People who suffer from arthritis are not a single group, but they do have certain characteristics in common resulting from their disease such as pain in the areas affected, frustration due to limitations of movement, and the inconvenience of not being able to move about freely. Some of those affected have localized pain and inflammation in their hands, hips, knees, etc., while others have more generalized symptoms which require them to use a wheelchair or a scooter. However, whatever his or her condition, anyone with arthritis can today expect to be able to travel, so long as they make practical plans well in advance.*
*Note: Since 1990, all handicapped travelers in the United States are protected by law from discrimination with respect to travel, accommodations, and most other travel arrangements.
It is important for people with arthritis to come to terms with the limitations resulting from their condition and to plan their travel so as to avoid stress and physical fatigue. By finding a travel agent who understands their condition and will work with them to make all arrangements, they can get the professional help they need at a very small cost since travel agents receive commissions from airlines, hotels, etc. However, special services, expensive phone calls, fares, etc. will have to be paid for.
Making Travel Arrangements
First, choose your vacation destination with care, ensuring that the hotel is accessible even if you are not in a wheelchair, so as to avoid unnecessary steps and other obstacles. Also make sure that its environment is suitable, with plenty of shade and pools and other outdoor facilities which are not too far for you to get to. If you intend to take excursions, make sure that there will be transportation available (with lifts or ramps if you are in a wheelchair) and that there are no steps or steep paths to climb.
Air Travel. Your travel agent will make all your travel plans and advise you on the most suitable flights. If possible, take a flight which is either nonstop or direct (where you can stay on the planle at any intermediate stops), since changing planes at a hub airport can be very stressful and physically taxing.
Make sure your travel agent enters all important details in his reservation computer so as to avoid misunderstandings, and check the computer printout of your itinerary. Include the following information, if relevant:
–If you need a wheelchair for transport to and from the plane. Remember that if you have to change planes en route, you will need to arrange for a wheelchair then, as well.
–If you are travelling with your own wheelchair, make sure that the type is noted. If it is electric, a gel or non-spillable battery is best (lead/acid batteries call be dangerous and require special handling which means being in the airport at least 3 hours before flight times and a delay on arrival). Remove any projecting removable parts from the wheelchair and keep them with you. Carefully label the chair with your namne and address and destination airport. Ask for the chair or scooter to be loaded “last on/first off” to avoid delays.
–If you have a crutch or cane, you can take these aboard the plane with you. They must be carefully stowed for takeoff and landing but can be used in flight.
Transfers. Check whether there is suitable transport between the destination airport and your hotel. If not, check for special taxi or van service whiich is available at many large resort areas.
Rail Travel. All Amtrak trains have at least one accessible car (usually near the dining car). Details on their handicapped services and facilities are provided in their free booklet, Access Amtrak. When booking, make sure the company knows you have a disability and, if necessary, request a wheelchair to take you to and from the train. Your travel agent can make these arrangements. Otherwise, contact Arntrak at (800) 872-7345. With regard to dining on board, the train attendant will bring you a meal if you require it and cannot walk in a moving train.
Note: Trains other than Amtrak may not have special accessible cars, so check before departure about boarding and seating.
Bus Travel. If you intend to travel by bus, Greyhound, the only remaining nationwide carrier in the U.S., will give you every assistance, but does not have buses with lifts. For a copy of their brochure for handicapped travelers, Greyhournd Travel Policies, call (800) 752-4841 or (800) 345-3109 (TDD). To arrange assistance, they ask that handicapped passengers notify them 48 hours in advance. Those traveling without a companion should call the above toll-free numbers. Anyone requiring a companion (who travels free of charge) should ca11 (800) 231-2222.
Medication. If you use prescription drugs, take a supply adequate to the length of the trip. Pack them in your hand baggage in the event that your checked luggage is lost or delayed. If you need to keep medication refrigerated, the aircraft crew or the dining car staff on a train will put them in their refrigerator. But make sure you retrieve them at the end of your journey. It may be better to place them instead in a vacuurn flask or similar container. Finally, take copies of your doctor’s prescriptions with you in case of accidental loss or to show Customs’ officials if you are going abroad.
Clothing. If you are going to a resort area which is hot, take light, loose, long-sleeved clothing to avoid discomfort and a light hat with a wide brim. You should also take a warm coat for the evenings, as many places are hot during the day and cool at night. Check the climate and seasonal temperatures before packing.