Travelling solo as a disabled person can feel impossible because you can get caught in the trap of thinking, “I need too much help with everything.”
But travelling solo is one of the best experiences that I have ever had. It is one of the first times in my life that I felt like I had some space, freedom and opportunities.
Here’s the thing though – with little thought and imagination – it’s not that hard!
Gaining Assistance at Airports and Train Stations
The big myth in terms of travel inside the UK at train stations and airports is that you need to book in advance – you don’t – you can turn up and travel on the day. Just be prepared that you might have wait.
Where Should Disabled Solo Travellers Go?
From experience, I can say that many parts of Europe are the best places for disabled solo travellers to go. I’m especially fond of some parts of Scandinavia that have great public transport and culture around disability.
Attitude in some countries can be everything. If you go somewhere with negative public attitudes to disability, facilities don’t make up for the fact that people are just rude.
Do some research into places and ask around, but Europe is usually a good bet.
For information on specific cities – see Global Hopper Guides.
Pack Power Packs
If you anything like me, then your phone is your Swiss army knife that you use for everything from navigation to paying for things.
So the one thing that you don’t want to happen is for your battery to die, when you really need it!
Luckily if you have a power bank handy – say in your Day Bag – then you’ve always got a back up.
Look For The M
For disabled people who travel solo, one of the biggest challenges can be finding facilities that suitable.
A handy little trick can be to look for something like a McDonald’s, this is because that sterile blandness that you hate most of the time, can be a life saver.
So if you are stuck for a toilet or somewhere to nip into for a coffee, look for a M.
Airbnb have some great accessibility options built into their website. These include step-free access to the front door and wide door ways.
Airbnb is now a great way to book accessible rooms on the fly.
Want Something A Bit More Structured?
If you want a bit more of a structured travel experience but still want to go solo – check out Seable Holidays.
Seable Holidays offer totally accessible holiday packages for visually impaired and wheelchair users to a number of destinations.
What is perhaps unique about Seable is that they offer the whole package, including tours and activities. It is perhaps the only way that you can guarantee that you enjoy the whole of your trip.
They cannot not control the weather though!
Travelling on a train as a disabled passenger can seem off putting. From worrying about getting the right help to local stations being inaccessible, there can seem like a lot of barriers for the disabled train passengers.
We’re pretty experienced disabled train passengers though, so we have put together some helpful tips and advice for you.
There are 2 types of trains, local and mainline. Local trains are a bit like buses on wheels and have clear spaces for wheelchair users and adaptive buggies.
Mainline trains such as East Coast or Cross Country have specific carriages in both standard and first class. For East Coast, it is F in standard and L in First Class. The same generally applies to Cross Country
Getting Assistance as Disabled Train Passengers
Local Trains –
- At local stations, guards have wheelchair ramps on board and can help wheelchair passengers on and off.
- Always check the accessibility of local stations because some can lack ramps or safe walk ways for visually impaired.
- If a local station is inaccessible – go to a main station and ask them to provide accessible transport to that station.
- There should not be luggage, bikes or people obstructing the accessible spaces, and you can ask a guard to move them.
Mainline Trains –
- Ideally it is better to book assistance in advance, either in the station or by phone on – http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/disabled_passengers.aspx
- However, you have no obligation to pre-book and staff at stations have to do their best to accommodate you.
- If there is reason why a carriage cannot properly accommodate you such as lack of toilet or train fault, then the operate has to move you free of charge.
- In the event that you miss your train and the operator or station staff are to blame, such as not providing assistance, then they are duty bound to provide you with an accessible alternative such as a taxi.
- In the event of rail replacement service (where a bus replaces a train), mobility and visually impaired passengers are entitled to an accessible alternative.
Pro Tip – if you are disabled train passenger in a hurry, and unable to purchase a ticket for a legitimate reason (such as organising assistance), then you can board a train without a ticket. On-board, you can then purchase a ticket a discounted rate.
Pro Tip – if you problems with planning a journey or getting around an unfamiliar location, then you can have some guide you around the station.
