What to do when things go wrong?
When you travel, things are always going to go wrong no matter how well you plan every detail of your trip. Planes get cancelled or delayed, bags get lost, mistakes are made when booking accommodation etc. These things happen regardless of whether you have a disability or not. But having a disability does mean that it can be a bit more difficult. I have complied a list of tips below and also a compilation of everything that went wrong on my trip and what I did about it.
- Things are going to go wrong and there is not much you can do about – I think once you come to this relisation you panic less. Some things are out of our control. For example I spent a whole day in Dublin airport because my plane was cancelled due to a weather event. I almost missed my plane out of London because the traffic was so bad even though I left 4 hours early. There is nothing you can do in these situations. The best thing to do is remain calm and try and work out a plan B.
- Always carry spare bank cards – when I was in Poland the ATM swallowed my bank card. Luckily I travelled with a couple of emergency cards from other bank accounts and I also left bank cards with friends in England so they could quickly send them over.
- Always keep essentials (medication, spare clothes, continence aids) in your carry on baggage- Airlines are always going to loose your luggage it’s what they do. Therefore I always carry all medication, a couple of catheters and a change of clothes in my carry on.
- Photocopy important documents multiple times – You are going to loose things, shampoo, liquid etc is going to leak through your bags damaging everything (happened to me twice). Therefore photocopy all important documents (passport, bank cards, visas, train/plane tickets, medical scripts) at least 3-4 times and store them in snap lock bags in different compartments in your luggage
- Things are going to be inaccessible, don’t be afraid to ask for help – Multiple times I would show up at the train station without the ramp waiting for me and I would therefore have to ask someone to help me off the train. Or when I arrived at a hostel and it wasn’t exactly 100% accessible. I would therefore have to ask the hostel staff to help me out. I’m really bad at asking for help but by not being so stubborn it really made my trip more enjoyable.
- Be prepared to get sick – I always carried a course of antibiotics plus an extra script for all of my medications. It would be best to speak to your doctor about this before you travel. My other tip would be to get a letter from your doctor regarding your medical supplies and medications so they don’t get confiscated at security
- Be prepared for wheelchair breakdowns – I use a manual chair with solid tyres so that I don’t get flats. However if you use tyres with air in them, carry a patch kit and spare tubes. I packed a set of allan keys and some spare bearings
- Be patient, very patient! – When travelling there is a lot of waiting around. You will often arrive early for a train or a plane or your transport will be delayed. As a wheelchair user you have to be particularly patient as you will often need to speak to a number of people multiple times to organise the correct access. Repeating yourself over and over again can get frustrating. Therefore stay calm, always have a book or a movie downloaded, find a comfy corner and just wait.
- Be prepared to have rest days – As a person with a disability I found that I travelled a little slower than my able bodied travellers and couldn’t pack every day with lots of activities. I also found that I needed to factor in a few more rest days. This is ok. Know your body and when you need to have a rest. You don’t need to do it all.
- And if it all goes wrong you can can do what I did – burst into tears and call your mum. She will always sort it out.