Travelling for a lot of disabled people is hard work. The planning has so many more steps, the mental energy is A LOT and you’re living on the edge not knowing if each step of the journey (no pun intended) is actually as accessible as you are promised.
Now, I’m no travel blogger – but I have really turned a corner with travel anxiety and have got into the flow of travelling as a wheelchair user. So I thought I’d use this post to help others too. This one is for the beginners out there. You may be really nervous to travel and want to find out what to do first? You may have been tasked at work to book a trip for your wheelchair using colleague? Or you may be a pro and just want to know how someone else tackles a trip. Well look no further – here’s how I plan a trip and some tips along the way…
Allowing time for travel and rest
As a wheelchair user, it’s really important to factor in time to actually get around. So if you’re getting a taxi to the station – I would recommend leaving enough time incase the wrong taxi comes or it takes longer than usual to get in and clamped up (into the car).
There’s also the time needed to rest and save your energy. Think about your best time of the day energy wise, are you more of a morning person or do you like time to come around a bit. This may mean booking another night in to fully rest if you have something fun planned for your trip. Will you also need time to recuperate after your trip? I certainly do.
Now, booking trains as or for a wheelchair is a bit of a faff, but doable. There are many different steps and orders to booking a train but these are the two main things you need to do. Book your tickets and book your wheelchair space and assistance. Most companies ask disabled travellers to book assistance at least 24hrs before they travel. Which obviously can be annoying.
I’ve asked followers on Twitter which order they prefer to book their trains and it can be totally different for each person. I would say if you are new to the game…
- Google the stations you want to depart and arrive and make sure they have the basic access requirements. Most stations in the UK have this information on the National Rail website.
- Look at your schedule and find out what train route you would like to book your tickets. For me the less changes, the better.
- When you know your route, call the train lines’ assistance team and find out if there is a wheelchair space for that route and book your ramp. To find out their number google the company and “assistance” next to it.
- Depending on the train company, they may be able to book your tickets for you while you are on the line. If not, sometimes I just go online and book my own tickets unreserved once I know I have my space. Don’t forget to use your disabled railcard if you have one too!
Booking hotels can be a minefield when you want to make sure things are as accessible as possible. If you are booking for someone else be sure to ask them, what the main necessities are access wise. Typically this may be, blue badge/disabled parking, a roll in/walk in shower, wide door frames and high or low beds, depending on the person.
Don’t be shy to call the reception of the hotel and ask about their facilities.
Now obviously we all have our essentials when travelling. But I thought I’d share things that I couldn’t live without
- Portable charger – if there are no plug sockets close to the bed to charge my phone
- Travel toiletries – so luggage is as small and light as possible as it’s probably going to be on the back of my chair
- Keep cup or reusable bottle – if I need to take any tablets on the go
- Side bag – for things I may need to regularly get out like rail cards and tickets
- Table standing mirror – incase the hotel mirror is too high
Asking about accessibility
Wherever you go on your trip – you probably need to ask about accessibility whether that’s the theatre, food places or tourist attractions. If you’re booking for someone else, this can be a daunting task. It’s also useful to know that sometimes when people say something is accessible it still has a “small step to get in” which isn’t useful or accessible for a lot of wheelchair users. A lot of people aren’t aware about explaining their access unless you ask clear questions. So here are some typical lines I use which may help…
- “Does your (restaurant/club/pub) have step-free access?”
- “Do you have blue badge/disabled parking spaces available?”
- “Does your hotel have accessible rooms and what are the facilities?”
- “Do you have steps leading into or inside your building?”
I hope this blog has helped in some way when thinking about booking a trip. As you can see there are many more steps when booking trips as a wheelchair user. So if you’re going with your wheelchair using friend, try some of these tips and help lighten the load. I’m sure they would totally appreciate it.
What are your essentials when travelling? Do you have any tips to add? I’d love to know!