Pro Tip – you don’t need a disabled person railcard to get a discount. If you remain in your wheelchair, you can get 34% off as single ticket using the code D34 and 50% off a return using the code D50.
There is a little known thing called ‘The Wheelchair Luggage Problem”. The problem is niche problem of more generic one – namely that wheelchair user never have a free pair of hands.
Our hands are always in use. Meaning that we struggle to carry, lift or push anything else but our chair. “The Wheelchair Luggage Problem” is just a niche of that.
While everyone else is touting those spacious, yet small, carry on bags – you’re there pushing along thinking, “damn, I wish I could use something like that.”
Well recently I went on a short break to Tenerife to visit a friend. The flight was hand luggage only, which left me considering ‘The Wheelchair Luggage Problem.”
Now I’m use to carrying a backpack most places. So I figured if I could find a bag that was a backpack, I’d be good! So I search around and found the Cabin Max Metz – I did a full review that you can read here.
The Mertz worked really well but as I said in my review – it doesn’t entirely solve ‘The Wheelchair Luggage Problem.” This is mostly because if you want quickly grab your tablet, book or laptop that isn’t so easy. So I got thinking what else I could take with me to fix this.
Now on most flights – you are also allowed to take a bag that can go under the seat. But that is another bag right? So, we’re back to the ‘Wheelchair Luggage Problem” because I still don’t have a free pair of hands.
Enter Trabasack – my answer to where you stash the tech that you want in flight. Pretty much all products in the Trabasack range can sit securely on your lap while the Mertz is on your back. This leaves your hands free to do what they need to.
So there you have it – the answer to “The Wheelchair Luggage Problem”, combined the Metz with a Trabasack and you are good to go!
Buy The Cabin Max Metz from here.
Airports are a minefield for anybody. The increased security, while entirely necessary, makes getting through on to a plane no mean feat. Airports and wheelchairs? Just adds to the complication.
I’ve been through a few airports, got on a few planes and even done a solo trip or two. So I’ve picked a few helpful hints and tricks over the years. Being the nice guy that I am – I like to share the knowledge that I have.
The first thing in the wheelchair flight survival guide is always to make sure the airline know you are coming. Whatever the airline, whatever type of flight, always make sure that they know you are coming and have a seat booked for you.
Then you need to think about to prepare your chair. If it is going to go in the hold, you need to think about removing anything that could get lost or damaged. I’ve lost cushions and all sorts over the years. Its important to think about what you might need to keep hold of. This might be meds or pieces of assistive tech. Depending on how long your flight is, these things could be really important to you.
On the meds side of things, this is where I think products like Sabi – are so good. They allow you the flexibility to say – “This is what I need right now and this is what I’ll need later.” I really like them because the whole range is useful but stylish to.
Before you travel with your expensive wheelchair, scooter and power chair – give yourself peace of mind – get insurance.
So before you fly with your wheelchair – sit and consider all this stuff. The answers will tell you what know of bag(s) that you need.
I recently did a review of the Cabin Max Mertz and I have to say that I really like it. It means that I can still push my wheelchair myself through the airport. When I reflected on it though – my thought was that I could really do with something else to stash a few essentials into. Then I had a lightbulb moment!
Trabasack is the thing that I need to stash my money, and my essentials and keep them in easy reach.
Top Tips For Check In
There isn’t much to say here really. Mostly staff are really well trained these days. I do have a couple of tips though:
- Lots of airlines now have apps where you can store securely your boarding passes. This means less paper and less stuff to handle because lets face it, us wheelchair users never have a free hand.
- They will need to tag your chair to put it in the hold – do not let them put it on anywhere but the back bar of your chair. Anywhere else and it just gets in the way.
My circulation isn’t generally a problem. But having said that even I feel it a little after a flight of 4 hours plus. Flight socks aren’t sexy. But hey, nobody needs to know your wearing them. Same goes for getting to the toilet. When the queue is a mile deep and the isle is tiny, you may think better of it and wear a discreet catheter.