10 Tips for Traveling With Physical Disabilities

There's no reason for a family member with a permanent or temporary physical limitation to stay home during a trip. Accessible travel is more popular than ever and with proper planning.

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Peanuts at 30,000 Feet

Peanuts at 30,000 Feet

Peanut allergies are among the most severe, yet peanuts are synonymous with in-flight snacks. Many airlines no longer serve peanuts–check the airline website for policies–though other passengers may bring peanut snacks aboard. Airlines such as Southwest will not serve peanuts if contacted a few days before the flight. Speak to a gate agent before your family's flight and ask to pre-board in order to wipe down the seat and area where your family will be seating to remove any peanut dust and particles. Flight attendents can also make announcements before takeoff asking passengers to please not open peanut-containing snacks during the flight.  960 1280

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Give Yourself Extra Time for Security

Give Yourself Extra Time for Security

If you travel with more than 3 ounces of liquids, such as almond milk, peanut butter or apple sauce, it's helpful to have a doctor's note to present to TSA agents, if necessary. Give yourself extra time in security for additional screening of items, but you shouldn't have any trouble getting an exception. 960 1280

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Epinephrine Injections

Epinephrine Injections

The TSA considers epinephrine injectors a medical necessity, and allows them to be carried aboard flights. Epinephrine injectors should be bagged with other carry-on liquids for inspection. At least two injectors should be available (consider one injection lasts for about 20 minutes), and if you're traveling alone, notify your flight attendent where your injectors are should you go into anaphylaxis. Make sure they are clearly labled and accessible. Airplanes carry at least one epinephrine injector in the onboard medical kit as well, and flight attendents are trained in their use.
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mario loiselle  

Gluten Testers are Coming Soon

Gluten Testers are Coming Soon

Devices such as Nima Portable Gluten Tester will enter the market this year, allowing travelers to test food for gluten and other ingredients. Nima uses one-use capsules that are $5 each, and hopefully prices will come down as more products come on line. 960 1280

JPM  

Pack More Snacks Than You Think You'll Need

Pack More Snacks Than You Think You'll Need

It sounds obvious, but many people get caught off-guard by flight delays, lack of restaurants that accomodate special diets and other hiccups while traveling. Pack more diverse, safe snacks then you think you'll need, or even full meals such as those from GoPicnic. For kids, pack extra special treats as something to look forward to during the travel day.  960 1280

Kolett  

Helpful Apps

Helpful Apps

Apps such as Find Me Gluten Free, Happy Cow and Allergy Eats are invaluable for finding restaurants that accomodate food allergies. Familiarize yourself with the apps before you travel and contact restaurants in airports and destinations that seem safe beforehand. 960 1280

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Plan Ahead for Peace of Mind

Plan Ahead for Peace of Mind

Familiarize yourself with medical facilities near your destination that can treat an allergic reaction, if necessary, and have your doctor transfer any prescriptions that you may need filled when traveling ahead of time. Consider how you would replace EpiPens used during a flight, for example. 960 1280

takasuu  

Translate Your Needs

Translate Your Needs

If you're not fluent in the language of your destination, create a translated card beforehand you can present at restaurants that lists ingredients you need to avoid, along with a brief explaination. Be aware that foods with which you're familiar with at home may use different ingredients abroad, such as types of flour or nuts. 960 1280

Anna Bryukhanova, iStock  

Don't Leave Anyone Out

Don't Leave Anyone Out

It can be hard on young travelers with food allergies to sit by and watch family members enjoy eating purchased airport food. Safe money and bring meals for everyone who's traveling, and enjoy eating all together later at vetted restaurants. 960 1280

Jim Arbogast  

Reach Out to Local Groups

Reach Out to Local Groups

Many destination cities have organizations that share information about local restaurants that accomodate dietary needs, such as the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup Group and the Gluten Free Bay Area Meetup Group. Incorporate finding exciting diet-sensative restaurants into your travel plans, and reach out to people with similar dietary concerns for advice and recommendations. Locals are more than happy to share their knowledge with visitors, and you may even make new friends. 960 1280

  

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Peanuts at 30,000 Feet

Peanuts at 30,000 Feet

Peanut allergies are among the most severe, yet peanuts are synonymous with in-flight snacks. Many airlines no longer serve peanuts–check the airline website for policies–though other passengers may bring peanut snacks aboard. Airlines such as Southwest will not serve peanuts if contacted a few days before the flight. Speak to a gate agent before your family's flight and ask to pre-board in order to wipe down the seat and area where your family will be seating to remove any peanut dust and particles. Flight attendents can also make announcements before takeoff asking passengers to please not open peanut-containing snacks during the flight.  960 1280

