
All of these questions need to be thought of and answered before anything gets booked. I have the answer to a few of these questions. I don’t know if these answers apply to countries outside of the UK so you may need to check.
The easiest thing to do, in my opinion, is to book a package holiday through an operator. This will ensure that you will be looked after from when you arrive at the outbound airport, throughout your stay and coming home again. Some people say that it can cost more to book a package deal but I’ve always found it to be a lot less stressful.
Taking medication in your hand luggage can require a letter and/or a copy of your prescription. It’s best to take only what you will need from checking your bags to getting off the plane at the other end. Bottles of liquid over 100ml are not allowed in hand luggage but if you need to take a liquid through, decant some into a small clear bottle and you should be fine.
Taking mobility aids can be tricky, especially if you need to take a wheelchair and crutches for example. You will need to tell the operator when you book your holiday that you will need to check additional items. With wheelchairs they may ask you for the measurements prior to your flight. If it’s going to be too much for you, you can request airport assistance. A wheelchair will be provided for you upon your arrival and it is your to use until you board the plane. You can also be fast tracked through security if you need assistance. Just ask when you book your holiday and the operator can arrange this for you.
Holiday insurance varies for each person. You MUST declare your illnesses prior to travel. Failure to do so may result in costs not being covered should you need medical attention whilst abroad. You can check comparison websites for the best deal and you can alter the amount of cover you want with each policy.
If you are travelling with someone and you need them to be with you during the flight, make sure you say this when booking. Most travel operators charge a substantial amount for you to ‘select your seats.’ This can go up to around £45 per person with some companies! If you need your partner/carer with you then you can sit together for free. Any children under 14 on your booking will also be able to sit with you for free as they aren’t allowed to be left unaccompanied during a flight (double check this with the airline).
Air stewardesses are first aid trained should you require some assistance during your flight. There are certain pieces of equipment available, however, it’s definitely best to inform the operator when you book if you think you may need help. It is helpful to have a letter from your doctor describing any needs you may have. Do this before arriving at the airport though as they may need time to prepare or get things in place.
With a package holiday, coach transfers from the airport to your accommodation are normally included in the price. If you want a private taxi then this can also be arranged (potentially at a cost to yourself but check with your operator.) My tour operator, Thomas Cook, has warned me that, as I will be taking my wheelchair with me, it might not fit on the coach and in that case I will need to hire a taxi at my own cost. I think this is really unfair and have complained but as of yet, nothing has come of it. It leaves me in limbo as I won’t find out if I can get on the coach or not until I get there. Feel free to complain to Thomas Cook about this if you find it ridiculous!
The good thing about package deals is that you can choose your board. We like to go all inclusive so we don’t have to wander about finding places to eat every evening. At your hotel there will be a representative from the tour company who can talk you through places to visit, places to avoid and how to get around etc. They can also help with any problems you have at the hotel.
My last piece of advice is to get what you need when you book. Need extra legroom? Book in advance, that way you don’t have to think about paying out extra at the airport. If you need an accessible room at the hotel then mention it when booking and a request can be sent to the hotel to ensure you are allocated a suitable room. I did this when I went to Spain last year and my bathroom was completely accessible. I had handle bars, a seat in the shower and emergency cords. If you can make your holiday easier in any way, it will definitely be a more enjoyable experience.
If you have any good advice for travelling abroad then please share it!