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.
Your children are old enough that they are doing their own thing on school breaks and no longer willing to travel with the family or they are already out of the house. Now is the time for you to start taking some of the trips of your dreams.
If you have the time and the means, consider these five types of trips:
The Bucket List Trip If you are like me, you have a long list of places you want to visit. Now is the time to start checking them off your travel list. If you have always wanted to go to Australia for two weeks, do it now. If you have always wanted to go to Italy, what are you waiting for?
The Group Trip The more socially active you are, the more healthfully you will age. If you have already retired, group trips with friends or like-minded strangers are ideal. You may even meet travel companions for your next trip! Group trips can include things like escorted land tours, themed river cruises, and adventure travel.
The Educational Trip Many river cruises include experiences such as hiking, food and wine tastings, cultural performances, and cooking demonstrations. Some of these experiences take place on board while others take place at the destination and include things such as visiting castles, wineries, abbeys, picture-postcard villages. River cruise companies such as Ama Waterways, Uniworld, Celebrity, Viking, and Tauck, to name just a few, can provide educational experiences that you will remember forever.
The Volunteer Trip Did you know that “people who volunteer live longer”? So says Melissa Gartenberg Livney, Psy.D., a geriatric psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. It is becoming easier to combine volunteering with your vacation. One example is that conducted by The Sandals Foundation. Guests staying at Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts, and Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts can participate in the Reading Road Trip program. Reading Road Trip is a two-hour program that takes you into the community to one of the Foundation's participating adopted basic and primary schools in Saint Lucia, Antigua, the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos or Jamaica to engage small groups of children in active reading strategies.
The Fit Trip Think about how you like to move. Do you love weekend hikes or long bike rides? Take your go-to activity and plan to do it in a different environment. Hikers might want to head to one or more of the national parks in Utah or the Grand Canyon. Bike riders might want to consider a biking tour in Europe. Swimmers might want to try the turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
Best thing of all, you don’t have to wait until your children no longer want to travel with you. You can do many of these trips with your children if you and they are so inclined.
Almost all travelers have a Nightmare Luggage story. You spent a lot of money on a fancy brand-name bag that broke on the first leg of the trip. Or you skimped on the spending and got exactly what you paid for. Or the bag that you thought would be comfortable and versatile turned out to be neither.
Choosing the wrong luggage can waste precious travel time and energy and can cause a lot of aches and pains. Choosing the right luggage will free you up to enjoy your trip without any unnecessary aggravation. To help you pick the best possible bag for your next adventure — here are five simple questions you can ask yourself to help you decide which type of bag is best for you.
What are the baggage restrictions and limits of all modes of transportation on which I will be traveling? Some countries have guidelines that are more restrictive and enforced more stringently. Smaller airlines in Europe, for example, require smaller and lighter bags than in the US. Make sure you know what the requirements will be so you aren’t stuck having to pay hefty fines or finding new luggage at the last minute. I am always happy to answer your questions regarding airline baggage restrictions. I will also advise you on the requirements of all carriers on which you will be traveling.
Am I an over-packer or a shopper? If you tend to bring more than you will need and/or buy when you get there, opt for an expandable bag as your carry-on, and slip in an empty, durable nylon bag such as the cFold from Rume to bring back new things with you. (Note: be prepared to pay any additional fees that might apply for additional bags, or if your bag becomes too large/heavy as a result of over-packing!)
How much attention do I want my luggage to get? Yes, sometimes it’s tempting to get the stand-out, fashion-forward luggage set in fuchsia — but if you’re heading to a destination that’s known for theft, sometimes the better option is to pick a suitcase that blends in with the crowd. There are always things you can do to help with identification such as a colorful ribbon, a sticker, a unique tag, etc. But, if you don’t want your luggage to be a target for opportunistic thieves, just opt to keep it simple.