Hero Images  

Give Yourself Extra Time for Security

Give Yourself Extra Time for Security

If you travel with more than 3 ounces of liquids, such as almond milk, peanut butter or apple sauce, it's helpful to have a doctor's note to present to TSA agents, if necessary. Give yourself extra time in security for additional screening of items, but you shouldn't have any trouble getting an exception. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Epinephrine Injections

Epinephrine Injections

The TSA considers epinephrine injectors a medical necessity, and allows them to be carried aboard flights. Epinephrine injectors should be bagged with other carry-on liquids for inspection. At least two injectors should be available (consider one injection lasts for about 20 minutes), and if you're traveling alone, notify your flight attendent where your injectors are should you go into anaphylaxis. Make sure they are clearly labled and accessible. Airplanes carry at least one epinephrine injector in the onboard medical kit as well, and flight attendents are trained in their use.
960 1280

mario loiselle  

Gluten Testers are Coming Soon

Gluten Testers are Coming Soon

Devices such as Nima Portable Gluten Tester will enter the market this year, allowing travelers to test food for gluten and other ingredients. Nima uses one-use capsules that are $5 each, and hopefully prices will come down as more products come on line. 960 1280

JPM  

Pack More Snacks Than You Think You'll Need

Pack More Snacks Than You Think You'll Need

It sounds obvious, but many people get caught off-guard by flight delays, lack of restaurants that accomodate special diets and other hiccups while traveling. Pack more diverse, safe snacks then you think you'll need, or even full meals such as those from GoPicnic. For kids, pack extra special treats as something to look forward to during the travel day.  960 1280

Kolett  

Helpful Apps

Helpful Apps

Apps such as Find Me Gluten Free, Happy Cow and Allergy Eats are invaluable for finding restaurants that accomodate food allergies. Familiarize yourself with the apps before you travel and contact restaurants in airports and destinations that seem safe beforehand. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Plan Ahead for Peace of Mind

Plan Ahead for Peace of Mind

Familiarize yourself with medical facilities near your destination that can treat an allergic reaction, if necessary, and have your doctor transfer any prescriptions that you may need filled when traveling ahead of time. Consider how you would replace EpiPens used during a flight, for example. 960 1280

takasuu  

Translate Your Needs

Translate Your Needs

If you're not fluent in the language of your destination, create a translated card beforehand you can present at restaurants that lists ingredients you need to avoid, along with a brief explaination. Be aware that foods with which you're familiar with at home may use different ingredients abroad, such as types of flour or nuts. 960 1280

Anna Bryukhanova, iStock  

Don't Leave Anyone Out

Don't Leave Anyone Out

It can be hard on young travelers with food allergies to sit by and watch family members enjoy eating purchased airport food. Safe money and bring meals for everyone who's traveling, and enjoy eating all together later at vetted restaurants. 960 1280

Jim Arbogast  

Reach Out to Local Groups

Reach Out to Local Groups

Many destination cities have organizations that share information about local restaurants that accomodate dietary needs, such as the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup Group and the Gluten Free Bay Area Meetup Group. Incorporate finding exciting diet-sensative restaurants into your travel plans, and reach out to people with similar dietary concerns for advice and recommendations. Locals are more than happy to share their knowledge with visitors, and you may even make new friends. 960 1280

  

Planning is Essential

Planning is Essential

Chronic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and diabetes, shouldn’t stop the entire family from traveling, even if wheelchairs or insulin are necessary. An extra level of planning is all that’s needed for a stress-free vacation. For starters, the U.S. Department of State is a good resource for medical needs, from finding hospitals, pharmacies, and doctors at your destination to traveling with prescription medications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is another good resource for traveling with a chronic illness. 960 1280

eclipseart  

Check in With Your Doctor Before Your Trip

Check in With Your Doctor Before Your Trip

It’s important for those with a chronic condition to visit their doctor beforehand for a number of reasons. Besides checking that they’re healthy enough to travel, they should also discuss what shots or medications they might need for their destination, and possible drug interactions. It’s also critical for them to devise a game plan with their doctor for managing their symptoms while traveling; it’s equally important for travel companions to be informed of this as well. Travel companions also need to monitor any signs of life-threatening symptoms, and should be aware of what to do in an emergency. 

