It’s a subject rarely mentioned in vacation brochures, but if you live with impairments that limit what you are able to do, the kind of travel that other people take for granted can be fraught with difficulties. It’s one thing to cope day to day in a familiar environment where things have been adapted to your needs, quite another to cope with long journeys or trust to being able to cope in a place where attitudes to your situation may be quite different. You’ll find yourself having to do a lot of extra research because cultural attitudes can vary in unpredictable ways – in Japan, for instance, you’ll find very little help available and provision for access poor, but in Namibia, despite the challenges posed by relative poverty, you can expect a warm welcome and lots of support. Faced with all this uncertainty, what can you do to make things easier for yourself and increase the chances of enjoying a trouble-free trip?
Most US bus and train networks can now make provision for mobility impairments if you book ahead, and most airlines have policies designed to make your journey easier, though if your impairment is severe you will not normally be permitted to fly without an assistant. Book ahead for extra help with airport access, security and managing your luggage. If you use a wheelchair it will normally need to be stowed in the hold but you can keep a walking stick or crutches with you. Make sure that accommodation you book is fully accessible as some places don’t understand that ground floor rooms with steps to access are impossible for some people. If hiring a vehicle, use a trusted chain or ask local disability groups for advice.
US bus and train networks and most major airlines are now fully accessible to people with sensory impairments and can provide boarding assistance if you book ahead. You can also take a service animal with you, though this will need to be arranged in advance and you may have to deal with staff who have limited experience of such things, so never let your animal be separated from you. Bear in mind that if you visit a Middle Eastern country you will normally need to stay in an international chain hotel if you want to accommodate a dog, and service animals require their own special ID to visit the UK. Remember that many eye impairments, such as short sightedness and cataracts, can now be corrected, with laser eye surgery giving you normal vision levels, but if you want to do this before you travel you should allow at least a month for recovery.
Mental health problems and neurological differences
Anxiety and depression can make embarking on a journey very difficult even if you can manage much better once you reach your destination. Try to avoid morning starts, when these afflictions are usually at their worst, and get plenty of rest. See if you can arrange for friends or family members to pick you up and drop you off, even if they’re not traveling with you. Take any medication with you in its original packaging and check that it’s legal in the place you’re traveling to. If you have a difficulty like Tourette’s which might cause you to get into a dangerous situation when passing through security checkpoints, call in advance to explain the situation and access any available help. Remember that people in other countries may be even less familiar with neurodiversity issues than most Americans, but that they will often make allowances for what they assume to be cultural differences if you’re clear about what you need.
Traveling with chronic pain can be very difficult but it’s easier if you plan ahead. Arranging to get a seat at the back of your plane, bus or carriage reduces the risk of you being jolted by other people and inflatable cushioning – which is lightweight and easy to fold away – can help you get more comfortable. Sometimes it’s easier to fly with stop-overs so that you can rest, stretch and take pain medication. You will need to carry this in its original packaging and make sure it’s legal in the place you’re visiting – if not, ask your doctor for advice on alternatives. Make sure you allow extra time for recuperation to account for the extra stress your body will be under.
Despite these additional challenges and the fact that travelling long distances can be tiring for anyone, many people with severe impairments still manage to make frequent journeys around America or even to travel the world. They key lies in research and careful planning. You may well find that your dream trip is within reach after all.