How much transferring will I be doing on this trip? Are you heading to one main location that will be your “home base” of travel operations? Or will you be constantly on the move from city to city, hopping trains, getting taxis, taking buses? Will someone be available to help you lift your bags if you need assistance (partner, children, tour assistant), or will you be the one fully responsible for handling your luggage at all times? The more you’ll be moving and hefting, the more you should aim for simple, lightweight, durable, and versatile. Pack only the essentials, and look for bags that offer more than one transport method — for example, a carry-on with hidden pullout straps that can be transformed into a comfortable backpack for hands-free movement.
And in that vein of questioning: Does my luggage match the type and terrain of the trip I’m taking? Wheeled suitcases are great — if you have lots of flat floors and smooth sidewalks along which to roll them. But after two days of lugging a heavy suitcase through bumpy streets, broken sidewalks, dirt paths, or up endless flights of stairs in old, gorgeous elevator-less buildings, you’ll be praying to the luggage gods for a simple backpack with padded shoulder straps.
The last thing you want to focus on while you are on the trip of a lifetime is some annoying, avoidable luggage irritation. With a little investigating and preparation before you pack up and head out, you can make sure your luggage fits seamlessly into your travel plans.
Are you ready to plan your dream vacation? Do you want an experienced travel consultant to advise you about the best luggage for your upcoming trip? I have the knowledge and passion for great travel to help make this a year to remember. You can set up a consultation with me now by clicking here.
Welcome to my website and blog! I am Lynn Fenster. I have been traveling most of my life starting with trips back and forth from Orlando to New York and New Jersey when I was three years old. Back in those days, the airport in Orlando was called McCoy. You walked out of the gate and onto the tarmac to board the plane. As I got older, my family started making the trip by car. I still remember laying on mattresses in my parents’ station wagon and the smells of oil from the ships in Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, that meant we were less than an hour from my grandparents’ apartment in Hackensack. Spending time up north didn’t just mean visiting family, it also meant trips into New York City, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the department stores, Central Park zoo and chasing the pigeons, the New York World’s Fair, hot pretzels from the street vendors, and ice skating at Rockefeller Center.
As I got older, our family car trips expanded to stopping along the way in Washington, D.C., Mount Vernon, Colonial Williamsburg, Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and Atlanta. We took a boat tour on the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, crossed over the Suwanee River, and stopped in Tallahassee. Other trips included Miami’s South Beach and the Everglades, and Sarasota and the Ringling Brothers Museum.
One year we traveled to Texas. We went to San Antonio to see the Hemisfair and the Alamo and took a side trip to the LBJ Ranch (now a part of the Lyndon B Johnson Historical Park). I still remember the San Antonio River Walk and the boat cruise we would take each morning from our hotel to the entrance of the Hemisfair. That trip we also stopped in the French Quarter of New Orleans for a few days. There we stayed at an amazing hotel, the Royal Orleans, now owned by Omni. That hotel had a doorman who looked to be 7 feet tall (at least to the eyes of a 10-year old who never grew past 5’1”)! In New Orleans, I experienced my first praline, my first Napoleon, my first beignets, and my first fancy restaurant (Brennan’s).
All of this leads me to why I have chosen family travel as one of the areas I specialize in as the owner of TLC Travel. While I have continued having wonderful experiences as a teenager and as an adult, the experiences with my family will always be remembered fondly. They are experiences that we still talk about to this day.
I know that parents today are looking for adventures you can experience with your children. Parents now have many, many more opportunities to take transformative vacations, things like hunting the Northern Lights, hiking the Inca Trail, African Safaris, expeditions to the Galapagos, or just having fun on a cruise or at a resort.
Over the coming weeks, months, and years, I will write more in this blog about traveling with your family. I will introduce you to new experiences, provide helpful tips and hints, and help you discover ways to create wonderful, lasting memories with your family.
I will also introduce you to my other specialty, that of romantic travel. If you would like to learn more about family or romance travel or receive my monthly newsletter, please press the button below, which will take you to my Contact page.