Travelling abroad if you have mobility problems, have a health condition or are disabled can present many different challenges. It shouldn’t, however, be impossible. Here at Cool Crutches, we love to travel so we’ve put together a few tips to help make your holiday run smoothly.
1. Make sure you have the right travel insurance
This sounds simple, but there are so many differences across policies it is vital to double-check. Travel insurance will cost more if you have a disability but it is important to make sure you have the right cover for your needs. Make sure you list any and all chronic illnesses and long-term medical conditions. Insurance companies can be tricky and a small commission can end up costing you a fortune if you need medical attention while you are away!
You might also need additional insurance to protect your mobility aids. Ask for advice from disability organisations and shop around for quotes.
2. Carry Your Blue Badge
Blue badge - never leave the house without it! Whilst Brexit means some EU countries don’t recognise it, the majority still do - you can check your destination prior to travel via the UK govt website. What’s more, if the country you are in does recognise it, it's invaluable! Even if you’re not the driver, you can slot it into any car (or taxi) you are travelling in to give you access to designated parking spaces.
Check on the Gov UK website for the most up-to-date guidance on using a blue badge in the EU.
3. Research Your Destination
Accessible tourism is the ongoing endeavour to ensure destinations of all kinds are accessible to all people. However, as we talked about in our interview with Nina Tame, the term accessibility gets used a lot for places that really aren't accessible.
For this reason, it is important to look beyond guidebooks and tourist information websites. While they are a good source of information, you should search for online travel and disability forums that might provide you with more up-to-date and accurate information.
Many resorts and tourist destinations now have mobility scooters and wheelchairs that you can often rent free of charge or for a small fee. Once you arrive at your destination, check out the range of mobility aids on offer to help get you around the resort.
4. Don't Forget Your Sunflower Lanyard
A sunflower lanyard is essential in airports, stations or any public places. By wearing one you are discreetly notifying staff members of your disability regardless of its visibility and can allow you to move through the fastest queues and receive assistance where needed without having to ask.
If you don’t have one, or forget it, you can pick one up at the special assistance desk. The good news? Whether you're travelling with a crutch, crutches, walking stick or wheelchair you won't have to queue as you move through the airport. A sunflower lanyard will help make this as quick as possible, but if you find yourself in a queue at any point just ask a member of staff and they will help you through the fastest way (often by going straight to the front!).
5. Familiarise Yourself With Check-In Procedures
Avoid panic and unpleasant surprises by familiarising yourself with procedures at the airports. If you have a walking stick or crutches with you, you will be able to take this through the airport with you, even if you are booked into Special Assistance and given a wheelchair. If you book Special Assistance you will be provided with a wheelchair and a designated member of staff to push you, whilst it is preferable to book this in advance it can also be booked at check in. So, if you wake up on the day you're travelling feeling wiped, you can easily ask at check in and Special Assistance can be arranged free of charge. Your sticks will need to go through the security checks but you can wait for them to be cleared whilst you wait either in a wheelchair or a seat provided at security if you're walking.
If you take a wheelchair, it will be stored with the luggage for the duration of the flight and you’ll be given another to transport you around airports at either end and to and from your seat.
If your personal wheelchair or mobility aid comes with specialist storage instructions or needs to be handled in a certain way, make sure the airline knows and you know where, when and how your mobility aid will be returned to you.
Enjoy Your Holiday
You won't be able to guarantee everything runs smoothly but you can prepare and manage risk by researching and planning ahead. Armed with knowledge on what you are entitled to and what is available to help, you will be able to relax and enjoy your holiday.
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