Returning to travel with mobility impairments


Tips on Travel Post-Injury

1.   Plan Ahead – Think through all your needs.  Equipment Needed, Medications, Flight Arrangements, Accessible Restrooms, Timing for Catheterizing, Accessible Transportation to/from airport (Accessible Accommodations, Accessibility of Attractions, Unpredictable distances and terrain

  • Arrange for non-stop flights whenever possible
  • Allow 2 hours if you require a layover
  •  Make phone calls ahead to allow plan to run smoothly – airlines, restaurants, hotels, wheelchair van rental
  • Carry-on Essentials – Extra supplies
  • If travelling by air with power wheelchair, call airline 48 hours ahead to let them know you will be flying with a powered wheelchair (weight limit of air craft) – esp. on flights with 60 seats or less.
  • If you are travelling alone and will need assistance from air personnel through airport to get to the gate, it is best to make these arrangements ahead
  • ADA requires that if you need one, your hotel provides an accessible room. 

If you can walk but require an assistive device, be aware that rolling walkers may not fit down the aisle of the plane.  They may require you use an aisle chair to get on plane. 

If you walk, but do not walk well or no not walk long distances, you may request that a jitney transport you from security to the gate.

2.  Be Prepared

  • Take a travel Repair/tool kit for minor equipment assembly/repair, spare tube for pneumatic tires, manual bike tire pump
  • Medication List
  • Brief List of Medical History
  • Emergency Numbers – Personal contacts, but also numbers for who to contact if have questions regarding equipment malfunction.

3.  Allow time to get through security

Recognize that security at TSA will be thorough.  If you are not able to go through standard scanning system they will thoroughly pat you down.

Feel free to tell TSA your limitations- (ie. can’t walk without shoes, you can request that our shoes not be removed)

TSA Pre-check may be an option if you travel frequently to save time on security

  • This requires brief interview with TSA and fingerprints. 
  • $85 and it is good for 5 years.           

4.  Know Information on your Wheelchair:  Type: Power/Manual/Scooter, Brand/Model, Battery Type (Gel (dry cell), Acid (wet cell), Lithium, Weight

  • Attach card with your name, address, and contact number and wheelchair serial number to your wheelchair
  • Attach Instructions on how to disconnect battery for travel, how brakes or wheel locks are released, Tools required to collapse or dismantle
  • Attach Instructions on how to disassemble reassemble parts
  • Attach photo of your wheelchair to instructions and indicate where to hold wheelchair in order to lift it safely.
  • Make a list of detachable parts that you will carry with you as carry-on – footrests, sideguards, cushion, joystick control
  • Take a photo of pre-travel condition
  • Request a Ramp Supervisor accompany your wheelchair into the cargo hold.

5.  If travelling by air with an air cushion - it is wise to slightly deflate your cushion to accommodate the change in air pressure with altitude.  Be sure to bring a pump with you in carryon so you can readjust as needed once you get to your destination.

6.  Arrive Early for your flight to allow time for check- in, personal care, pre-board arrangements

If you will be travelling with multiple wheelchairs (power, manual, sport chair) recognize that ADA allows you to take one additional piece of accessible equipment (in addition to your wheelchair) free of charge.   Other extra items will incur an additional baggage feel

7.  If your destination requires a layover, plan for extended time to insure all your baggage gets onto next flight and request that your equipment stay with you during lay over so you can negotiate airport with ease and comfort.

8.  Recognize that you will be required to transfer to (or be transferred to) an aisle chair for access onto airplane.

  • Prior to pre-boarding have flight personnel call arrival gate to have aisle chair available for you to deplane
  • Be prepared to tell flight personnel how you move, your abilities and your limitations. 
  • You may want to consider requesting a “bulk-head” seat ahead of time to allow for increased leg room.
  • You will be the first one on the plane and the last one off.

9.  Before landing remind the flight attendant that your will need an aisle chair to deplane and your equipment brought to the gate, so he/she can radio ahead to make arrangement.

10.  Newer refurbished wide body jets are supposed to have one handicapped accessible restroom; however, this only has to be wide enough to fit an aisle chair inside and allow for a toilet transfer).  These planes are also supposed to have an aisle chair on board, but it is always best to call and confirm.

11.  If you are travelling internationally remember to pack a converter so you can charge your wheelchair.

12.  If you are travelling and will need a wheelchair accessible van at destination:

Larger cities tend to have wheelchair accessible cab services

If planning to rent a car remember to take portable hand- controls (if needed)

Other options- rent a wheelchair accessible van

  • Wheelchair Getaways
  • Accessible Vans of America
  • Wheelers

Ramp rentals may be an option for inaccessible

Ask restaurant/store clerk for fold out ramps to allow access into inaccessible area.

Helpful Resources/Websites: Emerging Horizons  - Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality - Disabled Travelers Companion Website