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  • Writer's pictureKyrby Brown

A Table of Comparison: The Joys of Planning a (very long) Trip… the Wheelie Version!

Standard Planning

Wheelie Planning

Book International Flights - peruse a variety of airlines looking for the most comfortable, convenient and cost effective options.

Do extensive research on the best airlines for wheelchair users to give yourself the best chance of your chair not being broken. Then proceed to research the airlines wheelchair policy, including height, weight and dimensions.  Consider flight times and travel opportunities, look at train times and then disregard the idea because of the unreliability of the Passenger Assistance. Once flights are booked, phone the airline to discuss your wheelchair handling and seating position. Have a long conversation with the airline about where best to put you on the aeroplane and how to make you as comfortable as possible outside of your wheelchair. Realise that you’re going to have to just suck up being uncomfortable for 11 hours because air travel is 25 years behind other transportation options and you’re not even allowed a leg rest.

Book Internal Flights - as above!

Do all of the above again but this time with much tighter height and weight limits narrowing it down to only one or two airlines available. Realise that the only airlines available do only offer early morning and late evening flights on select days. Book your itinerary based on this availability. Brace yourself for so bleary eyes and many airport frisking sessions!

Book Accommodation - search from thousands of hotel and resort options looking for the best deals and room options to suite you/your party.

Thoroughly research all hotel options and ensure they meet accessibility needs outside the room (eg. Accessible pool, restaurant, bar etc.). Resort to using google earth to figure out of the pool access is ladder or steps as the images don’t show this! Book an attractive hotel you like the look of, note your requirements on the reservation. Receive polite email from hotel saying that their accessible rooms are only double rooms/are not available in the format/at the price you’d like - scoff when they offer a more expensive alternative! Change bookings 3 or 4 times and hope for the best.

Book Car Hire - use price comparison site to search dozens of car hire options. Choose a suitable company and a vehicle of your choice. Book online in two clicks.

Realise there is a grand total of two accessible car hire options that cost over double the standard hire prices. On top of this they can’t deliver to the airport (or they can at a significant cost). Engage in a seemingly endless back and forth to ensure the hire meets your needs and the booking is secured at the right time and location for your trip. Cross your fingers and hope that all goes well on the day because you don’t have many options if it doesn’t!

Book Activites/Excursions - Look at activity options, choose the ones you're interested in and book in two clicks on Tripadvisor.

Research accessibility of the areas and realise very quickly that you’ll have to make your own way to any attractions as 99% of tours cannot accommodate you. Call/email each provider with your needs knowing that you’ll likely have to come up with some creative and sometimes hilarious transfers in order to take part, ensure camera is ready to capture the hilarity!

Pack Bags - packing is stressful for anyone but eventually (the day of the flight) you have to commit to the bag you've chosen!

Endure the normal stresses of packing whilst also working out how to partially dismantle your wheelchair in 0.5 seconds on the airport airbridge. Create instruction list and detailed information about said wheelchair to produce approximately 25-50 times for various enquiring airport/airline staff. Prepare to be stopped, frisked and questioned about your tools and bungees required to secure wheelchair.

Sit back and relax…

Yeah, fat chance of that. Mentally prepare yourself for your carefully and painstakingly constructed Jenga tower of a trip to come crumbling down because the world just isn’t as accessible as it should be. Take a deep breath, keep calm, and carry on.

I leave for my Churchill Fellowship in the USA on Saturday. Whilst I can't wait to start the adventure I wanted to put something together to show the challenges of the planning process long before I even lift off!

Image Description: Me in my wheelchair raised up travelling down a tarmac path with grass hills either side.


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