Timothy Holtz, the group travel director of Flying Wheels Travel, an agency specializing in trips for people with physical limitations and chronic illnesses, says it’s also important to consider the impact of a destination’s climate on symptoms. For example, heat and humidity will exacerbate fatigue and pain with certain medical conditions. Meals, activity level, and downtime also have to be factored into managing symptoms.
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MoustacheGirl  

Carry Extra Medication and Supplies

Carry Extra Medication and Supplies

An ample amount of medications and supplies should be in their original, labeled containers and packed in a carry-on. Besides helping to get through security and customs faster, Holtz notes that it’s not uncommon for prescription medication to be stolen from checked bags.

Concerning supplies, Holtz advises that certain items that are easy to obtain in the U.S., such as rubbing alcohol, can be expensive or difficult to find abroad. Other common items might need a prescription in other countries, are sold only at specialized pharmacies, or go by a completely different name. (In the case of rubbing alcohol, it’s called surgical ointment in England.)

Allow extra time for going through security and customs at the airport; review the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines for special procedures beforehand concerning medications, liquids, supplies, and more. It’s equally important to be aware of what’s allowed through customs at your destination; certain prescription medications are illegal in other countries, like Dubai.
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RG-vc  

Carry Medical Information

Carry Medical Information

Carry medical records, contact information for a primary doctor, and prescriptions on a thumb drive. It’s also important to bring prescription copies for all medications. Finally, a medical alert bracelet can help paramedics diagnose the problem faster if the person happens to be alone. 960 1280

LUHUANFENG  

Make Sure Travel Insurance Includes Medical

Make Sure Travel Insurance Includes Medical

Some travel insurance plans only cover financial losses, and Medicare doesn’t cover overseas travel. Check the U.S. Department of State for a list of recommended medical providers. Be sure to choose one that includes medical evacuation, or medevac, in case of an emergency; that option could be cost-prohibitive if insurance doesn’t cover it. If traveling abroad, it’s also important to know the generic name for any prescription medicines; don’t assume other countries will know the U.S. brand name.  
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alexandrumagurean  

Research Accommodation for Medical Equipment

Research Accommodation for Medical Equipment

For example, if someone is traveling with an oxygen tank, check the special needs guidelines with each individual airline, cruise, or train, since what’s allowed varies. Review the Air Carrier Access Act from the U.S. Department of Transportation to understand your rights. Holtz says you need to double check, even if a device is FAA approved. For example, he had a client whose oxygen tank was approved by Delta, but not by a connecting flight on Avianca Airlines. Holtz notes that airlines also require a minimum amount of battery power for certain medical devices, which varies depending on the airline and the length of the flight, and could require bringing as many as 10 batteries. (Even though many planes are equipped with power outlets, that option isn’t always available.) 960 1280

iStock  

Use a Specialized Travel Agent or Company

Use a Specialized Travel Agent or Company

“Anywhere is possible with proper planning,” says Holtz. He notes that while Europe is easier, he’s taken people to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, and more, and is currently organizing a yoga trip to India for people with MS. The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality is another resource for finding agents and companies. 960 1280

adamkaz  

Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

The U.S. Department of State offers STEP as a free service that allows you to share your trip information with the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate at your destination—this way it’s easy to be notified in the event of an emergency. More importantly, there’s a section under Traveler Information that allows you to enter any relevant information pertaining to medical conditions. 960 1280

Kenneth Wiedemann  

Consider an All-Inclusive Trip

Consider an All-Inclusive Trip

All-inclusive resorts provide a wide range of activities to suit everyone’s ability and activity level. Sandals features ADA-compliant rooms and grounds, and can also handle special requirements. Cruises are another good option since major lines have an infirmary with at least one doctor on board. In the event of an emergency, personnel can medevac the patient to a medical facility on land. Of course, always ask about emergency procedures before booking a trip. Royal Caribbean can arrange wheelchair and scooter rental and accommodate those who are oxygen-dependent. Carnival loans portable medi-coolers, while Norwegian Cruise Line allows travelers receiving dialysis. Disney World also accommodates a wide range of needs. 960 1280

NAN104  

Be Honest About Medical Needs

Be Honest About Medical Needs

Although this seems obvious, Holtz says it’s common for people to downplay their medical needs with him because they’re afraid of being turned away. He emphasizes the importance of being honest about this when booking a trip, whether through an agency or independently, otherwise the proper arrangements can't be made. 960 1280

