On one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, my family is heading to Vermont. This means 8+ hours in my mom’s Honda Pilot, traffic jams on the Tappan Zee Bridge, road food and rest stops, and of course, adjusting to the layout of a new hotel room.
Gone are the days when I zoomed off to France for a two-week vacation on my own. As an amputee, travel is not so easy. It requires packing and planning. Chargers and lotions and shower chairs. Not to mention lots of spare parts, just in case.
I haven’t given up, though. I’m a traveler by nature. I love photographing new places, mastering new languages, meeting new people, and tasting new food. In my 3 ½ years as an amputee, I haven’t yet ventured abroad. But I have had some travel adventures!
I’ve raced through airports in wheelchairs and electric carts. I’ve stood in security lines. I’ve been scanned, wanded, patted down, and swiped for gunpowder residue. I’ve even been strip searched. (Yes, really! In Erie, Pennsylvania, I had to pull down my jeans so female TSA agents could examine the top of my socket!)
On airplanes, I’ve shared seats with inquisitive nine-year-olds. I’ve adjusted my socket in tiny cramped lavatories. I’ve found a way to get my luggage in and out of overhead bins.
In hotels, I’ve arranged furniture so my Genium has a place to charge. I’ve marched up stairs when elevators are broken. I’ve been through doorways so narrow, I side-step with crutches. I’ve even slipped on wet bathroom floors!
The plus side of all these adventures is that I’ve learned a few things. Call them TRAVEL TIPS. Call them SURVIVAL SKILLS.
Here my top five:
1. Roll With It. Literally. Take advantage of assistance like wheelchairs and electric carts. Hail cabs instead of walking long distances. Sit instead of stand. Save your energy to enjoy vacation activities. And Roll With It mentally too! Fake it till you make it. Act like travel is no big deal. Look at each bump in the road as a learning experience—or at least a good story!
2. Plan When You Can. Bring spare parts. Rearrange furniture in your hotel room. As soon as you arrive, set up a leg-changing station and organize the bathroom. Do these things early so you’re not too tired later. Sleep with your phone next to the bed. Leave your purse or wallet in an easy-to-grab location. Think about an escape route in case of emergency. You’ll rest better if you do!
3. Accessible Doesn’t Mean Easiest. Everyone has different preferences for accessibility. For me, “accessible” hotel rooms are not easy to navigate. The bathrooms are too large for hopping. Roll-in showers allow too much water to escape. Raised toilets cause my socket to release. I’ve learned to get around much better in a “regular room” with a portable shower chair. Everyone’s different. Learn what works for you.
4. Ask For What You Need. Before boarding a plane, I request a seat where my prosthesis can be on the aisle. When I check into hotels, I ask for a shower chair. (If they don’t have one, they can phone other hotels or medical supply companies.) If you’re polite and clearly explain your needs, most people will go out of their way to help. When in doubt, show a little leg!
5. And finally, Laugh it Off. On our last family vacation, I developed a harsh socket rub on the tip of my femur bone. Discouraged about spending the day on crutches, I sadly propped my Genium against the wall of the hotel room. “I hope the housekeeping staff doesn’t know how much this thing costs,” I growled. But my dad surprised me with a laugh. “Hey, you should leave it under the bed with the foot sticking out!” he joked. In the end, I decided not to traumatize the housekeeper, but the idea definitely lightened my mood! Keep smiling.
Travel isn’t as easy as it was with 2 legs. But it is POSSIBLE. And the challenge can make it more rewarding. As they say, life begins when you step outside your comfort zone.
So I’m not flying off to France at a moment’s notice – yet. But this weekend I’ll be packing my crutches, spare parts, and my sense of humor. Something tells me it’s gonna be a memorable trip!
Follow my journey at www.my-1000-miles.blogspot.com