Nothing beats the sensation of hitting the open road. The freedom, the adventure and the spontaneity attached to embarking on an epic road trip is something truly addictive. Whether it’s ambling along the English countryside or busting a gut across the length of Europe – the possibilities seem endless.
By Anthony Williams
For me, road trips offer the ultimate travel solution. In a sense the sheer fact that travel arrangements for the entirety of the trip are sorted, is enough – but also, having a car acts as a backup if you fall short when organising accommodation – as I know all too well.
If you have your own adapted car, then you know what to expect. Your car is no doubt designed and fitted-out to meet your needs and that’s just great, but what if you’re renting? Well, speaking from experience, it’s sometimes quite hard to find rental companies that will also supply adapted cars. Some major rental agencies, such as Europcar, offer a service whereby you can rent a car with hand controls, although you really need to let them know well in advance as they sub-contract a separate company to fit them which can take up to 48 hours.
So why should you choose a car based holiday over a traditional trip, such as say, a package holiday to Spain? Well, as mentioned earlier, the freedom attached to taking a trip with the car is unparalleled. You’re able to go wherever you want, whenever you want and when you get to your final destination, you have transportation to get around and explore the surrounding area. I recently drove from my home in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. That example of freedom was ever present on my trip, as in the end, I didn’t just drive directly as the crow flies and I had a brilliant time travelling through the Baltic countries and around the Mediterranean coast. Once I arrived in Sofia I could easily get around the city and see much more than I would have done if I’d travelled by plane and was relying on just my wheelchair to get around the city.
Even simple things like going to the supermarket (which is necessary if you’re self catering) suddenly become so much easier if you’ve also got a car. Not only is it more efficient to get to the destination, but once you’ve finished your shop, you’ve got a transporter to get your goods back to the place you’re staying. It might seem trivial, but when travelling with a disability, small things like this can be a godsend and can save you the hassle of always needing to use taxis.
Another factor which is often overlooked, is that you can take your time when driving. Maybe you want to break your journey up and stay in a few places along the way, or maybe you just want to stop for a while in a particular city and check it out for the afternoon before continuing with your drive – well guess what? Having a car makes this extremely easy to do. On the drive itself you’ll also see a lot more than you would if you were stuck on a plane. Crossing countries offers you the chance to soak up much more of what that place has to offer. It’s hard to take in all the intricate details of a place when you’re 40,000ft in the air!
A road trip can often also be a much cheaper option than travelling by train or plane – especially if you’re travelling in a group and splitting the cost of the fuel with passengers. For example, a return flight from London to Paris can often cost in excess of £100 whereas splitting the cost of fuel/ferry with a car full of five people should only cost around £50 per person. Yes it takes a little longer to get to your final destination, but when you consider airport check-in and other time consuming factors the difference in time is negligible for certain journeys.
A final thing to consider when deciding if you want to take a car holiday is whether or not you have any additional needs. Perhaps you need to take certain pieces of equipment with you on your travels and so it would be highly beneficial to have a larger car that can help you transport these items. Travelling on a plane and carrying things such as oxygen bottles, feeders, shower seats, commodes, and/or catheters can be extremely difficult and can result in needing to check in extra baggage too. Travelling by car enables you to ship this equipment from place-to-place with ease – providing you’re nifty with your packing skills.
I love all forms of travel, but I do have a soft spot for road trips having driven across Europe several times and also taken a road trip around New Zealand. I’m writing this on a plane to the USA where I’m about to set off on a trip from New York to Columbus, Ohio and then hopefully north up to Niagara Falls and across into Canada in order to visit Toronto for the first time. I’m renting a car from JFK Airport and I really can’t wait to get on the road to see what I can find!
Anthony Williams is the writer of blog, The Geordie Traveller. He recently began an audacious mission to set foot (wheel) in every single country in the world, saying: “I’m fairly certain this is a challenge which has never been conquered by someone who, in the eyes of society, is considered severely disabled. I’m here to show the world that in some ways disability is just a state of mind.”