According to the American Automobile Association, otherwise known as AAA, over 55 million travelers are taking to the roads and the skies this Thanksgiving holiday, among them approximately 12.6 percent (almost 7 million) travelers with disabilities (https://newsroom.aaa.com/tag/thanksgiving-travel-forecast). The majority of holiday travelers travel by car; however, air travel is expected to be a close second.
Traveling can be stressful any time of year; it can be especially stressful during the holiday season when it seems like everyone is on the road or flying at the same time. The crowds, the noise, the rushing to and fro can be very daunting and anxiety-inducing. For individuals with disabilities, traveling with a disability can present unique challenges and stressors such as: Locating accessible rental vehicles and lodging, coordinating accessible ride sharing services (i.e., Uber, Lyft), and coordinating air or rail travel accommodations (i.e., assistance through security, traversing to the gate, and boarding). Here are a few tips to help reduce the stress of holiday travel:
Contact providers in advance if possible, to arrange for or confirm that specific accommodations will be available. This may be especially important for lodging, whether at a hotel or a vacation rental.
Organize and Pack What You Need
Staying organized and packing in advance can reduce the stress and anxiety of last-minute packing and essential items being left behind. Bring extra medication and medical supplies in carry-on bag. Carry medical alert, medication lists, and in-case of emergency information on your person.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Each mode of transportation has its challenges but planning and preparing will help:
- Allow extra time to get to your departure airport or station, check in, get through security, and transfer at the gate (even more important with the extra holiday traveler chaos).
- Take steps to protect and/or minimize damage to your assistive devices, including mobility devices like wheelchairs. If possible, bring spare parts and tools to adjust your mobility device and/or assistive technology. Have a plan in place should your wheelchair or other mobility device is unusable.
- If traveling by plane, considering using the TSA Notification Card to communicate and/or explain some of your specific or unique needs.
- If traveling by rail, consider the type of rail station and access from the station platform onto the train. Generally, portable ramps or a wheelchair lift are used for boarding assistance. In the US, information on Amtrak’s accessible travel services from making a reservation to station accessibility and wheeled mobility device services is available at their website. For local commuter lines, visit individual company websites or call ahead to the stationmaster for assistance.
- Lastly, when traveling using a rental car here are a few things to consider:
- Several major rental car companies offer cars equipped with adaptive driving devices (i.e., hand controls, left foot accelerator, spinner knobs, and pedal extenders), renting these vehicles require advance notice, and other conditions and restrictions may apply.
- Most major rental car companies do not offer lift-equipped vans for rental; however, there are companies such as Wheelchair Getaways, Wheelers Accessible Van Rentals, Mobility Works, and BraunAbility that do offer wheelchair van rentals. BraunAbility offers a guide on how to find a handicap/ADA accessible van rental as well as other resources that can be adapted for any mobility van vendor.
Learn more about traveling with a disability from the US Department of Transportation at https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/traveling-disability, transportation and the ADA at https://adata.org/topic/transportation; and hospitality and the ADA at https://adata.org/topic/hospitality.
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