The demand for accessible travel has significantly increased in the last 10 years. There are now companies that specialise in accessible travel and there are a myriad of travel blogs and resources that you can refer to if you want help or inspiration. With a bit of planning, you can also take your wheelchair or mobility scooter with you. Read on to get our top tips for travelling with mobility equipment.
Plan, Plan and Plan Some More!
The most important thing to remember when travelling with a wheelchair or mobility scooter is to think ahead and check the accessibility provided by your carrier/s, hotel and destination before you set out. The last thing you want is to embark on your well-deserved holiday to only to face accessibility challenges, so it pays to do your research.
Booking Your Holiday
While some airlines, cruise ships, train services and hotels provide accessible options for full-size scooters and electric wheelchairs, some providers may not be able to accommodate certain equipment so always call your provider to make sure they can handle your wheelchair before you finalise your booking.
Make Sure You’re Equipment is Suited to Where You’re Going
It’s also important to consider the type of wheelchair you plan to use while travelling. While a lot of wheelchairs and mobility scooters are equipped to handle all types of terrains, certain models may struggle with cobble-stone streets, hilly terrain or wet weather. We suggest that you contact your manufacturer and/or mobility equipment supplier to ask their advice about whether your equipment is suitable for your destination.
Prepare for Emergencies
It’s vital to plan for emergencies if you plan to take your wheelchair or scooter with you. At a minimum, we suggest that you carry spare batteries and inner tubes (if appropriate) with you in case you blow a tyre. We also recommend that you find the nearest wheelchair/mobility scooter shop to your accommodation/s and contact them ahead of time to see if they have technicians who can help you if you have an accident or breakdown.
If You’re Flying
Most airlines have their own policies for carrying mobility aids like wheelchairs, so it’s important that you speak to them directly when booking your ticket. When you contact the airline, they will want to know certain details about your wheelchair to make sure it can be carried safely, so make sure you know the make and model of your wheelchair, the type of battery it uses (lithium, gel or lead) and the battery’s size (voltage and amp hours) before you call. Also take note of the size and weight of your wheelchair.
Some batteries must be removed and carried as hand luggage. If this is the case for you, make sure you have an appropriate box or carry-case. Some airlines may also require a verification of compliance certificate for your battery, these are available from your manufacturer or supplier.
If your airline requires that you transport your equipment in cabin luggage, we suggest that you ask your mobility equipment supplier about the safest way to package your equipment for air travel – baggage handlers can be careless even with fragile equipment, so it’s important that you ask an expert about packaging to minimise the potential for damage.
If Your Equipment is Damaged
No matter how careful you are, your wheelchair or mobility scooter may be damaged by baggage handlers while in transit. This is why it’s a good idea to take photos of your equipment and it’s condition before you fly. If you do notice damage to your wheelchair when you arrive at your destination, take photos of the damage and report it at the baggage claim area before you leave the airport and get written proof of your complaint. If you experience language barriers, get on the airline’s website as quickly as you can to report the damage. Most airlines require for damage to be reported within 7 days in order for them to take responsibility for the damage, so don’t delay.
For total peace of mind, it’s a great idea to insure your wheelchair or mobility scooter before you travel. If you have a pre-existing policy, make sure it covers you while you are overseas.
Blue Badge Insurance offer comprehensive cover for both wheelchairs and mobility scooters, including 21 days travel insurance at no extra cost (you can extend this for up to 6 months of cover for a small fee). Click here to find out about our comprehensive wheelchair and mobility scooter insurance policies.