Last week I talked about ways to plan travel that accommodates someone with walking issues, and I wanted to share some more ideas and considerations.
Planning Trips with Limited Mobility, Part 2
Be outside. I think it’s important to learn about a city by being outside and seeing its people. One obviously easy way to do that is people watching – sit at an outdoor cafe and enjoy the pace of the city and the variety of folks who pass by. This is very basic, but many times people fill their schedule with activities and don’t plan the down time, and it’s perfect for someone with walking or stamina issues.
Getting around town to see some of the sights, even from a distance or from a seated position, can feel restricted if you’re inside a car or motorcoach all time because of walking difficulties. I really like options that let you be out in the fresh air while sightseeing. I’ve talked about the hop on hop off bus previously and while I am a fan, it is necessary to walk up about 9-10 narrow steps to the top level. It may or may not be a fit for your family member or friend, but there are some other alternatives that could work out very well.
When I was in Rome with my mom, we took a golf cart tour. I was specifically looking for something that would be easy for her but still would get us out and about and was delighted to find the golf cart tour. As a matter of fact, it is now one of my top recommendations for anyone going to Rome, regardless of their walking capabilities. It is just a fabulous way to see the city and to get into the back streets, smell the flowers and hear the children playing in the park – it engages all your senses. My mom told our driver, “I’ve been to Rome three times and this is the first time I feel like I’ve really seen it.
There are just a few cities with golf cart tours, like Krakow Poland and some domestic locations like Nashville and Catalina Island. But use this concept to look for similar ideas in the cities you visit – they may have an open-air trolley or jeep tour that creates more of experiential feeling while still providing comfort for your traveling companion.
Don’t assume public venues are accessible. Here in the US we are very used to the ADA requirements for public locations, but that is not consistent as you travel internationally. Some attractions and restaurants may be very historic and cannot add ramps or elevators. So, don’t make the assumption that they will have easy access. Call and clarify. Also, older hotels may have stairs that are required in certain hallways, so it’s important to contact them and ensure that access to your room is easy without requiring stairs.
As an extension of this subject, there are several options in cruising that can be very easy for someone with accessibility issues. Ocean ships are very used to dealing with folks with accessibility limitations and wheelchairs, and they are well equipped to handle these situations. Obviously, you need to request appropriate accommodations, and it’s best to book farther ahead to ensure that you get exactly what is needed.
One area to be aware of is how river cruising works in regard to walking and stair requirements, and you have to ensure if it is a good fit. The river cruise ships are designed to go under bridges, and the very top deck is totally collapsible, which includes folding the captain’s wheelhouse down into the frame of the boat. What this means is that the elevator that serves the other levels does not go all the way to the top deck.
Sometimes when docking at a particular port, there may be a need to disembark from the top level. Anyone that is sailing on a river cruise vessel needs to be able to walk up at least 10 stair steps. This is something that you should work closely with your travel professional on if you have someone whose walking ability could be questionable. But again, there are always options so don’t dismiss the idea of river cruising without consulting a professional on the best way to make it work.
Determine equipment needs and book ahead. There’s a company that works specifically with providing devices and equipment on cruises to make it easy for anyone to travel. There is a broad range of equipment available that can be delivered directly to the cruise ship stateroom, including scooters, wheelchairs, powerchairs, oxygen, as well as special needs products. This can be a huge benefit if you are taking an international cruise, so you do not to have to bring everything with you, but rather have it all conveniently delivered to your cabin.
So, if in the past you thought more about the limitations of travel with someone with accessibility issues rather than the great possibilities, realize that there are a number of opportunities to create an amazing travel experience and go ahead and plan that opportunity to spend time together.