Travelling abroad as a disabled person




























































Travelling abroad can be tiring and stressful for any healthy person, but when you're facing travelling as a disabled person or person with a disability, things start to become a little bit more tricky.

As I recently flew abroad (holiday blog post coming soon!) as a disabled person I thought it might be helpful for my disabled readers if I did a post about my experience, and to give you a few tips. The first time I flew abroad as a disabled person I had no idea what to expect and it was quite a nerve wracking prospect! However, with the right help, flying abroad cripple style couldn't be any less scary.




Special assistance




First things first, Special Assistance is a disabled travelers best friend. Without a shadow of a doubt if it wasn't for this service I wouldn't be able to travel. Special assistance is basically a service for anybody flying who has a disability or is disabled in some way. The SA team take care of you from your arrival at the airport right the way through until your departure at the other end. There are several types of services they offer depending on your individual needs, and depending on how much help you think you're going to need. This is particularly good if you are an independent wheelchair user but you just need to know where the lifts are, etc...



Although I always travel with my own wheelchair, if you prefer you can use a wheelchair provided by the airport. Whatever the reason is for you choosing to travel with assistance, they will never ask for confirmation as to why you are using the service. Anybody can use the service, including other members of your party so you won't be separated, and you will always be treated with the utmost respect and care. I can't praise the SA staff enough.

The best thing about the special assistance service is that it is completely free! Almost all airports now have a special assistance service in place, but be sure to check on your airports websites before booking.




Hand luggage essentials

(please note these essentials were for a two hour flight only. Longer flights would need more essentials)


If like me you are going to be travelling with a wheelchair, you want your hand luggage to be as light as possible otherwise you will have a heavy bag sat on your lap for who knows how long whilst waiting around in the airport. Here are some of the essentials I take with me in my hand luggage:


  • Compression socks - I have an illness known as POTS, and compression socks are vital for travelling as they help ease the pain in my legs. They also help stop my blood pressure rocketing to dangerous levels and preventing me from fainting - nobody wants to be that person that fainted just before take off...
  • Medication - Take a little bit extra just in case of delays. Be sure to take travel sickness tablets if you need them and take enough pain medication to keep you covered. The uncomfortable aeroplane seats can be a pain for those with chronic pain.
  • Entertainment - I always take an ipod/pad and a book. I listen to meditation audio tapes before flying to relax. It is normally quite hard to hear them on board over the noisy engines so I always make sure I've got a film on my ipad to keep me entertained, and a good book or magazines to read in case my battery runs out.
  • An eye mask - Depending on what time you are flying and how long your flight is you might want to take an eye mask on board with you. I always take one so if I'm tired and need a nap I can easily drift off. It's also good if you have sensory overload and lights hurt your eyes. Comical animal mask is preferred, but not essential.
  • Baby wipes - Because it's better to be safe than sorry! If you go to use the flight toilet and there's no toilet paper, you're going to be glad you packed these. They are also ideal for a quick freshen up if you're a little bit hot and sticky, and they are perfect to use if you happen to spill diet coke all over your legs! (True story)
  • Cane and other mobility aids - My fold up walking stick is always in my bag so if I need it, it's there. You can travel with special assistance with other mobility aids free of charge, including crutches and sticks, which is handy!
  • Snacks - We all know that airlines rip you off when it comes to food on board. I like to take a selection of healthy snacks to keep my energy levels up and I will never fly without a pack of chewing gum in my bag. Ear popping on takeoff is not fun.
  • Emergency contact details and a medical card - On the off chance that things don't go to plan and you have a funny turn, it is best to have your medical notes and an emergency contact number easily accessible in your bag. As I normally fly on my own this is especially important and reassuring. If anything was to happen, I know that the first aid flight assistant will know how what to do.





I'd definitely recommend flying with special assistance if you're unwell, disabled or have a disability. The service is second to none and with their help you have absolutely nothing to worry about. It might seem daunting if you've never flown as a disabled person before but you are treated like royalty and they take good care of you. You get to skip ques and you are normally seated before everyone else. I've flown with SA a couple of times now and I've always had an entire row to myself which is normally a rarity!  

