Every year my wife and I have a debate about what to do for the holidays. With family and friends spread across the U.S., travelling for the holidays brings an unbearable headache from some unexpected event along the way.
Case in point: Several years ago, we headed off to San Diego to spend New Years with family. After our plane had been narrowly hit by lightening and had trouble with its landing gears in torrential rain, we became stuck in the Dallas airport with over two thousand stranded travelers.
Never making it to our coastal destination, we found ourselves sleeping in an airport for three days with no bags. To get home, we were on stand-by flight after flight. Explaining to the airport staff that I would need an aisle chair if we made the flight became a monotonous chore.
Here are ten holiday tips to make your next holiday trip less stressful.
- Day bags are essential.
Whether you are travelling by air or car, having a day bag with an extra pair of clothes, phone chargers, medicines, and other necessities is essential. What would you need to get by?
- Keep wheelchair repair information close by.
Unfortunately, many airlines staff remained untrained at how to handle power wheelchairs and other assistive equipment. We found this out the hard way, when they brought my wheelchair up to the gate in pieces. Have a back-up plan for a quick repair and numbers handy for a more permanent solution is crutial.
- Approved Carry-on Items Only.
Along with assistive devices, more airlines are condensing the items they allow for carry-on. If you have special food, medicine, or equipment that you need with you, call the airlines in advance, and obtain medical permissions if necessary.
- Pack for the Weather.
People, with and without disabilities, can be temperature sensitive. If you were stranded on the road in the middle of the ice storm, would you have what you needed to stay warm? Think hand and feet warmers, extra socks or weather resistant shoes, or an extra coat or blanket.
- Dealing with crowds.
Navigating through an airport, shopping mall, or parking lot can be treacherous for people with disabilities on an average day. Be sure to give yourself enough time to steer through the extra traffic.
- Avoid sensory overload.
Those on the Autism Spectrum or other sensory issues may become overloaded and disoriented with the hyped-up sounds, lights, and smells of holiday events. No matter your mode of transportation, create a safe space, quiet time, or time out for breaks to find your center.
- Preparing for Bad Weather.
Remember the Southern Snowpocalype? Many travelers were caught off guard by icy road conditions and were stuck on the road for hours, and others abandoned their cars to walk home. However, for people with disabilities, walking over icy roads may not be an option. If you go out in less than optimal road conditions, make sure you know alternate routes or have a back up plan.
- The Power of No.
With so many activities, events, and celebrations over the holiday season, it’s difficult to say no to family and friends. However, creating boundaries and knowing when the call it a day is the best option. While we tried to convince ourselves to make the eight-hour drive to Atlanta during a snow storm, we knew better, opting for a quiet Christmas at home instead. Give yourself permission to say no.
- Self-care is first on the list.
For many, the holidays are an exciting time full of joy and celebration. For others, it can be a time of sadness and loneliness. Self-care means different things to different people. Whether you need to walk the dog by yourself, take a drive through snow-covered mountains, have dinner with friends, or join in a community event, do something special to keep yourself connected.
- A Time of Gratitude.
As a person with a disability, we utilize a lot of community resources. Whether it is asking our neighbors to feed our dog or the bank teller to help me deposit a check, we provide a token of gratitude before we leave for the holidays. As you get on the road, don’t forget to thank those who have supported you over the past year!
Once you arrive at your destination, take time to enjoy the fun of the season: watch seasonal movies, take a drive to look at holiday lights, or pay it forward!