TRAVELING THIS SUMMER? Work with a Travel SpecialistCategory:
TRAVELING THIS SUMMER?
Work with a Travel Specialist
By Sandy Rodley, PRO Advocate
Parkinson’s should not stop anyone from visiting the wonders of the world or the wondrous world we live in if you can practice some simple tips. Working with travel specialists is recommended because they know about available resources and the ‘Ins and Outs’ when planning a trip with someone who has ‘Specific Requirements’.
Whether you are considering an awe-inspiring trip to the Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota, or a weekend getaway to the beach, or you have what is commonly referred to as the “Bucket List’, do not ever feel that because you have a ‘disability’, your world must shrink.
If you will be traveling this summer by airplane and use a wheelchair, scooter or walker, here is some important information you need to be aware of ahead of time. Protocols generally don’t differ between US airlines but can vary with international carriers. Working with a travel advisor ensures that your trip abroad will go smoothly when traveling with someone who is disabled.
ALWAYS, always when traveling with someone who needs wheelchair/mobility assistance make sure to inquire ahead of time about caregiver and wheelchair policies.
Whether you are booking directly with an airline on their website or over the phone or working with a travel advisor alerting them to your specific needs can make the difference in your travel experience.
Should you be on a US airline website and have made your reservation, most but not all, once a ticket is issued you can indicate a special request such as wheelchair assistance (see below), if you won’t be traveling with yours. If you are on the phone with them, of course, you can mention them as well. Should you forget, to ensure that they receive and notify the airport staff in a timely fashion, you should make your request at least 48 hours prior. Anything less could result in miscommunication along the way.
In most cases, you can travel/fly with your wheelchair, scooter, or walker. Some wheelchairs might be too bulky or heavy, in which case you might want to rent a traveling one also referred to as a transfer wheelchair. There are many different versions of wheelchairs depending on your needs, so planning ahead to determine if your chair will be appropriate to travel with you. You can check your wheelchair or walker as luggage, or you can use it all the way to the gate and if you are mobile and can walk the aisle they will check it below at that point. But you can fly with your electric or battery-powered wheelchairs, carts, or scooters. The airline or travel advisor will advise you as to what their protocol and restrictions are for traveling with these devices.
Four designations determine the type of airline wheelchair policies
- Passengers who can walk onto a plane but need help getting from the terminal to the aircraft.
- Passengers who cannot navigate stairs, but who can walk onboard a plane but who need a wheelchair to move between an aircraft and a terminal.
- Passengers with a disability of their lower limbs who can take care of themselves but who need help boarding and departing from a plane.
- Passengers who are completely immobile and need help from the time they get to the airport through to the time they need to board the aircraft.
Airports in the past would have skycaps available to assist you at the curbside. Making that wheelchair request in advance alerts the airport that you will need a wheelchair so upon arrival, you can let them know you did request one.
Some airports are so large that they utilize go-carts to transport folks who have mobility issues between gates and terminals, but this feature is NOT offered in all airports. And unfortunately going forward, what methods were available previously might not be available any longer due to covid-19.
When you make your request for assistance and you are taking multiple flights (connecting), your request will automatically notify all involved airports. If you have booked multiple different airlines, IE American to Delta, you will need to notify each airline of your needs as in this scenario your request will NOT be passed on to the other. If you are working with a travel advisor, they will know this and automatically take care of all notifications and making these arrangements for you.
International airlines and airports have different procedures and protocols, and some airports may offer a concierge service or offer paid-for assistance. Some International airports have way stations or holding areas for handicapped passengers where the skycap will take you to wait for your flight in comfort but could forget to come and retrieve you and get you to your gate on time. So bring your own advocate and speaking out can be helpful in this case.
Also, most airlines do board based on zones, but some will offer pre-boarding for those who need additional time. Make sure to let the gate agent know that having extra time would be appreciated and less stressful.
Flying in the post-pandemic world will see a lot of changes. For the most part, procedures will still be in place, TSA will still do security, but there could be longer lines due to lack of airport staff, TSA staff, and increased safety protocols. So have contingency plans if you get delayed by these procedures or your flight is delayed and be prepared for all scenarios in regard to your meals and medication rituals. There is no meal service being offered on flights within the US at this time and some airlines are offering limited snacks where payment can only be by credit card. And many airports even though they are operating, their food courts and shops might not be. So be prepared. As time goes on, the airports and airlines will return to “normal” and it is very important that you are comfortable with the entire process from the moment you leave your home until you reach your final destination.
If you get to the airport and are waiting at your gate and you start to panic as there are people with masks and no masks and not doing social distancing and you are getting concerned about your level of comfort, and will the flight be crowded and someone sitting next to me, do a self-check prior to traveling and ask yourself am I good with this. You are going on vacation, and no one should be stressed out, vacations are supposed to be stress-free.
And speaking of stress-free, should you not want to travel with your wheelchair or scooter, you can rent one for your destination. It can be delivered to your hotel or cruise ship.
Soon you can visit Sandy Rodley in the Wellness Village under Travel. She is a Manager/Travel Consultant at Via Verde Travel (A Division of Plaza Travel) and a PRO Advocate.