Travel Must-Packs For Wheelchair Users
Getting out and seeing the world is both fun and enriching, but if you’re a wheelchair user it can be a lot of work and end up in a disaster. Maybe you forgot to pack an important accessory for your chair or medical equipment. Maybe something breaks on your chair or medical equipment. Or, if you’re like me, your rental equipment isn’t exactly what you ordered and doesn’t work for you. The possibilities are endless. I have learned through my many travels that you can come up with a solution for just about any scenario or fix just about anything with a few basic items that I call my must-haves for traveling. Here are a few things I always travel with in case something goes wrong.
- Tape – I always travel with at least one roll of Duct Tape and one roll of Electrical Tape. Sometimes I will also bring Painters Tape and Scotch Tape. All of these can secure or connect just about anything together. For example, on my last cruise I had to use Duct Tape my headrest to the rental shower chair because they did not deliver one I ordered with individual handle bars and instead had a straight bar. On this same rental I used Electrical Tape to secure the seat to the frame because it was unstable. I’ve also used a combination of Duct Tape and Electrical Tape to attach my headrest to a grab bar above a toilet because I was delivered a bath bench instead of a shower chair. Fortunately, thanks to my Go Anywhere Shower Commode, I can easily travel with my own shower chair instead of dealing with the hassles of rentals. I’ve also used tape to modify IV tubing to serve as suction tubing when my tubing broke while traveling, have taped straws or plastic utensils together to make them and longer.
- Zip Ties – Zip Ties are also great for securing things or even hooking things together. In my above example of Duct Taping the headrest to the shower chair, I first used Zip Ties to initially secure the bar and then reinforced with the tape. I have also zip tied the footrests on my power chair to the seat frame so they don’t come off while being lifted in and out of an airplane. You can also zip tie bags to your chair or you can, like me, zip tie to your chair a laminated sign with hole punches that gives directions to airline workers for how to handle your chair correctly.
- Glue – Gorilla Glue is my best friend. We all know that sometimes things just break off of our chairs or medical equipment. With a couple dabs of Gorilla Glue and around 30-60 seconds you’re good as new (or at least functional). You can also use Gorilla Glue to seal some cracks or small puncture holes in supplies. I once sealed a crack in a suction canister with it. I have also used it to glue plastic utensils together to make them longer.
- Tools – Obviously it is difficult to travel with a large and full tool set, but you can buy small ones around the size of a book with basic tools inside. A multi-tool is also great to carry with you because they have blades and pliers. The security screeners at the airport do generally let these tools through in your carry-on if you’re a wheelchair user and you tell them you have tools in your carry-on for disassembling parts of your chair when boarding the airplane. My power chair can fold in half if you remove a few pieces and doing this minimizes damage when flying.
- Owner’s Manual – Always, always travel with the owner’s manual for your chair and medical equipment, and the repair manual if one is available. Sometimes your chair will randomly breakdown during your trip and it might be something you can fix without a repair service if you have directions and diagrams; or someone local who is mechanically inclined might be able to figure it out with some general information about the various and many pieces of your chair.
- And a bonus item…Creativity – You really can find a solution to just about anything you encounter when you use the items listed above along with other random items around you. Look around your hotel room, a convenience store, hospital room, etc and you might be surprised by what items you come up with for fixing something or solving an issue. Channel your inner MacGyver.
I know a lot of wheelchair users avoid travel, especially by air, because they are afraid of things getting broken or going wrong and just because it can be a hassle. As someone who will soon reach my 14th country and has certainly had things go very wrong, I promise you it’s very worth the effort, hassle and risk. And you just never know, sometimes things do go perfectly smooth, but it’s best to be prepared.
[Jen is a freelance consultant, advocate, model and motivational speaker living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. She loves traveling and constantly seeking out her next adventures. Visit her online at www.jeneration.net and www.facebook.com/advocatejenonsum, and follow her journeys on Instagram @jenmswheelchair.]