Taking a vacation with a disability is sometimes challenging but it can be done and done well. Just because you or a family member may not be able to participate 100% all of the time doesn’t mean you have to forgo a vacation.
I speak from experience. My family has numerous health obstacles. These include epilepsy, severe asthma, multiple disc back problems, post-surgical stomach problems and walking problems Then, there’s the diabetes and all the other “health stuff” we deal with daily.
Several years ago we took my grandmother on a vacation with us. She was fairly ill, was on insulin and required a walker (sometimes a wheelchair). But she wanted to see the Grand Canyon from Tennessee. At one point Gran almost backed out. She asked, “What if something happens?” My response was “Would you rather be in your house staring at 4 walls or enjoying yourself?” We all left together that September.
To make a vacation with a disability go smoother there are a few things that we do.
Plan carefully. Research your trip. If you need water, take it. If you need snacks, take them. If you have a wheelchair or walker try to pick a destination that is accessibility friendly. Plan. Plan. Plan.
Focus on the can do, not on the can’t do. On the Grand Canyon trip I would have liked to have taken a mule ride into the park. Neither my lungs nor my back would allow it. Instead, I stuck to regular paths and trails and had a blast! There is always going to be something you can’t do. When planning a vacation with a disability don’t let what you can’t do get you down. (We all aren’t cut out for rock climbing, caving or hang gliding.)
Allow enough time. Taking a vacation with a disability can take longer. Don’t rush. Tell yourself that it’s the experience that is important. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to see and do everything. No one ever does.
Go to the doctor. Before going on vacation go the doctor’s office. Tell your physician about the vacation you are taking. Ask for suggestions. Get a written copy of your prescriptions to take with you. Also, get a letter with your health issues on it. Keep this in a safe place on the trip. If anything happens, (and it probably won’t) this information can be very helpful to the doctor who may treat you.
One of our best tips for going on a vacation with a disability came from our doctor a few years ago. He suggested buying a car adapter that would allow me to run my nebulizer from the power point in my vehicle. This way, no matter where we were I could have a breathing treatment if needed. Two years and a move later, another physician suggested buying a smaller portable nebuilzer that would fit in my purse. These were small things but they proved to be very helpful.
Keep your medicine in the original prescription bottles. This is important for any trip but is vital for preparing to vacation with a disability. You’ll be surprised how the lids to day use boxes can come loose in a suitcase.
Be sure to take more supplies than you think you will need. You may find yourself needing more supplies than usual or you may decide to extend your vacation.
Keep medicines on ice that have to stay cold. When taking a vacation with a disability of diabetes, one of my favorite tricks is to freeze a water bottle and place it in a small insulated bag. Then I put my insulin in a plastic bag and put a folded washcloth between them. The insulin stays cold without freezing. If we stop at a motel I ask the clerk to put the bottle in their freezer. It has my name on it and has never been a problem.
Keep to your regular medicine and eating schedule. A schedule can be particularly difficult to keep if you are driving through multiple time zones. Coolers not only provide cost-saving value but they allow us to stay on our regular schedule.
If you vacation and you have a disability be sure to carry a cell phone and walkie talkie. These let you contact help if you need it. Not all areas are set-up for cell phone coverage. It makes sense to have a CB walkie talkie as a backup. If you can’t get a CB walkie talkie an inexpensive walkie-talkie set from Wal-Mart may be better than nothing.
Talk to others who have been there. People often like talking about their last vacation. Other people can be a wealth of information for tips on how to vacation with a disability.
Suggestions from past physicians