Everyone else has done it, so if you have the money you should. Its tough and airlines make it tougher. It is easier to do it with someone, but it is very hard on them, so it puts your relationship with them at risk. Alternatively, it can be done alone, but that requires planning, innovation, research, clever custom-made gadgets and enormous endurance.
For the first 15 years after my accident I travelled quite a bit domestically and internationally – with my family, my partner or alone. I think it requires quite a lot of energy and motivation to travel as a C6. I have not travelled much in the last 10 years and not at all on airlines. I think that is because I have lost both the necessary motivation and the energy for it.
I still find car travel to one destination, for short stays, relatively easy.
The departure phase just involves finding accessible accommodation on the internet, packing my bag, and putting my bag and commode chair in the car. I have a commode chair that I designed and got custom made for travel nearly 15 years ago. It comes apart and folds up in to a bag so that it fits in the car, and other forms of transport, more easily. Similar things are now available commercially, so you won’t need to make one yourself. See the link in the experts section.
The arrival phase at the other end is a bit more complicated because I have to move stuff around within the room to make sure I can access everything I need. This process of setting up the motel or hotel room to suit me can take an hour or so.
If the accommodation is good, and I stay in one place for a few days or a week I find such trips quite OK. To make it as smooth as possible I always ring the accommodation personally and ask specific questions about bathrooms etc. Despite this, usually when I arrive its ok but not perfect. Often its hard to get in and out of the room door, or the bathroom is good but not perfect.
In contrast, if I am moving every day I now find the packing and unpacking exhausting, so I don’t do trips like that anymore. I used to be ok with it when travel was a new thing and I was excited about seeing new places etc. Back then I did trips of that kind quite a lot, so if you haven’t travelled much yet I would encourage you to go for it.
I travelled quite a bit on domestic and international airlines in the ’90s. I stopped in the 2000s because most airlines have changed their practices for quads.
In the ’90s the process was: 1) I would check in 2) go to the departure gate 3) the staff would lift me out of my chair and in to an aisle chair 4) they would wheel the aisle chair to my seat and 5) lift me in to my seat. Then once you were on the plane they often helped with emptying leg bags and taking the urine to the toilet.
Now the staff on some airlines, Australian ones anyway, are required to use a hoist to lift passengers. Unfortunately the airport staff usually can’t find the hoist, and when they do they can’t remember how to use it, and have to have several goes to get it right. In my experience this usually takes so long it delays the plane, and they end up loading me after everyone else, rather than before. I find it very uncomfortable and undignified to go through that in full view of a plane full of impatient travellers.
I flew from Australia to Europe every second year in the 90s. During that time I travelled by car around Ireland, Scotland and parts of Spain and the Netherlands with my then partner. In 2000 I travelled around Europe, from Stockholm to Rome, on my own by train and plane. The difficult parts in both cases were:
- finding accommodation that was accessible and not hugely expensive
- carrying a commode chair around everywhere, that I had to pack and unpack all the time
- getting on and off trains and planes.
Doing it on my own made these difficulties much more intense. To do it alone I had to custom design and make my commode, and plan everything in detail, and spend a lot of money. Having done all that I did get to see parts of Stockholm, Netherlands, Paris, France, Switzerland, Geneva, Austria, Vienna, Milan, Florence and Rome.
It has been great for me to be able to say I have been to all those places, and to swap stories with people, as most people I know have travelled extensively. So I am very pleased I did it. The pictures and video below attempt to show that it was great to see those places even though it was hard, expensive, and I did not get to see quite a few things that most tourists would.
Doing a similar trip now as a C6 on your own would be different from my experience 15 years ago. Once you got to Europe I imagine things would be much easier because there is likely to be more accessible transport and accommodation. However getting there is likely to be harder. There are the issues outlined above in terms of getting on and off the flights. Even worse though would be the new attitudes of airlines towards assisting disabled passengers with toilet needs.
When I traveled you could empty your leg bag in to a container of some sort and the stewards would take it to the toilet for you. Unfortunately, back in the early 2000s many airlines changed their rules so that passengers are now required to be able look after their own toilet needs, otherwise they must have a carer.
Despite the added difficulties I would not discourage quads from doing it if they have the money, because overseas travel can be a life changing experience. In particular, if you are planning to travel with someone else the new rules might not be much of an issue. You could just take some overnight drainage bags and ask your travel companion to connect one to your leg bag, and then take the overnight bag to the toilet for you. On your own however it might be more of a challenge. You might have to figure out how to connect and disconnect the overnight drainage bag yourself then put it in your bag and carry it off at the end of the flight, or something like that. Anyway I’m sure its possible but it is likely to be complex.
video at the coloseum in rome
Here’s what the experts say
CLICK HERE for some Top Travel Tips
CLICK HERE for travel stories
CLICK HERE for more stories and tips on the D-ability site
CLICK HERE for a site with general info on air travel. it seems to confirm my fears above above current airline practices
CLICK HERE for more info on the commode that packs up into a bag and is commercially available
Rule number 21 -Travel is a trade-off, you have to put in a lot of money, time and effort but there can be substantial rewards.