Whenever I travel within the United States, I either call the airline ahead and let them know that a patron with a disability is using their flight and will need assistance or I just go ahead and board among the group announced first–which is usually active military and persons living with a disability.
There are reasons why I do and do not call ahead, resulting in just winging it upon air flight boarding announcement. I do call ahead if I have already been experiencing migraines and significant pain in my neck, shoulders, and hips prior to my flights. Walking around an airport with luggage only exacerbates my bodies tolerance for living in pain and adequately functioning in public alone.
The down side to this is airport assistance often just takes one in a wheelchair to their seating area and escorts the person on the plane. A good airport assistance person asks if one needs the restroom. I, personally, have not had one ask if I needed food or drink. One of course can just take the initiative and ask for these things en route to flight.
Which leaves me writing to my readers, why I don’t ask for assistance ahead. I need food and drink while at the airport and one cannot have so much liquid and snacks when going through security.
When traveling to Denmark and Sweden, I did not let the airlines know I was a patron traveling with a disability. I was in a large group for one thing and wasn’t sure on the logistics with the traveling agency we used through the university system.
The airline announces the typical: those flying active military and wheelchairs may board first. Wait. Wheelchairs? That part wasn’t typical to include all patrons with disabilities. I notified my professor I was going to try to board ahead because I would need assistance with my luggage. I walked up and another woman who was using a cane did as well.
The person boarding patrons seemed puzzled by our appearance. A man beside us even said, “Look. She’s using a cane.” I said, “She needs to board early and I do too. Here is my medical bracelet to denote my condition.” He hesitated and let us pass after a few moments.
The flight journey back was much easier because I had gotten to know my companions in the study abroad program better and I was able to share a bit more of my lifestyle with them. The students were wonderful: “Rebekah–I got your bag!” “Let me get that up there for you.” And my professor was able to let some airport service people know discreetly that I was an organ transplant recipient traveling who needs to be seated once in a while during the long line at customs.
It was quite horrid seeing their area for persons using wheelchairs, these were predominantly elderly persons, but they were all seated in a roped off area. Maybe 30 to 40 persons set aside. Like luggage. I had been one of those one time while traveling in the USA because that’s typically where they take those who denote their disability on airlines to stay. Unless one had a bottle of water or snacks for some reason, you are there until they come get you.
Traveling alone can be a trip in and off itself, but group travel can be ideal if one is comfortable speaking up about their condition to their partners in travel.
The above picture is a man named Mack who is one of the older persons living with Cystinosis. He offered the following advice after my query on traveling rare part 1:
“I’ve been fortunate to have been travelling for over 50 years. I’m hoping to contribute a few things to consider while travelling with a medical condition.
Having enough medicine for the trip is the number one concern. As standard procedure, I always take an extra week of medicine on a trip. One of the biggest concerns about travelling abroad that I hear is fear of not having enough medicine on the trip. Fortunately, this situation can be easily avoided in most cases. When you are at the pharmacy getting your medicine, you can get additional medicine to cover your trip with up to a week for emergency. Tell your pharmacy about your trip abroad. The pharmacy will ask your insurance for a vacation override. This can usually be done once or twice a year. My pharmacist told me this was standard procedure for the industry.
Since I’m writing to a cystinosis audience, I will discuss the eyedrops. For a 2 week trip, I carry my first eyedrop bottle on me. I keep 1 to 2 additional bottles in a diabetic travel case, so at least it remains cool. This is the best that can be done in this situation. The additional eyedrops will not be working at peak condition, but they will be working enough to provide comfort for your eyes.
I highly recommend getting travel health insurance. Even if your primary insurance will reimburse you at home, certain medical facilities abroad will not treat you without travel insurance. An example of this is if you go to a private hospital and cannot prove your financial ability to pay. In that case, you would be transferred to the public hospital or clinic.
I’ve been travelling with a CPAP for over 15 years now. For me, this is my biggest inconvenience while travelling abroad. This is because I prefer to travel light with carry-on luggage only whenever possible. In the USA, it’s not an issue because American Airlines does not count the CPAP machine against your carry-on allowance. This is true for all of the USA airlines as far as I know, Travelling in different countries, it’s not always the case. I’ve been trying to deal with this by getting email confirmation of airline policy from the foreign airline. Some foreign airlines reply to emails, others do not. I’ve got ‘Medical Device’ tags on my CPAP carrying case. Worst case scenario, I plan for this contingency knowing that I will check my backpack with non-essential items, if it becomes necessary.”
Enjoy this series of my first look at Copenhagen, Denmark: