9 Wheelchair Travel Tips for Wheelchair Users

Traveling in a wheelchair can be tough, especially by air. Getting to your flight on time, moving through the airport, and claiming your luggage are challenging for travelers with disabilities.

Here are 9 important wheelchair travel tips for wheelchair users, which will make your trip more easier and more smoother.

  1. Know Your Rights and Study the Air Carries Access Act
  2. Book a Bulkhead Seating
  3. Prepare Your Power Chair or Manual Wheelchair for Your Flight
  4. Pack Enough Catheters and Daily Medical Suppliers
  5. Arrive at the Airport Early
  6. Use a Sling to Make Transfers Easier
  7. Plan Ahead for Using the Restroom During the Flight
  8. Know What to Do When Your Wheelchair is Damaged
  9. Find Wheelchair Travel Agents for Local Services

1. Know Your Rights and Study the Air Carries Access Act

wheelchair travel tips

The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA) was designed to prohibit any discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel. It was meant to open the sky and the world to everyone regardless of any disabilities physically or mentally. It is worth further studying before taking a flight. Sure, you can print it out if needed.

2. Book a Bulkhead Seating

When booking a flight, think about what seating meets your needs most or ask the airline for help. Generally, airlines block off bulkhead rows for wheelchair users. So just call the airlines to request a bulkhead seating right after booking a flight, which is the best way to guarantee that you will get a bulkhead seat.

3. Prepare Your Power Chair or Manual Wheelchair for Your Flight

If you have a manual wheelchair, it is really easy to prepare. You could just take off the wheelchair and fold it, then the airline attendants will help you stow it in a closet. However, if you take a flight with a power wheelchair, it requires more attention to prepare, such as turn off the control panel, etc. But traveling with a folding electric wheelchair, it would be convenient and comfortable. To hopefully prevent damage, you can take a spare bag to store any parts of your power wheelchair, and wrap it with bubble wrap to protect your wheelchair from damage. What’s more, your are able to print out a sign with details including your phone number and tape it on your wheelchair, so that if the airport staff has any questions, they can call you.

4. Pack Enough Catheters and Daily Medical Suppliers

Pack enough your daily medical suppliers is necessary in case all contingencies may occur that cause the need for more. While your catheter kit should have one to two days’ worth of extra catheters, you should always take enough catheters to last you the duration of your holiday trip. A backup supply in your carry-on will help you feel more confident about your trip.

5.Arrive at the Airport Early

wheelchair travel tips

All travelers are encouraged to get to the airport about 2-3 hours ahead of an flight. But when traveling in a wheelchair, you should get there even earlier to allow more time to go through the security screening with your manual wheelchair or power chair and check your any bags with medical suppliers.

6.Use a Sling to Make Transfers Easier

Since it is impossible to stay in your wheelchair during flight, you do need to be transferred from your wheelchair and then into the plane seat. It can be a embarrassing process because as a wheelchair user you will need to be lifted on and off the aircraft under your arms and legs.  Instead,  you could take your own transfer sling to ensure your safety, dignity and comfort.

7.Plan Ahead for Using the Restroom During the Flight

To be honest, it is a long way to make using the restroom on a flight easy for wheelchair users. But here are some thins to keep it in mind. First of all, you can request an onboard chair on the flight. If you are unable to transfer yourself to the onboard chair from plane seat, you need a companion to assistant with that, then you can get to the restroom with it. Also, you can adjust your diet as much as possible to avoiding using the restroom during the flight, which could possibly upset your stomach for few hours before flying.

8.Know What to Do When Your Wheelchair is Damaged

As we know, wheelchair is an essential part for the disable to keep moving, like their legs. Without it, that is nightmare for them. Unluckily, if this happens to you, it is extremely important to file a damage report or complaint with the airline as soon as possible before you exit the airport. In case of damage to your wheelchair, the airline must pay for wheelchair repairs. If it cannot be repaired, they are responsible for its replacement.

9.Find Wheelchair Travel Agents for Local Services

wheelchair travel tips - rent a van

Wheelchair travel agents or tour companies can provide travelers all accessible travel experiences that balance economic, social, and environmental impacts while meeting the needs of travelers with disabilities. They will help you to find multiple accessible local services and book them with ease.

Related:13 Wheelchair Travel Agents for Disable Travelers

Final Thoughts of Wheelchair Travel Tips

Traveling in a wheelchair is definitely not impossible, and it even can be enjoyable because most of potential issues can be avoided by planning and arrangement in advance. Of course, sometimes it can be incredibly stressful, but these wheelchair travel tips can save your stress for your next time by plane. Do you have any wheelchair travel tips for accessible travel? Just leave your comment down below to share your travel story.

Frequently Asked Questions of Wheelchair Travel Tips:

Q: What is a TSA disability card?

A: The TSA Notification Card allows travelers with disabilities to discreetly inform airport security personnel about any medical conditions, disabilities, medical devices on their person or medications that might impact the screening process.

Q: What happens if an airline damages a wheelchair?

A: An airline is responsible to completely cover repair or replacement costs—up to 100% of the original purchase price—for a damaged wheelchair. 

Q: What is the popular accessible travel agents in the world?

A: Here are some travel agents with experience in planning wheelchair accessible vacations, tours for the disabled and seniors, such as Travel for All, Wheel the World, etc

Q: How much does it cost to fly with a wheelchair?

A: It’s free to check up to two wheelchairs, scooters or mobility devices, including sports wheelchairs and personal medical equipment, in addition to your checked bags.

Q: Do airlines help elderly passengers?

A: Under provisions of the federal Air Carrier Access Act, airlines must offer air travel assistance for seniors that includes assistance in boarding, deplaning and making connections to their next flight.

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