Physical challenges require travel planning

Traveling with Physical Challenges?

Traveling with physical challenges requires planning.  I know, I grew up

Physical challenges mean you need a helping hand to enjoy travel
Sis at Wild Kingdom Lodge

around someone with physical challenges.  My sister was born with cerebral palsy. She is fortunate and with a lot of help has been able to lead a pretty normal, independent life as an adult.

Sis has some physical issues. Motor skills, balance, hearing and speech issues, and trouble judging changes in elevation.  She has the heart of a tiger. And big dreams.  It was always her dream to visit Africa. Elephants are her passion.

Finally, she had to accept it would be a physically and emotionally difficult trip for her. Her doctor advised against the arduous journey. That was a bitter pill to swallow.

My son, his wife and I decided to give her the next best thing to visiting Africa… A trip to Disney World with a stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  The wildlife was right out the window. Giraffes, zebra, flamingos and her favorite… elephants, are in the park. She loved wandering through the African art and shopping for trinkets to take home.

Watching her so excited and blossoming was amazing.  But it did take a bit of planning.  Here are some thoughts.

Plan for Physical Challenges

Individual limitations – clearly define what their challenges are. Think about how those challenges may be affected by things you will encounter.

  • Luggage handling  What will they need through each phase.
  • Airport help – will they be able to board safely and get from gate to gate if there are transfers?  If it’s a long distance, you might consider a wheelchair assist.
  • Room needs – sis needed a handicap accessible shower. But she and I were
    Regardless of your challenges, Mickey Mouse welcomes all
    Mickey Mouse Greets You

    sharing a room and needed two beds.  Couldn’t get both in the same room.  With adjoining rooms, my son and his wife took the one with the single bed and the shower. Sis and I took the two-bed room.  While my son went for a gym workout she got her shower. This gave her a bit of privacy.  It worked great.

  • Meals – table service is easier than buffets. If your meal plans include buffets, be ready to assist them with food selection and getting it to the table.
  • Transportation – like lots of places, shuttles were the best way to get around. With the three of us, it was no problem to give sis the extra hand/support to make her feel secure.
  • Pace your tour – this varies by individual.  Physical challenges can makeyou burn more energy just getting through the day.  Be sensitive to signs of tiring and suggest a break. At a theme park, there are always places to sit and people watch. That was a real bonus.

    Timing can ease the challenges

Theme parks tend to be busy year around. But if you can go at what is

Wild Kingdom room views make you feel like you're in Aftica
Wild Kingdom Room with a view

normally a slower time, it can make it easier. We found out that the first half of December is a great time to visit Disney in Florida.  It is between the Thanksgiving crowds and the Christmas ones.  Lines were shorter, rates a little lower, fewer masses of people to negotiate. Weather can still be warm – or surprise you. It’s smart to either take a warm jacket or plan for a shopping opportunity.

Safari Village Gardens allow those with physical challenges to get around easily
Wild Kingdom Gardens let those with physical challenges get around

Sis discovered she could go and conquer. She mastered escalators – which had terrified her. Staff also spotted her and helped us so she was able to get on and off rides. She had the adventure of her life and we all came home with some great memories.

I’d love to hear your stories/comments/questions about traveling with disabilities.

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