The World is Now More Accessible than Ever – Explore and Enjoy It! (Part 2)
Two weeks ago, I wrote about how the world is now more accessible than ever before and how I am now an accessible travel advocate certified by Special Needs Group. I suggested that if you think you might benefit from using some special needs equipment while traveling, it is important to take time to evaluate the logistics of your trip in relation to your ability to keep pace. Remember, too, that many people who do not use special needs equipment at home on a regular basis use aides such as wheelchairs and scooter rentals only when traveling.
In this issue, I will talk about the importance of planning. In future issues I will recommend what questions to ask and go into more detail about the wide variety of equipment available to assist you in your travels.
If you already own a scooter or portable oxygen, it is important to know the policy and procedures for bringing that equipment onboard all the transport vehicles included in your itinerary, from planes to taxis to ferry boats. Does that transport have a way to stow your scooter or wheelchair? Are you allowed to bring oxygen? Some airlines prohibit certain types of batteries, such as wet cell batteries, or oxygen cylinders. Airlines operate under strict rules, so that there may be packing procedures to follow if they do allow the equipment. Keep in mind, most airlines need at least 48 hours’ notice to make special arrangements, and be prepared to fill out forms.
Overall, cruise ships are more lenient in allowing oxygen, but some disallow certain types of oxygen equipment. All require that the oxygen be delivered to the ship, and that you have enough for the entire voyage. You are never allowed to bring oxygen aboard in your luggage. Requirements vary, so check your cruise line for proper instructions. Again, documentation and paperwork are required.
Whether you are headed for a cruise ship, hotel, or all-inclusive resort, double check for wheelchair access at that venue, plus any venues you will be visiting on the trip. Confirm that accessible hotel rooms, resort accommodations, or ship staterooms are available for your travel dates. The earlier you book, the better your chances of securing fully accessible accommodations. Early booking increases your chances of securing a ground floor hotel room or cruise stateroom near the elevator, if these issues are important.
Check on the access to public rooms, restaurants, bar, toilets, the swimming pool, hot tub, beach area, and other amenities. Are there TTY phone devices if needed? Are there flashing lights to accommodate the hearing impaired? Braille room numbers? How will you get in and out of the shower or bathtub? Are there grab bars in the shower? Is there a rubber mat in the shower to help prevent you from slipping?
Knowing in advance the scope of your needs gives you time to arrange advance rentals of any necessary equipment, scheduled to arrive when you do. Everything from scooters, lifts, ramps, TTY kits, and special mattresses, including special needs cribs, is available for rental.
Will road travel or car excursions be part of the trip? Many car rental companies have vehicles that are modified for drivers or passengers with mobility limitations. Check ahead to make sure a suitable vehicle will be available for your travel dates. If you will be hiring a car or van, make sure the company is aware of your special needs.
When traveling with a limitation or disability, full travel insurance for medical coverage abroad and trip cancellation insurance are even more important and strongly advised. Remember most health insurance policies only cover you while you are in the United States, not when you are in a foreign country
Considering a visit to the Grand Canyon? A visit there can and should be tied in with a visit to other parts of the western United States especially if you are planning a fly/drive travel experience. Consider some of these options in planning your vacation.
Southern Utah’s Desert Scenery. Some of the best desert scenery in the world, this option includes all five of Utah’s national parks (Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef) plus the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Consider taking the time to stop also at Dead Horse Point State Park, Lake Powell, and/or the Hoover Dam. Back in the mid-1990s, I was fortunate enough to take a 12-day camping trip where I spent time at four of the five national parks, Dead Horse Point State Park, and Lake Powell. While I probably will never get to experience the fun of tent camping again I do look forward to one day sharing with Mark the beauty of southern Utah and the expansive views of the Grand Canyon.
