Tamara and Terry recently traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Exploring international locations can be challenging (especially when you’re traveling with a 350 lb wheelchair!) but with some planning, MS doesn’t get in the way of taking wonderful trips.
How do I plan accessibility travel in advance with the airlines?
The twins have found that airlines are very accommodating with assistance on and off the plane, but it’s important to call the airline’s disability line to discuss your specific needs before you book. Airlines do their best to help you have a comfortable traveling experience but planning is key to a successful trip.
Tamara had a very good experience flying Alaska Airlines to Mexico. Here’s some of the resources she used:
- Alaska Airlines Accessible Travel Services page
- Alaska Airlines Accessible Travel Services telephone number: 1-800-503-0101
Based in Atlanta, Terry often flies on Delta, as she did on this trip. While she has had mostly positive experiences, there has been some minimal damage to her wheelchairs on previous trips but Delta has worked with her to get them repaired. Delta has several online resources to help with accessible travel:
- Delta Airlines Accessible Travel Services page
- Delta Airlines Accessible Travel telephone number: 404-209-3434
Even with the best planning, sometimes things don’t go as planned. As a disabled traveler, It’s important to understand your rights as established by the US Department of Transportation. You can familiarize yourself with the Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights
Arrival in Mexico….the adventure continued
When they landed, both Tamara and Terry needed their wheelchairs to get to the terminal. Tamara is strong enough to sit in a normal wheelchair and was able to use the airline’s “meet and assist” service to get through passport control and to baggage claim.
Terry’s experience was different as her upper body is too weak to allow her to use a typical wheelchair. While the baggage handlers did their best to remove the chair from the cargo hold of their plane, Terry’s husband (Allen) ultimately needed to join them on the tarmac to help. He was able to provide directions on how to move the wheelchair out of the aircraft and then drove Terry’s wheelchair back to the gate. It’s just a reminder of the unexpected that can happen when you travel, so remember to pack your patience and a positive attitude!
Given the challenges in getting Terry’s wheelchair off the plane when they arrived in Mexico, Stephen (Tamara’s husband) and Allen proactively went down to the tarmac to help the baggage handlers load the wheelchairs for their return flights. The good news is both the twins and their wheelchairs made it home safe and sound!
What are some tips for accessibility travel?
Plan ahead with your airline
- Review the airline’s policy for disabled travelers before you book.
- Keep a list of topics to share with the travel agent when booking your trip. While those details should be included with your reservation information, it’s helpful to keep a list for the gate agent, too.
- Ask your gate agent if the ground crew has any questions about how to load and unload your wheelchair or other device. Large wheelchairs are heavier than luggage and other typical cargo, so they may need instructions on the power or battery.
- Most other assistive devices such as walkers and small, lightweight scooters can be left at the end of the jetway and be placed underneath the aircraft by the ground crew.
Plan ahead with your hotel/resort
- Call the property ahead of time to let them know what you’ll need. For example, will you need a handicap-accessible room, a bathroom chair, or a ramp to a patio or porch?
- Ask if there are handicap pathways and transportation throughout the property where you’ll be staying. If not, you may want to find another place to stay!
Where did Tamara and Terry stay in Mexico?
Tamara and Terry stayed at Vidanta in Nuevo Vallarta. The resort was beautiful and had multiple handicap-accessible walkways, restaurants and rooms. The resort staff was incredibly helpful and did everything they could to make it a special trip for the twins.
Tamara and Terry’s trip shows that with a bit of planning, it’s possible to travel almost anywhere. Living with MS isn’t always easy, but it shouldn’t stop you from traveling with family and friends and exploring new destinations. Stay positive, be patient and enjoy! Bon Voyage!