Holidays and travel
The following pages are not meant to be a definitive guide to disabled travel but more a mixture of official links to disability sites and personal experiences, Duchenne Now don’t endorse any of the links as they are there to assist and reference as part of your overall research. I have concentrated on holidays abroad as opposed to UK based. This part of the website is open to regular update anyone with information or indeed recommendation of a particular place home or abroad, please feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org and we can include into the section.
As we all probably know for those with a disability or families with a disabled child holidays can be a minefield and need the planning of major proportions. This page and the links, information and personal experiences are meant to assist families plan and hopefully enjoy their holiday time together.
As our children get older the problems of course mount, wheelchairs to transport , getting on and off airlines , access to accommodation, medical assistance the list is endless, so where to begin?
Choosing a holiday for you
Planning a family holiday together is always an adventure especially for young children; of course where we go depends on many factors and is not always down to how much! A friend of mine probably could afford to holiday anywhere he wished he and his family however spend endless summer days in their caravan and absolutely loved it and why not. I personally love the adventure of going abroad a warmer climate and walking around in shorts and T shirt for two weeks.
When you have children with disabilities it of course it can influence your choices and as the guys get older the barriers to overcome become greater: wheelchair access, airline seats, airport assistance, wheelchair accessible vehicles and accommodation the list is almost endless, but don’t let it put you off with good planning and a bit of determination most barriers can be overcome.
I hope the following information will be of assistance:
Home or Abroad ?
This is a practical decision based on your personal likes and dislikes, however living with someone with a disability such as Duchenne should not deter you from travelling you just need to take more time and plan better in advance, that is the key advance planning! Try and predict any possible problems and make sure you plan to overcome them, of course there is always the unexpected but hey! That’s part of the fun of travelling.
General information links:
"Just had a great 2 weeks a this place in France. Adapted for disabled with wet room etc [La Grange]. We found it to be great and hired an electric hoist at a very reasonable 38 Euros a week. You can also hire many other things to assist you just ask Marin or Clara to arrange.
The area is rural so a car is essential. There are some wonderful places to visit nearby and plenty of long walks if you wish. The wonderful beaches and coastline is a mere 15 min drive away.
We had a wonderful 2 weeks and would certainly recommend it!!"
This can be quite a testing experience even today, most airlines have a disability hotline to help you with your flight and any assistance you may need at airports and when onboard.
I would always make full use of these facilities because there are many practical issues to overcome:
Are the seats big enough?
Long haul /short haul
Access onto the plane [first on and last off]
Assistance at the airport
Toileting on plane
Wheelchair storage and handling
Wheelchair battery regulations
Some links to assist in your planning:
Flying with assistance dogs! We used to take Charlie our son’s dog on short haul fights in the cabin with us and had no problems leaving the UK. I personally would not recommend taking them on flights over 4 hours but that is just from experience:
We used to fly every year long haul to Florida; when we first went my son was walking and needed a manual chair when tired; eventually he moved into an electric wheelchair and had to be transferred to his seat via an airline wheeled chair! These are narrow chairs to get down the aisles of airplanes. The transfer from electric wheelchair to airline one usually took place at the plane door and wasn’t always without incident!
The transfer has to be under your control the airline/airport staff are usually very helpful and want to be of every assistance but they are not aware of your personal needs, be strong and take charge after all it is you they are moving around we bought a wheelchair transfer bucket seat to help, this is made of canvas and has four lifting handles attached this means we do the transfer from one chair to another.
Transfer Bucket seat
Once in your seat the wheelchair will be taken to the hold. I have to say the flight is the most stressful time, not because we hate flying but being sat for 9 hours wondering has the wheelchair been loaded or not. Will it be in a good condition on arrival? Stress indeed. You will normally be the first onto a flight and then at your destination the last off, this is so they can get passengers off unload your chair, depending on airline and country your chair will either be brought to plane door or you will have to be taken off the plane in a manual chair and reunited with your personal chair in baggage reclaim.
Toileting on a plane can be an issue especially if you are non ambulant, some airlines now have widened toilets and the partitions can be opened to allow access for a helper as well as aisle wheelchair, but check with your travel agent or airline before booking. Precautions can be taken before the flight [especially long haul] to help prevent the need to actually go to the toilet, but hydration is very important so we always take a Uri-bag onboard and with the help of a travel blanket, it’s possible to be reasonably discreet. If you can afford to upgrade I would recommend it, the more room you have the easier the journey obvious I know, but if living with Duchenne can make the trip much more pleasurable.
Virgin Airline statement
The level of accessibility of our onboard toilets depends on which kind of plane you’re flying on:
Our Airbus planes are equipped with one fully wheelchair-accessible toilet
Our Boeing 747-400 aircraft have partially accessible toilets
Our cabin crew will be happy to help you to and from the toilet door, but they cannot assist inside the toilet itself, for hygiene reasons.
If you think you will require further assistance once inside the toilet, please contact our Special Assistance department. They will be able to discuss your options with you in a discreet and tactful manner.
The reuniting of you and you chair is a worrying time; we have had footplates missing, damage to armrests etc I have heard stories of people watching on as their wheelchair falls from the plane onto the tarmac, extreme I know . One tip if you can remove your wheelchair joystick and arm and take it on the plane with you, we usually wrapped Josh’s in bubble wrap and took it onboard with hand luggage. They tend to throw other luggage on top of the chair hence the joystick, also take some masking tape and at the airplane door after transfer push back footrests and cables etc and tape anything that can come off down, preferably do most of it before setting off so you’re not holding up other passengers.
See links for advice on wheelchair regulations relating to batteries:
We eventually gave up flying when Josh was about 19 as it became a bit of a nuisance and we found easier ways to go on holiday, although difficult however it is not impossible and many people do make the effort needed.
We gave up flying because it was hard work organising and we were spending most of the time panicking about one thing or another or waiting in airports..Then we found cruising, well what a difference you can find some wonderful trips from UK ports [mainly Southampton] all the stress taken out of your holiday.
Just turn up at the departure port in UK no flying and off you go! You can get to many destinations with round trips back to the UK, we have used Royal Caribbean and love it as there are very few barriers to wheelchairs, you can take onboard all medical equipment with no restrictions and the staff are there to please...At last stress free holidays!
The ships themselves have adapted staterooms with roll in showers and widened doors, you can either bring with you or hire all equipment including hoists , the only problem we have found was not with the ships but the destination ports and access to local transport when there, but if you plan carefully this should be a stress free holiday.
There are many more a quick internet search will bring them up.
A great information resource for those travelling, including destination and port guides:
Further guidance here:
People travelling with pre-existing medical needs are not always covered by family or personal insurance cover, if you do not have a policy covering or have not declared a particular disability you could find yourself not covered and facing huge medical bills.
There are many companies supplying insurance but we use Columbus they are extremely competitive:
Some useful links
Adapted properties and other helpful links:
Florida vehicle hire:
We have used these guys for vehicle hire!
Stayed here in Spain, lovely villa about 30 minutes from Alicante.
Need to search a bit but owners direct have some good properties: