Although road trips are a good choice for anybody who is tired of long airport lines and surly TSA agents, they’re an especially attractive option for wheelchair-users and slow walkers. Let’s face it, even the hardiest of travelers sometimes get bogged down by the trials and tribulations of air travel, so throw a disability into the mix and the fatigue issue itself can present some formidable obstacles. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Granted, there are some obvious limitations to road trips, as you can’t exactly drive to Europe from the US; however, they make a perfectly prudent choice if your travels don’t take you across an ocean. Road trips offer many advantages to folks with mobility issues. Still not convinced? Then here are a few more plusses to ponder if you’re still on the fence about taking to the open road on your next vacation.
Freedom and Flexibility
First and foremost, road trips offer the freedom and flexibility that many disabled travelers need. You can go where you want to go, get out and stretch whenever you like and dodge those long airport lines. And if you are having a bad day, you can take it slow, and even alter your itinerary – something that you definitely can’t do when you fly. On the road, you are in charge of your own schedule, and you don’t have to worry about following somebody else’s timetable.
Airports can really take their toll on you, and you can end up walking miles between check-in, the gates, and baggage claim. This can be very fatiguing for slow walkers. Granted airport wheelchairs are available, but many ambulatory folks are reluctant to take advantage of them, even if they can’t do distances. Additionally, at peak times you may have to wait for a wheelchair, and if you have a tight connection, you might end up missing your flight. And of course all that stress leads to more fatigue. When you take a road trip, you can park close to the entrance, and take your time getting around. It’s the no-stress solution.
Although the TSA pat downs can be troublesome to all air travelers, sometimes disabled passengers have an even harder time at the security checkpoint. Not only are some of the screenings somewhat invasive, but they’re difficult for folks who have a hard time raising their hands or leaning forward. And then there are those sore and sensitive parts of your body. Children with cognitive issues have an even harder time at security checkpoints, as it can be a very frightening experience for them. Even if you thoroughly prepare them, you never know when a meltdown might occur. When you take your own car, you never have to worry about any of these things.
No Luggage Limits
Although assistive devices are not counted as part of your luggage when you fly, sometimes you just can’t take along all the supplies that you need. After all you have to be able to get your luggage to and from the baggage check area. When you drive, you can comfortably take along all the equipment and supplies that you need. Additionally, you never have to worry about the airlines damaging your assistive devices as you’ll be the only one that handles it when you drive. And let’s not even talk about lost luggage. With the extra room in your car, you can bring back delicate purchases that might not survive — or even be allowed — aboard an airplane.
And then there’s the restroom issue. Only wide body jets are required to have accessible restrooms; and even those aren’t really usable unless you can walk a few steps. When you travel by car, it’s easy to find accessible restrooms along the way. Best bet is to scope out the restrooms in fast food joints before you hit the road. Most newer fast food restaurants are built the same, so if you find an accessible restroom that works for you, just look for that chain on your road trip.
When you travel by car, you’ll always have accessible transportation with you. Furthermore you will also have transportation that works for you. That’s not always true with rentals, especially for people with high profile wheelchairs. And let’s not even talk about the expense of renting an accessible van. Finding accessible transportation can be a real challenge, especially in smaller towns, but if you take your own car or van, you’ll always be able to get around.
Road trips are also a very cost effective means of travel, especially if have to travel with a companion or attendant. Although Canadian airlines offer free air travel within Canada for attendants of disabled passengers, that’s not the case with US airlines. So if you require attendant care, you’ll save on the airfare if you travel by car. And you can take along as many people as you want. That’s not how it works when you fly.
Last but not least, you don’t have to worry about your flight being cancelled due to bad weather and being stranded in your connecting city. If you hit bad weather on your road trip, you can always alter your itinerary at the last minute. And you never incur any flight change fees in your own vehicle.
Known as the guru of accessible travel, Candy Harrington is the author of several accessible travel guides. Her newest title, 22 Accessible Road Trips; Driving Vacations for Wheelers and Slow Walkers features 22 driving routes across the United States with information about wheelchair-accessible sites, lodging options, trails, attractions, and restaurants along the way. It’s a great resource for Baby Boomers, couples, families, or anybody who wants to hit the road. Candy also blogs about accessible travel issues at www.barrierfreetravels.com.
Photo credits: seanmfreese, all other photos courtesy of Charles Pannell and may not be used without permission.