Since I haven’t really traveled with a walker or with mobility challenges until last week, I wanted to share with you my top five travel tips!
- Do Not try to put your walker on an escalator. Nothing good can come of it and it is certainly no way to start off a trip through the airport.
- Walkers and moving sidewalks are a recipe for disaster. It’s tempting to save a few steps, but I can confidently say I will never use another one with a walker. It doesn’t seem to me moving that fast until you are getting on or getting off.
- Airlines will bring back the walker with their “valet service” as you exit the plane—each leg of the trip. Sometimes it is even the pilot who personally promises it will be there for you at the layover point. Just know that you don’t get that carry-on bag fee refunded when you choose this, so take my word on #4.
- No matter how reasonable it might seem that your travel walker folds up into a carry-on bag, if the bag doesn’t have wheels, it is not manageable. Just take your chances with the airlines so you don’t kill yourself or your traveling companion on the jet bridge to and from the plane.
- If missing any sleep throws your body out of whack faster than anything, NEVER take the red eye home. It’s a week later and I am waiting for the whack to go back into my body.
Sometimes I like to try to defy the systems that are designed to help those with mobility challenges because honestly, you have to go way out of your way to use most of them. I found them to be quite inconvenient and tried to subvert them at least once.
For example, escalators take you right to where you are trying to go, but elevators are tucked away and can take you anywhere if you aren’t paying attention. It is also quite a challenge to drag luggage and push a walker into an elevator without taking far longer than the doors stay open. This annoys those folks who are always in a hurry, no matter how comical you might find the experience.
There is also a separate check in line at the airport for those requiring “additional services” and the other check-in lines are far shorter and take far less time.
I don’t recommend renting the cheaper rental car from an off-site/off-terminal car rental place. Apparently, not all of the shuttles that take you to the off-site location are accessible for someone challenged by stairs, so do your homework. It never occurred to me that it wouldn’t be accessible. I did see some shuttles that were, but not the one we had.
My final word relates to security checks. Know that they will take your walker or cane far far away from you, and if you cannot carry your bag without it, you are going to need a plan for that time. My ankle brace flagged me to be screened further for explosives on the way home (don’t ask me why) so I went even farther away from all of my stuff that time.
In the San Fran Airport, the security check in on a hill–downhill that seemed to be quite a severe grade downward. It’s probably good to have a plan for that too if taking off your shoes and putting them back on with a hill is a problem.
I tried some things that defied good sense, clearly, but perhaps the other things can be helpful to know.