I’m Taking My First Vacation in a Wheelchair; What Should I Expect?

June 6, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy

First of all, let’s just be thankful you get a vacation. Plenty of Americans do not! And sometimes, a little break is sorely needed. Work, family, school – life is full of obligations. If you don’t take a breather from time to time, you’re going to burn yourself out.

But this vacation is a little different. Now you’re in a wheelchair. What can you expect? How will it be different? What do you need to worry about? Let’s discuss:

Planning is paramount

Being prepared at all times, like a Boy Scout, is a good way to get through life; but it is imperative when you’re in a wheelchair. Because you’ll need reasonable “accommodations,” which can mean something different at every stop. For instance, accommodations on an airplane would not be the same as accommodations at the hotel.

So before you make any bookings or reservations, always do your research. Check hotels for information on disabled accessible rooms – you could find info on the website, or you might have to call the front desk. If you’re going to be traveling by air, you should check with the airline for any special wheelchair accommodations they might have. Most flights will allow disabled or wheelchair-bound passengers to pre-board. You’ll also need to figure out where your wheelchair will be kept for the flight (flight staff can assist with this).

Speaking about that flight…

Let’s not forget about airport security and TSA. This is often a nightmare for folks to deal with, and it’s not going to be much more pleasant as a wheelchair user. The good news is, you won’t have to leave the wheelchair; however, you obviously can’t fit through a metal detector or x-ray scanner in the chair. You’ll have to be patted down by TSA staff, and you will be inspected by someone who is the same gender as you. Additionally, if you don’t want to feel on display, you can request that the pat down be conducted in a private area.

A friendly reminder: don’t expect every member of TSA to know all these rules. You might have to deal with some clueless staff members, but don’t just accept poor or incorrect treatment. Be intimately familiar with the rules, so you don’t get mistreated.

Hotels can be easy

In resorts or popular vacation areas, disabled rooms should be abundant. These rooms will often be on the first floor of hotels, and will have things like roll-in showers that can accommodate your wheelchair.

However, in less “touristy” areas, you may have a harder time finding reasonable accommodations. This is why you must contact hotel staff in advance, to ensure you won’t have difficulties when you check in. You should also be prepared to deal with other inconveniences, such as dirt paths that are hard to navigate in the chair, or doorways that are too narrow for you to fit through.

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