Don't forget if you want to use special assistance to book with your airline before you arrive to travel!

If you're thinking about travelling abroad and have any questions, leave them in a comment below or message me directly :)

Have you ever flown as a disabled passenger before? What was your experience like? 


This article is also very helpful and informative. I would highly recommend reading it as it is full of lots of advice and information about traveling as a disabled person or person with reduced mobility from Gatwick Airport. Thanks to Paula for sharing it with us.

https://www.help-me-park.co.uk/Blog/tips-for-gatwick-disabled-passengers-and-prm


Peace & love

41 comments

  1. I never knew special assistance existed, now that I do I might look at going away somewhere during the winter months, I always feel worse in the winter. Thanks for this :)

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    1. It's such a helpful service. I feel the same in the winter. I'm already dreading it :(

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  2. We flew with our daughter in the US, who was well when we started our vacation, but her chronic illness kicked in on our return. We were not treated well by the US airport security in Atlanta once we got past the check-in (there was a line for special assistance and we got an airport wheelchair). Security patted down our daughter in case she was 'smuggling' and pretending to be sick. Then they had us repack our bags, delaying us more. Not a good experience. We avoid that airport now. That was eight years ago.
    Great that your experience was better. With our MIL, we did have special assistance help when she traveled a few times. That was a better experience but she stayed within Canada.

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    1. Oh no I'm so sorry to hear that you've had a negative experience with it! I've always had such a positive experience so maybe they have upped their game within recent years. It probably varies from airport to airport too. It's such a shame because with something like that, one bad experience can put you off for life.

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  3. A friend of mine travels abroad 3-4 times a year with SA, and she always says how helpful they are! It is such a great service, at least at Heathrow! I hope you enjoyed your trip. Looking forward to seeing photos!

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    1. That's so great! I always fly via Stansted in London as that is my closest airport. It's so good the service enables her to travel so often :)

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  4. Excellent and informative blog post. My partner and I would like to visit France, I have not yet made it out of England but I would like to give special assistance a shot

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    1. That would be lovely.France isn't a long journey from the UK so it would be perfect for a first time travel with SA :)

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  5. Panda eye mask is too cute! Great post hun xx

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  6. I'm so glad you were able to travel, the special assistant team sound very helpful, love your floppy hat!

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    1. Thank you! They are so helpful, without them I wouldn't be able to go abroad so I'm very grateful of their service.

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  7. Thank you for this post Hayley! Because I'm not a wheelchair user but have an invisible illness I've never thought I would qualify to use the Special Assistance service at airports as I would feel as though they and other passengers wouldn't believe I was ill, but after your post I'm seriously considering using it on my next flight. It really exacerbates my pain to be stood around in queues for often up to an hour waiting for a flight, and I usually resort to sitting on the floor which isn't ideal either and is a pain in the bum, literally!! This then means I'm in even more pain than usual for the first few days wherever I have gone and makes travelling very daunting! Looking forward to seeing the photos of your trip, I hope you had a fabulous time :D

    Bryony xo

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    1. I can totally see where you are coming from Bryony but the SA service is designed to help people in your situation. I'd definitely recommend giving it a go, airports can be exhausting and make for such a long day. Let me know if you're going to give it a go on your next travels!

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  8. Really useful post but hopefully I won't need to know. I do have to carry an epipen due to an allergy and that's bad enough trying to get through security. I'm not sure how much damage I can do with adrenaline!

    Looking forward to your holiday post

    Caroline
    www.puttingyourlifeinorder.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Oh god I can imagine! Security can be a bit tough when you have special medication, I always take a medical note with me just in case anything is questioned :)

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  9. What a bloody fantastic post Hayley!! So useful! I'm so pleased that SA was so helpful and made you feel at ease with travelling. I am not well enough to travel at the moment but when that day comes ill definitely be referring back to this post! Thank you :)

    Lots of love and a big well done for managing the journey!