Best of Arizona Tour. Start out with a visit to Saguaro National Park, named for the large saguaro cactus that is native to its desert environment. This park has two sections that sit on either side of Tucson. In the western Tucson Mountain District, Signal Hill Trail leads to petroglyphs of the ancient Hohokam people. In the eastern Rincon Mountain District, Cactus Forest Drive is a loop road with striking views of the desert landscape.
While in the Tucson area, consider a side trip to the Wild West towns of Tombstone. The name, TOMBSTONE ARIZONA means many things to many people. It creates images of gunfights and dusty streets, whiskey and Faro games, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and a plethora of old western movie scenes. Tombstone has been called "The Town Too Tough to Die" partially because to this day people still live and carry on business there.
On the way north towards the Grand Canyon, stop in Sedona, a hub for arts, hiking and New Age attractions. While there, consider taking one of the Pink Jeep tours as I did when I went with a friend in 2012. Among other places, you can take the Pink Jeep tour to the Grand Canyon OR you can continue to Williams and board the Grand Canyon Railroad to the South Rim.
Land of Enchantment. Consider starting in New Mexico and tying incredible art, scenery, and culture into a trip to the Grand Canyon. Visit Carlsbad Caverns and its stalactites and then continue to Albuquerque. If you go in October (this year October 6-14), you’ll get to see the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Festival. Each year balloon teams from more than 50 countries around the world participate in the event. The Mass Ascension is an awesome sight to see!
From Albuquerque, move on to Santa Fe where you will find art studios and galleries full of southwestern art. Among others, Santa Fe was the home of Georgia O’Keefe.
Head north to Taos for more art and a visit to Taos Pueblo, the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. Then hop on 40 West from Taos and head to the Grand Canyon South Rim before returning to New Mexico and visiting other national and state parks.
These are just a few of the options available to you in planning your trip to the Grand Canyon. When you are ready to head west, contact me and I will help you plan a memorable experience including the Grand Canyon. Just be aware that if you want to stay in the Grand Canyon you will need to schedule your stay at least a year ahead of time especially if you are going in the summer.
As you get ready to embark on this year’s road trip, here’s a quick list of smartphone apps that can help you get organized, find great deals, and save you money along the way.
There are tons of apps to explore, of course, and this is just a glimpse – but these should add some fun and help you plan and save a few dollars. Once we’ve worked together to plan your awesome vacation, give these apps a try and let me know how it goes!
The world is now more accessible than ever before. Twenty percent (62 million) of the U.S. population has some form of disability, and the number of these individuals is increasing daily. These people need to, want to, and can travel. If you’re part of that 20%, a world of travel awaits you.
Travel professionals such as myself who are accessible travel advocates certified by Special Needs
Group www.specialneedsgroup.com, the leading global provider of special needs equipment for the travel industry, have unique, specialized knowledge about how to help individuals with disabilities enjoy a wonderful, hassle-free and memorable trip.
Starting with this newsletter, I will periodically share tips to ensure that when your next travel opportunity arises, you are ready to go. While reading these tips, please keep in mind that many people who do not use wheelchairs or walkers at home feel more comfortable using these mobility aides for tour and excursions. In fact, most Special Needs Group’s wheelchair and scooter rentals are to individuals who only use such aides when traveling.
Tip: Outline your travel needs
Take time to evaluate the logistics of your trip in relation to your ability to keep pace. What modes of transportation will you be using? Airplane, motor coach, train, ship, transit vans for ground
transfers? Make a list, referring to relevant brochures, your trip organizer or travel agent to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Now, make a list of your specific requirements. Be honest: what types of special needs equipment do you depend on at home? What do you use or need (or wish you had!) when shopping, sightseeing locally, dining out or going to the movies, attending concerts, the theater, street fairs or sporting events at home?
Can you hear and see clearly without special auditory equipment or visual aids? How far can you walk without a rest break? Are stairs difficult? Can you get in and out of the tub or shower at home without handgrips or other assistance?
Travel, whether solo or in a group, is no time for roughing it or trying to “tough it out.” If a wheelchair, scooter or portable oxygen will make your trip easier, place that item on your list.