Holiday Travel Guide for Wheelchair Users

Nov 05 2015

The holiday season is quickly approaching and travelers are dusting off their luggage to go visit family and friends. The holiday season is the busiest time of year for the travel industry and wheelchair users are a large part of travelers. Whether your destination is snow filled mountain tops or tropical beaches, traveling can be hectic and stressful this time of year. As a wheelchair user, you need to be prepared ahead of time for the holiday travel to assure you have a positive and hassle free experience.

Paperwork and Passports

International travel always requires a passport. Check the expiration date on your passport as soon as you know you will be traveling. Generally it takes four to six weeks to renew a passport. The same timeline goes for obtaining a first-time passport. You will not be able to travel to your international destination without a valid passport.

Consulting with your doctor and getting your prescriptions filled for the duration of your trip and at least one week beyond is recommended. You will also want paperwork from your doctor regarding any medical information in case of an emergency during your trip. Keep all documents in a safe place, preferably in your carry-on luggage or bag.

Confirm Your Reservations

Hiring a travel agent who is experienced with wheelchair accessible traveling is essential to making your trip run as smoothly as possible. Experienced travel agents will think of things that you may overlook when making reservations. They also save you time from making a variety of reservations such as plane and hotel accommodations.

If you choose to plan your trip yourself, you will want to do so carefully. First, choose your destination and contact the transportation service to make a reservation. Often people choose to travel by plane. In this case you will want to contact the airline of your choice and ask about wheelchair requirements. Individual airlines have their own rules to follow, so it is essential that you get the information directly from the airline. Book your flight and choose a seat that makes you the most comfortable. Flights around the holiday season fill up quickly, try to make your reservations as early as possible.

Sometimes it’s easier for wheelchair users to stay in accessible hotels instead of with their family or friends. Often other people’s homes are not easily wheelchair accessible enough to stay comfortably. Almost all hotels have designated wheelchair accessible hotel rooms that are suitable and comfortable for any length of time. Since there are only a handful of these rooms, they go quickly, it is important to make your reservations as soon as possible to assure you get an accessible room.

Luggage Issues

Traveling for the holidays usually requires more luggage than any other time of the year. Often the additional luggage is due to accommodating room for bulky winter clothing and gifts. Contact the airline regarding luggage size, weight and cost. Some airlines charge extra fees per piece of luggage. This is something you will want to be aware of ahead of time.

Wheelchair Travel Requirements

Batteries for power wheelchairs are often an issue when traveling on planes. There are federal regulations set in place that you should know about ahead of time to prevent issues on the day of travel. The following are details regarding wheelchair batteries.

  • Lithium Ion Battery – To bring this battery onboard a plane you will need to adhere to federal regulations including having an effective means designed into the wheelchair to prevent short-circuiting and accidental activation. In addition, you are allowed to have one lithium battery installed in your wheelchair as well as carry two others in your luggage. The individual batteries can’t exceed 300 watt hours.
  • Spillable Battery – If you use a battery for your wheelchair that has the capability of spilling you need to consider the following guidelines. The battery has to be void of defects, it must be secured or have packaging that protects it against short circuits and it must be insulated to prevent short circuits.
  • Non-Spillable Battery – A non-spillable battery needs to be attached to the wheelchair securely, the wheelchair must have one effective means designed to prevent accidental short circuit and the battery cables must be removed during the length of transportation and connected upon arrival at the destination.

Damaged or Lost Wheelchairs

Travel companies within the United States are required to follow the American with Disabilities Act. If you find that your wheelchair has been damaged or lost during transport by an airline, train, car service or bus company, you will need to report it immediately.

Generally travel companies have plans set in place to accommodate passengers who experience damage or lost wheelchairs. You may need to rent a suitable wheelchair from a local vendor until yours is recovered or repaired. You will want to send the bill to the airline or travel company that was responsible for the incident.

To prevent further complications, it is recommended that you snap a few pictures of your wheelchair with your cellphone camera or personal camera before boarding. This allows you to have proof that your wheelchair was in top condition before travel started.

Whether you are flying domestic or international it is always wise to provide an emergency contact list to the transportation company and hotel. You will want to notify the people on your emergency contact list in advance, in case their contact number is different during the holiday season. Always have an experienced technician, such as Advanced Mobility Scooters, evaluate your wheelchair and make necessary repairs before going on your trip. This will help your travel experience during the holiday season go smoothly.

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