Living a healthy lifestyle includes regular physical activity. Travelling is a great way to remain active and doing so will improve many aspects of your quality of life. As people age healthier and continue to travel into their senior years, traveling can be a true challenge particularly for those with disabilities. But with attention to detail and some pre-trip planning, the challenge can be conquered with ease.
Travelling with disabilities can be complicated when journeying to foreign countries as each country may or may not have their own regulations and standards of accessibility for disabled travelers. Understanding your destination and making as much preparation in advance as possible will ensure that your travels are safe, accessible, and enjoyable.
Finding A Destination
When searching for a travel destination, one must consider the level of accessibility in the country first and foremost. It is wise to bear in mind that one should always be prepared for a certain amount of culture shock especially when travelling to developing countries as many are not open or tolerant to citizens with disabilities. Carefully research the stops that you intend to make from restaurants to hotels to airports and attractions to ensure that you are aware of the services available.
In researching options, here are some practical places to start:
- Get in touch with the airport information desk or review the airport website
- Contact the destination country’s embassy in Ireland
- Consult a local travel agent who specializes in travel for persons with disabilities
- Post in internet travel forums like Trip Advisor or call local disability organizations
- Read various travel guides like Fodor’s, Frommer’s, or Lonely Planet
Understanding Health Care at your Destination
The level of health care available at your destination is what will be of the greatest concern as you have now shifted into unfamiliar territory. Use the checklist below as a guide of what to prepare for.
- Ask your doctor about the activities and destination you have in mind and whether you are in suitable condition to travel and engage in such level of activity. It would be wise to have an idea of your general physical condition and your doctor will be able to inform you of any immunizations or medication that may be required.
- If you are currently prescribed prescription medication, you should ensure that you have enough to last the duration of your entire trip while making additional allowance for any possible delays. It is always wise to pack away all of your medication in your hand-carry luggage as checked luggage can often get delayed or lost. Research the regulations as certain countries have strict drug trafficking laws with severe consequences. It is advisable to carry prescription medication in their labeled containers to avoid suspicion of pills in unlabeled bottles. It is best to carry your prescription information and the names of their generic equivalents to be safe.
- If you require a wheelchair, or any other equipment, consider having all equipment inspected prior to travel to ensure that everything is in working order. If you elect not to travel with your own equipment, you may want to research the availability of a wheelchair through medical equipment providers at your destination.
- As medical systems and levels of care vary from country to country, it is always best to ensure that you have sufficient health insurance coverage while out of your home country. Be sure to research and have a clear understanding of what your coverage plan covers and the fastest way to reach your insurance company in the event of an emergency. It is wise to bring along the insurance contact information everywhere you go.
Airline and Hotel Travel Arrangements
Assist Ireland outlines helpful hints on its website regarding planning, preparation, how to improve your journey, and what to do upon arrival. When making your reservations, inform your travel agent or airline of the following so that necessary arrangements can be made in advance:
- The level of assistance that will be needed while flying and at the airport like pre-boarding assistance
- The type of disability and whether you require the use of equipment like crutches or a wheelchair
- Whether you require a wheelchair when disembarking from the aircraft at your destination or connecting airport
- If you require any special meals or have specific dietary requirements
For hotels, ensure that the hotel you book can satisfy your needs. Certain hotels and hotel brands pride themselves on a minimum standard of accessibility and some have rooms dedicated for disabled guests. Do consider that not all hotels have elevators or additional staff to assist with luggage.
Make sure that all of your specific requests are noted in your reservation and take down the name of the agent. You should also bring copies of your reservations. That way, if you do happen to face a problem upon check-in, you will have clear evidence of what was originally requested.
Travel with Peace of Mind
Once it is time to take your trip, it is to every traveller’s advantage to know the policies of the airline before arriving at the airport. Arrive extra early to allow plenty of time for any last-minute problems to be sorted out and to navigate areas like airport security where you may need more time. Bring a copy of your itinerary and directions for when you arrive so that people can assist if you find yourself lost.
Regardless of age and ability, travel can be an incredibly enriching and life-changing experience even if you have already been diagnosed with a heart condition or lung disease. Moderate exercise through travel can help to improve fatigue, anxiety, stress, depression, muscle strength, and breathing.
It is always best to continue doing the things you loved before you became disabled even if the activity must be slightly modified. Remaining active will keep you happy and healthy. But ensure that you pay close attention to your body and don’t try to do too much. Set a pace that works best for you. Take advantage of the vast amounts of information available for disabled travelers. By taking the time to research and educate yourself about travel considerations before, during, and after your trip, you can avoid any unnecessary headaches while creating a seamless trip that will enable you to focus on relaxing and having fun.
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