NoDerog  

Don’t Forget the Needs of the Caregiver

Don’t Forget the Needs of the Caregiver

Holtz advises against seeing too much in one day in order to account for the stamina of both people. He also advises considering the amount of care someone needs, which affects how much energy the caregiver has to expend. For example, if the caregiver has to get up early to help someone in a wheelchair get ready, then both people might need an afternoon nap. Holtz says Flying Wheels Travel also offers travel companions on both independent and group tours, which gives the caretaker or spouse a vacation as well.  960 1280

Don Bayley  

Easy Razor Cover

Easy Razor Cover

Ever reached into your toiletries case and met the wrong end of a razor? Ouch. Place a ten-cent binder clip over the razor head to prevent any nicks.  960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Cool It

Cool It

Running late with a hot curling iron or hair straightener? Cool it down quickly with a cold, wet washcloth. Just be careful not to touch the hot part. If the tool is still warm, use an oven mitt as a sheath to insulate heat in your bag.  960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Store Small Amounts of Liquids

Store Small Amounts of Liquids

Going on a short trip and don’t want to pack large bottles? A contact lens case is great for storing concealer, foundation, lotions, lip color and more.   960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

No Loss Floss

No Loss Floss

No one likes to floss, so it stands to reason that no one will steal dental floss. The innards pop out easily and make a great place to stow valuables in your suitcase.  960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Keep Track of Bobby Pins

Keep Track of Bobby Pins

You can use a mint box to hold hair clips and bobby pins but a card takes up much less space in a toiletries bag. 960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Dollar Store Wine Sleeve

Dollar Store Wine Sleeve

Save money by packing your own wine. Keep it safe with a water floatie. We recommend this for road trips and cruises, not checked luggage.   960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Tangle-Free Necklaces

Tangle-Free Necklaces

Arriving at your final destination to find your necklaces tangled or broken can ruin the best of vacations. Before embarking, unlatch, string half the necklace through a drinking straw and re-clasp on the outside. Small ones work for thin gold chains while smoothie straws are great for thicker strands.  960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Makeshift Top

Makeshift Top

Smoothie straws also make a great sheath for both eye and lip liners, which frequently lose tops in handbags. Just use the bendy part of the straw to cover. If the pencil is narrower than the straw, clog the end with a little tissue.  960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Upcycled Jewel Box

Upcycled Jewel Box

A pillbox is great for medications, but it’s also a fine place to store and pack jewelry while traveling. The separate containers keep your bling organized, easy to see and not in one pile.  960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Extra Padding

Extra Padding

A simple padded mailer envelope gives your tablet or phone extra cushion and protection in a suitcase. Some are even waterproof.  960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Hat Trick

Hat Trick

Here’s another option if you don’t have a case. Keep your device cozy in a winter hat to prevent scratching.  960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

For the Shopaholics

For the Shopaholics

If you’re traveling with the intent of shopping, consider packing a suitcase within a suitcase. If you don’t, you’ll end of buying another (probably overpriced) suitcase for the return flight. And chances are you won’t use it again. We packed a week’s worth of clothes that fit into one carry-on bag within a 22-inch rolling suitcase. 960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Hidden in Plain Sight

Hidden in Plain Sight

Reuse sunglass cases for packing jewelry and other valuables. The hard shell absorbs shock and the ordinary item thwarts would-be thieves.  960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Tin Tip

Tin Tip

Reuse mint tins and soap tins to hold necessities like ear swabs and bandages.  960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Snack Hack

Snack Hack

Trying to stay healthy on your road trip? Protect fruits that are easily bruised or punctured with a Koozie. Plus, you’ll have an extra koozie for drinks when you get to your destination.   960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Passport Hideaway

Passport Hideaway

No safe? A DVD shell is a great spot to hide your passport as the inner clip holds it in place nicely.   960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Save Those Wine Gift Bags

Save Those Wine Gift Bags

Reuse a cloth wine bag for delicates, like lingerie and bathing suits. And if you need a hostess gift at your destination, consider it the gift bag that just keeps on giving.  960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Phone Boombox

Phone Boombox

Save real estate in your bag by leaving the Bluetooth speaker at home and using your phone. All you need is a glass from the mini bar. Place the phone inside and the sound amplifies.  960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Bonus Outlets

Bonus Outlets

Going abroad? Pack a power strip along with a three-prong adapter. Now you can charge multiple devices at the same time. 960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Pillow Talk

Pillow Talk

The next time you buy new sheets or pillow cases, save the zippered plastic cases. They're great for travel makeup cases.  960 1280

Akemi Hiatt  

Catch All

Catch All

Cord catchers are great for your tech gear but they're also great for organizing all the random things at the bottom of a purse or carry-on.  960 1280

Holly Aguirre  

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