Spinal Cord Injury Community

Holiday Travel: A Few Tips for the Busiest Time of the Year

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
11/21/19  9:00 AM PST
holiday travel

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But let’s face it — it can also be the most stressful time. There are parties to attend, friends to see, family to visit, presents to purchase, food to eat, drinks to cheers to, and travel, oh the dreaded holiday travel!

The days leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas are some of the busiest travel days of the year (at least here in the U.S.), and understandably so. It’s the perfect time to spend with family near and far for scrumptious meals, football, holiday parades and other festivities. But before you can enjoy Aunt Wendy’s famous mashed potatoes, you have to get there!

Throughout the years, my wife and I have traveled at least twice a month, allowing us ample time and experience to figure out the best way to do things when traveling by airplane and/or car.

Here are a few helpful travel tips for those with mobility challenges and/or medical supplies to manage (as well as those who just want to reduce travel stress):

Airplane Do’s

  1. Take the direct flight. Trust me, it’s worth the extra money. When looking at your options for airfare, pick the flight that gets you there by one aircraft. Think about it. You’ll spend less time transferring to the aisle chair and into your seat, no waiting for the connecting flight (which could get delayed or cancelled), and less of a chance of wheelchair damage by busy airport staff.
  2. Pick one of the major airlines. This is also worth the extra money. These airlines are more equipped with taking care of lost or damaged goods – including your wheelchair. They also tend to be more accommodating with airport assistance through security and the terminals, pre-boarding and so forth.
  3. Keep everything with you. When I travel, I only carry on the plane. I wear a backpack filled with the necessities and use my Phoenix Instinct roller bag which attaches to the back of my wheelchair. With busier airport travel, it is very common for your checked luggage to get lost, and it can also tack on an extra 30 to 60 minutes in the airport.
    Here is a list of backpack essentials for travel.

      • Urological supplies (and/or other medical supplies)
      • Prescriptions, Tylenol or Advil, and the Magic Bullet (if needed)
      • Wheelchair tools and small tire pump
      • Black electrical tape/white sports tape
      • Granola bar, dried fruit and other snacks
      • Earphones and cell phone charger
      • Jacket with hood
      • Beanie, gloves, sunglasses
      • Wallet and cash
  4. If it doesn’t fit, ship it. During the holidays, we have gifts to bring. Also, we may be at our destination for longer periods of time, so ship that shower bench. Yes, it does cost extra, but you don’t need to deal with the stress of carrying extra luggage or gifts through the airport. Make sure to send it at least a week in advance to lower your costs and ensure it will be at your destination when you arrive.

Car Do’s

  1. Take the scenic way. Stop along the side of the road for a stretch, fresh air, photo op or snack. My wife and I always pack a small cooler that sits in between us with drinks, sandwiches and snacks. It keeps us from eating poor fast food and keeps us going for the long stretch of road ahead.
  2. Rent a car instead of taking your own. If you have a smaller car but need more space for your belongings, rent a larger car. Even better, split the cost with another family member and travel together. It’s nice to have the extra room, company and sharing of costs.
  3. Leave at the right time. It’s worth it to leave after work instead of the next day when everyone else is driving. Pack the car up the day before, head to work and when you get home you can hit the road. Even better, leave straight from work!
  4. If it fits – pack it. You can never be too sure when you are traveling.

Yes, traveling can get expensive, and you may have to spend more than you want during the holidays, but think of it as a holiday gift to yourself — the gift of stress-free travel!

Do you have a question for Aaron Baker? Ask Aaron here! 


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