Whilst it’s important to be prepared for all but the most unusual travel challenges it’s not good sense to over-pack either. It’s best to pack based on the nature of your disability and how you’ll react in a different environment.
TRAVELLING WITH MEDICINE
It’s probably best to take your medications with you on to planes since you may need them during the flight (especially if it’s a long-haul). Medicines should be transported in their original pharmacy packaging for identification by you and because they are exempted from airport security who would otherwise take them from you as part of the embargo on liquids over a certain volume. (Pharmaceutical packaging also prevents anyone from suspecting you’re smuggling something else too.) Check customs law in the destination country if your medication is made up of controlled substances.
You may not need to take your whole supply in your carry-on luggage but be sure to take enough to cover you for any unexpected delays at least. If your medication is taken ‘as needed’, be generous – travel is tiring and rigorous and you may need more than you think you do whilst on the move.
LOAN ESSENTIAL KIT
Some of the kit you regard as essential might be available at your destination. Check whether your hotel can loan items like bath chairs or anti-allergy pillows.
PACK TO SUIT YOUR NEEDS
Think about the sorts of things you’ll be doing on your vacation and be sure to pack accordingly. Perhaps you need to take sufficient dressings or the like because you’ll be going swimming, or perspiring more in a warmer climate.
TAKING TOO MUCH
OR TOO LITTLE
Taking too much isn’t always the answer. Common sense and any travel experience will be invaluable in deciding what to take and what to leave. Whilst you want to be prepared for certain eventualities, having too much luggage can be a pain, especially if you need to transfer from the airport etc.
CARRY-ON Vs HOLD
A good tip for anyone travelling as a couple or in a larger group is to share suitcase space with others and vice-versa. This means that if one case goes missing, everyone will still have clean clothes to wear.
Unless you’re going somewhere well off the beaten track, don’t take things that are pretty easy to get hold of – especially if it’s not likely you’ll need them. For instance don’t take things like boxes of wet wipes or cartons of basic pharmaceuticals when you can probably pick them up when you get to your destination. Just take enough for the journey.
Call ahead and make sure that your hotel can cater for any allergies you might have. This is likely to mean checking things like anti-allergy pillows and menus etc. (Check anti-allergy bedding has been put in place when you check in.) If the hotel doesn’t have an anti-allergy pillow it will be worth taking your own with you rather than suffering.
Contact details of your doctor (and specialist) might be crucial in an emergency scenario. They may even be useful to you if you notice an unusual symptom and feel compelled to check it out with a trusted source by phone.
A summary of any medical diagnosis and a list of drugs can mean that a doctor has more confidence in treating you and a better chance of understanding your symptoms (and of providing a viable treatment).
Often only covers emergencies and can be refused if a condition is not previously mentioned etc. A doctor’s letter stating that the condition of the traveller has been stable (for six months or more) can be helpful when purchasing or claiming.
GET SHOTS AND VISAS
DONE IN GOOD TIME
As a traveller it is your responsibility to get any visas and other documentation in order before you travel, as well as any necessary vaccinations. With this in mind, you’ll need to look into any specific illnesses that are prevalent at your destination, especially hepatitis and malaria.
THINK ABOUT AIRPORT
PARKING AND ASSISTANCE
If you anticipate taking your car to the airport it’s well worth booking parking before you get there. There may well be specific discounts and areas for disabled travellers to use. Even if you book a spot the night before you travel, you’ll usually end up saving money.
Consider that your departure gate can be a ’10 minute walk’ from check-in when you’re using large airports. Ask for assistance whilst at check-in.
ABOUT YOUR CONDITION
Think about what might cause any exacerbation of your condition. This might be climate, altitude or certain foods. You need to make sure that any risks are legislated for and have a plan in place to avoid unwanted symptoms.
ASSISTIVE DEVICES & SUPPLIES
This might include diabetic supplies, medicated liquids, walking frames, wheelchairs and oxygen tank. These are not included in carry-on luggage limits etc. It is sensible to label every loose item as a piece of luggage in its own right.
Pack what the animal (usually a dog) will need for the whole trip including food and water. Bring the animal’s vaccination record, carrier, pee pads and a collar and lead. It’s also important to carry documentation proving service animal status beyond that of a ‘clever pet’. Check policies on service animals (and requirements) with your destination and have the documents translated.
READ UP ON YOUR DESTINATION
Get excited and get interested about your holiday destination. There are stacks of books and thousands of online reviews concerning every aspect of every destination you can think of. Think about any obvious dangers such as those concerning drinking the water or eating certain cuisine, or the prevalence of any particular diseases.
Investigate typical daytime and evening temperatures and allow for some variation. Choose clothing that helps wick perspiration away from skin to avoid blisters and sores. Remember also that wheelchair users may get cold quickly, so bring comfortable stuff and items like favourite blankets. This can be especially important for children who aren’t used to travelling or who dislike changes to their routine. (The extra expense of having more hold luggage is often worth it for a good nights sleep.)
If you are travelling with a disabled person you may have to build periods of time when they can rest and recuperate, into your schedule. With this in mind, it might be a good idea to bring along a couple of books or an MP3 player to relax at the same time as they do.