Travelling With Chronic Illness – Tips For Planning A Holiday
Travelling With Chronic Illness – Tips For Planning A Holiday
Travelling With Chronic Illness
When living the Spoonie life, one that is limited by a limited amount of energy and/or a heightened level of pain, planning a holiday and travelling with chronic illness can not only be difficult but daunting. Over the last 8 months, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had the ‘I’m too sick’ to go away conversation. Because let’s face it, daily life with chronic illness in our normal surroundings, with our aids and home comforts is difficult enough. So when you factor in all the unknown elements that can come with travel, accommodation and well, the unknown and our bodies in general, daunting certainly seems a good word for it.
Fear not. I’ve managed it. And here are my tips for organising a relaxing holiday.
This is key! It goes without saying really but first consider the type of holiday you want. I always go away with my Mum, who is also my carer (handy 😉 ) and we both like warm holidays.
Sadly, there won’t be any galavanting or sightseeing, this isn’t within my body’s capabilities so the ‘traveling’-i.e sightseeing is of less importance (much to our disappointment of course, however, this is something we have come to accept).
When it comes to booking the actual holiday I find being open and honest with a booking agent about your needs very important. Once we’ve clarified the type of holiday we want, restful and relaxing, and have confirmed our location desires, we then explain the specific requirements that we need regarding our accommodation.
Instore or online?
Now, we have booked directly through an agent in-store in a travel agent and found a holiday online ourselves, then called to make the booking. Both worked just as well.
What really made a difference has been the experience we have learnt over the years, which I’m sharing in this post today, allowing us to make informed choices in our bookings.
Special Assistance Team
All agents now have a Special Assistance team who run through a number of actions:
Assistance will be booked for you if required at this point. The agent will ask you if you need a wheelchair to get to the gate. Next, they will ask if you can manage the steps up into the aircraft, this is to either book for you to have a wheelchair to the gate only or to have a wheelchair to the gate and onto a hydraulic lift onto the aircraft. There is also a smaller wheelchair which is available for those with no walking ability at all for inside the aircraft.
If you are travelling with your own personal wheelchair, this will be checked at the check-in point and an assistance wheelchair provided for you from here.
These are questions to be prepared to answers during this conversation.
You can find guidance on arranging special assistance at the Civil Aviation Authority website here.
Included at this link is a guide of what to ask airlines, what airlines will need to know and what questions to consider in advance.
The Special Assistance team also book the same assistance plan for when you arrive at your destination, essentially it is mirrored (and in my experience, very efficient).
Carers can accompany you at all points.
When booking accommodation we always take into consideration how far away a hotel is from the airport. Given the physical toll travelling can have on those with chronic illness and/or disability it’s important to put your personal needs first in this matter. Coach transfers tend to come as standard with package holidays, however, you can upgrade to a taxi transfer. You can also book these yourself once you are at the airport.
Check with an agent if you are entitled to taxi transfer or if it’s a coach and if so consider whether you can manage a coach transfer. The agent will be able to clarify the length of the journey and go over your needs during the conversation.
One thing to consider with a coach transfer is that the coach tends to do a route of a number of hotel drop-offs, you will not know which point in the journey your drop off will be and it can sometimes be a bit ’round the houses’. This is fine if you don’t mind the travel but something to consider if coach travel is tiring for you. Having these extra points organised in advance can really help with both the physical toll and any worry when travelling with chronic illness.
The first thing that comes to mind when browsing accommodation for me isn’t whether the hotel has a spa, the most perfect view or looks outstanding, it is whether or not it has a lift. Ahhh spoonie life eh…
Over the years we have learnt to avoid hotels that aren’t high rise. We’ve learnt that if they’re high they have lifts, whereas lower ones can have staircases, even bungalows can have a few steps, this is worth looking into if you’re considering booking accommodation of this type.
Do your own research
Once we have chosen a hotel we then check with the booking agent that it definitely has lift access. It is worth checking on Trip Adviser how others with accessibility needs have found both the accommodation and location. (Once an agent tried to book us at a location that she said was ‘perfectly suitable’, after researching the area ourselves we found it was particularly hilly! Safe to say we did not book!)
It is at this point that we request our room to be near the lifts and accessible. Although we will confirm this with the Special Assistance team later, we like to make sure the booking agent makes note of this for the hotel at this point also.
During the conversation with the special assistance team as we are covering the hotel, I request my dietary requirements. I find it is helpful for the hotel to have prior notice.
As mentioned above, if you are travelling with your own wheelchair you must check it into the hold at check-in. The checking in assistant will ensure you are advised on where the Airport Assistance is so that you are able to seek assistance.
If you have not booked airport assistance in advance you can still hire a wheelchair from the Assistance desk.
Hidden Disabilities Lanyard
“A hidden disabilities lanyard is now available for our customers who need a little more time or assistance whilst travelling through the terminal. The lanyard discretely lets us know that someone might need additional support getting through our airport. This could mean giving them more time to prepare at check-in, security, allowing them to remain with their family at all times, or giving them a more comprehensive briefing on what to expect as they travel through the airport. The lanyard is becoming the popular standard across UK airports which allow our customers requiring extra assistance to use the same system across the country.
The Lanyards are available free of charge from the Airport Duty Managers desk or from the Passenger Assistance desk on the main terminal concourse.” -Newcastle Airport
I was over the moon when I heard about this! It’s quite an inclusive and forward-thinking step and I for one will be using this system on my trip!
Hidden Disabilities lanyard: You’ll need to find out where this can be obtained from your local airport, they are available at the Airport Duty Manager at my local airport (My airport does not charge for this). They also have a Hidden Disabilities Passport which can be downloaded from their website which makes it easier to progress through the airport.
A quick google search ‘hidden disabilities lanyard’ + your chosen airport will give you more information.
Having airport assistance does mean that you are fast-tracked through security meaning you don’t need to wait in the long cues (impossible for many of us!).
Some extra tips I have learnt when travelling with chronic illness is to be very prepared with your medications.
Always ensure that you travel with your meds in their correct labelled boxes and request a print off of your current repeat medication (particularly if you’re travelling with controlled drugs) from your Doctors Surgery. This covers both your medications at security and any possible hospital care abroad.
Work out what is best for you
For me, this type of holiday is more manageable than a driving holiday. We chose to go infrequently and to destinations which are short journeys. Flights are easier to manage than car journeys for me, they make me crash much harder and faster. I couldn’t, for example, travel to the south coast in a car at present. I plan my holiday around my ability (or lack of them rather) and I believe this is key. Understanding your needs and what you can manage is of utmost importance. For me colder weather is intolerable but warmer weather helps with my pain, it is a case of managing my POTS symptoms during.
And there you have it
It can be daunting to leave the comfort of our homes when we are poorly especially when we are unsure if the place we plan on going to has the accessibility requirements we need. I hope that by sharing the tips that I’ve learnt over the years helps when it comes to planning a trip and travelling with chronic illness, invisible illness and disability. There are systems in place to help and support us, we just have to find them and then shout about them so we all know about them and benefit from them.
Coming up next is a post full of tips to pack for your perfect Holiday Care Package! Bit and bobs I can’t live without when I’m away from home….
This is great and very helpful, we have printed off the Hidden Disabilities Passport to help us at Newcastle Airport next week (we already had the lanyard, but good to know others have used it successfully too) x
Fantastic! I had a great experience at Newcastle on Sunday, hopefully you will have the same! Have a great trip! So pleased you found this helpful!