    Sophia

    Http://www.spooniesophia.wordpress.com

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    1. Thanks Sophia! It's a difficult day, but so worth it. Fingers crossed you will be up to travelling sooner rather than later! :)

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  10. These are great ideas! I hope you don't mind if I add a link to this post at the bottom of my Airport Outfit and Long Haul Flight posts? I think it's really important to make sure that people know what services are available to them when travelling! :)

    Owl Girl | A London lifestyle blog

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    1. Thank you! No I don't mind at all! <3

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  11. Great advice. And I can't wait to read about your travels!

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  12. Fab advice! An eye mask is a great idea, I'll remember that next time I'm flying. It's great to highlight SA services because they really are fantastic and it's important that people in need know they're there. For the first time this year I had to use their help as the walk to the boarding area was long and uphill and there was just no way I could manage, especially with luggage so they arranged a buggy for me and my mum to get there. I thought it might be a challenge to organise it seeing as my illness is invisible but they couldn't have been friendlier and more helpful. x

    Josie’s Journal

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    1. Thanks Josie! It is such a fantastic service, even for those that don't normally need help day to day or are not permanently disabled. Airports are huge so sometimes we just need a little bit of help getting about them! I'm so glad you found SA helpful!

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  13. Love this post, your spirit is undeniably amazing!
    Liberty x

    www.libertycanwrite.blogspot.com

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  14. Thank you for sharing this post! :) I haven't flown at all since I've been sick. I often think about it though and wonder how I would manage. These tips are great I would never have thought to travel as special assistance. I really want to go on a plane now just to see how I would go! hehe

    Lennae xxx

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    1. You need to fly to NZ to visit Ardey! The UK is probably a little bit far for your first time! It is much easier than you think it would be, which is fantastic!

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  15. Totally agree with special assistance being fantastic. Plus the not having to queue (I assume it's the same everywhere?) is a bonus! :) xx

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    1. I love the looks we get when we skip the queues!

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  16. Such a brilliant post, Hay - I'm sure this will be extremely helpful for so many people. Myself included, as I think I'll be joining my family this year (yay) and I'm slightly dreading the flight. I feel much better after reading your tips and knowing that it isn't as bad as it may seem :) you're a gem!

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    1. Thanks Meg! With SA it couldn't be easier, it really is such a big help :)

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  17. I don't have a disability (as you know) but I found this post really interesting and well written. It will be a great help to those who need it! :)

    xo
    www.thisisfrancescarose.com

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  18. Hi Hayley, great to hear you managed to get away.

    I'd like to add that special assistance is a right for all passengers whether they are disabled or have reduced mobility. Under EU law, airports are responsible for passengers with reduced mobility from the moment they arrive at the airport until they enter the plane and when they land, from the plane to their onward travel, such as the airport car park.

    Airport assistance should be booked through your airline at the time of booking your flights, or at least 48 hours prior to travel.

    I recently booked airport assistance for my elderly parents when they flew from Gatwick – they’re not disabled, just cannot walk too far – and the service was great (both ways).

    I wrote an article a while ago about Gatwick PRM (passengers with reduced mobility) services which may be of help to you and your readers: https://www.help-me-park.co.uk/Blog/tips-for-gatwick-disabled-passengers-and-prm

    Paula x

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    1. Thank you Paula, you are absolutely right. You don't have to be a wheelchair user to use special assistance and that is what is so great about it, it's there to help anyone and everyone who needs it no matter what their reason for choosing to use the service is.
      I've just read your article and it's very informative and helpful.

      I will share the link at the end of this post.

      Thank you for sharing it with me!

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    2. Thanks Hayley, I'm glad you liked it x

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  19. I work at Stansted and would like to thank you for praise for our PRM team here. Just one thing, do book with your airline before you arrive to travel.

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    1. Thank you, I will add that important tip at the end of the post, don't know how I forgot to mention that!

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