Going on holiday
A break or a holiday is important. It gives us something to look forward to, time to enjoy our families or perhaps some time to ourselves. Having muscular dystrophy or a related neuromuscular condition means that you may face challenges that other travellers do not have to consider.
If you plan your trip carefully, it might help ensure that your holiday is relaxing, fun and free from stress and anxiety. It helps to think through all your requirements, including:
- what type of accommodation are you looking for?
- how will you travel: in your car, a hired vehicle, by public transport etc?
- are you going on holiday alone or with others?
- do you need help with personal care or mobility, which others with you won't be able to provide?
- do you have any specific medical needs? For example, do you use a ventilator?
- do you need to take any specialised equipment with you? If so, how will it be transported?
- what are your specific needs? Remember that using a self-propelled manual wheelchair is very different from using a large, sophisticated powered wheelchair, which is much heavier and needs more space. Ask about steps, gradients, widths of doorways into bedrooms and bathrooms, equipment available onsite - especially in the bathroom - and the accessibility of other facilities, e.g. dining rooms and bars.
- if you are driving, are there suitable parking facilities?
If you use a manual wheelchair, it's worth having it checked before leaving to lessen the risk of any breakdowns during the trip. Consider taking a spare inner tube, a puncture repair kit and tools that might be useful.
If you are using a powered wheelchair, consider whether it's an option to take a lighter wheelchair. Don't forget to take the charger and an adapter suitable for the country you are travelling to. Have the wheelchair checked before you leave to minimise the risk of a breakdown during your holiday. Try to find out in advance if there is anywhere you can have your wheelchair serviced should something happen during your trip. If you are travelling within the UK and your chair breaks down, the local Wheelchair Service repairs may be able to help.
If you are travelling by air, check with the airline about transporting your wheelchair. Always make sure your travel or home insurance also covers your powered wheelchair or any other equipment you need to take on your holiday.
It may be more practical to hire equipment while on holiday, rather than take your own with you. Organisations such as the British Red Cross and Disability Living Centres offer advice on hiring equipment and there are online directories on Tourism for All and Disability Access that provide details of equipment providers around the UK and abroad.
The National Accessible Scheme (NAS) operating in England provides information about which hotels and accommodation have been independently assessed to make sure they meet the needs of disabled travellers. For information about accessible facilities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, you should initially contact the tourism trade organisations for those countries. Tourism for All also has an online directory to search for accessible accommodation both in the UK and abroad. You can find out about the accessibility of the area you are visiting by enquiring with your travel agent and either the Tourist Information Centre of the town or the National Tourist Board of the country you are travelling to.
You need to check that your travel insurance covers medical treatment and does not exclude 'a pre-existing medical condition'. Travel insurance is essential when going abroad. It is often worth shopping around to make sure you get best value for money. Make sure your travel insurance covers cancellations and loss or damage of property, including any equipment. (Equipment can sometimes be covered through your home insurance.)
If you are travelling within the European Economic Area and Switzerland, you'll need to get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The Department of Health, working with the NHS Prescription Pricing Authority (PPA), provides the EHIC free of charge. You can apply for a card over the phone on 0844 496 8899, online on www.ehic.org.uk or get an application form from the Post Office.