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Practical Tips for Traveling With Your Wheelchair
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Practical Tips for Traveling With Your Wheelchair

Traveling with your wheelchair might seem intimidating on the surface – but it doesn’t have to be. A little preparation can make anything possible. Your wheelchair doesn’t have to stop you from exploring the world and enjoying new experiences unless you let it. Different methods of travel require different kinds of wheelchair considerations, but it’s possible to take your wheelchair with you anywhere.

Traveling by Air

Planes have had to change to accommodate passengers who require a wheelchair. Most of the time, the airline will request that passengers who require a wheelchair arrive early, and are boarded first. Most airlines will allow wheelchair users to use their own wheelchairs up until it’s time to board. At that point, you will be transferred to a wheelchair designed to work with the plane, and your chair will be loaded up for later use.

As you may know, luggage handlers have a tendency to be rough with cargo. If your wheelchair features delicate components or attachments, you may want to remove them and pack them separately before your wheelchair is loaded for storage. This will reduce the risk of damage to your wheelchair in transit. A few minutes of prep will make sure everything goes smoothly when you arrive at your destination.

Traveling by Ship

Cruise ships are spacious, and you’ll have plenty of room to navigate the ship when you’re traveling. Not all cruise lines are equally accommodating, so you’ll want to make sure that the line you choose has the right accessibility features.

When ships dock to allow passengers to explore stops on the cruise route, a smaller boat, called a tender, is used to deliver the passengers to the shore. Some cruise lines offer accessible tenders with loading ramps to help get passengers with wheelchairs to their destinations. Before you book a cruise, make sure that the line you choose offers accessible tenders so you can see the sights.

Traveling by Bus or Train

Busses and trains designed for long trips often come equipped with wheelchair lifts. The majority of companies offer assistance in the form of trained personnel who specialize in accommodating passengers with disabilities. When you’re booking a trip with one of these bus or train companies, it helps to call ahead and see what they can do for you.

If you require a heavy-weight electric wheelchair, their lifts may not be rated for that kind of equipment. When you’re checking ahead, be sure to know the combined weight of you and your fully stocked chair. If this exceeds the weight limit, you can purchase a lightweight travel chair, or disassemble some of the accessories for cargo storage and put them back on once you arrive.

Traveling by Automobile

If you’re taking a road trip in your own car, it’s likely that you’ve already taken all of the necessary precautions you need to transport your chair. If you’re traveling in a way that would require you to get a rental car or take a tour in a separate vehicle, accessibility requirements will vary across the board. Most rental car companies or guided tour services have at least one available vehicle that offers wheelchair accessibility. Call before you make your plans to determine whether or not this vehicle can be reserved for your use. You may have to change your itinerary, but this is undoubtedly better than having to cancel your plans. You may need to be willing to be a little more flexible.

Though travelers with wheelchairs will need to use a little more forethought in planning their trips, it’s very well possible for these travelers to enjoy themselves just as anyone else might. Start planning your trip as early as possible, and double check all of the accessibility information. 

Mary Frenson is a Marketing Assistant at

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