Top 10 Long Haul Flight Travel Advice - Q & A
My name is Cassy Campbell and I have been a WAG for almost four years now.. crazy! Anyway, my family is from Australia and we live in the south east corner of BC, Canada and we need to travel the long haul often enough to have learnt a few things along the way. I have always considered travel a valuable life tool for both myself and my family and travelling with an SCI can add some challenges along the way. For me, planning the travel is half the fun of going away, but when SCI became a factor, things got complicated. Most of what scared me was the idea of the destination not being what you expected, but remember that's why we travel. We all adapt our homes to meet the specific needs of our partners and sometimes leaving that well organized and planned environment is overwhelming. What I have discovered is 2 things.. it makes me appreciate what a kick ass job we did of making our home awesome for him, but it also sparks new ideas for me to take home. My biggest advice is to be organized and plan the accommodations well in advance of leaving, but that's for another post!.
If long haul travel is part of your life I would love to give my Top 10 things that make our flights and transfer so successful. For your reference, Forrest is C6-7 quad with limited hand function and he uses a rigid manual chair with a Batec Quad Hand Bike for mobility.
1) Take the shortest flight there - time and distance. This seems crazy, but trust me, rip it off like a band-aid! Limit the number of transfers and long lay overs to avoid extra opportunities for chair loss or damage, and manage and allow for good off-load periods. Knock on wood.. to date we've been lucky with no damage to our equipment. Do not book flights too close as the last off process may bugger your next flight. I recommend about 2-3 hours at the most for layovers. Be aware of bathroom routines when you book flights. We are lucky enough to have a scheduled bathroom routine only every 3 days, so we book EVERYTHING around it. Bathroom routines can be tricky with time and date changes. It took us to use our phones and the calendar to figure out night from day again for routine! Also make sure allow for a day of recovery as the flight can be a little tiring on an injured body.
2) Book extra seats to offload and lay down. I spend time really searching out sale times and offers, to get the best deal I can. Australia is a 16 hour flight from Vancouver and we buy 6 seats economy seats for 4 of us and it's worth it. Make sure they allocate the seats with lifting arm rests, not all seats are created equal for laying down purposes.
3) Ask if the care giver can fly for free- some airlines have this policy domestically but not long haul, which is kind of crazy, as that would be the most obvious length to need a care giver or support person.
4) Know your battery and chair specs when booking and dealing with the airlines. An unfortunate experience with a battery in Hong Kong almost grounded us.
5) Look for the senior steward on board your flight. Ask their name and be their best buddy for the trip. Explain that the chair needs to be bought back to the cabin after each flight. Ask then to come out and witness that the correct tags are placed on the device or chair. Be friendly, but firm about what needs to happen. If you feel the airline staff lack knowledge regarding your needs, do not be afraid to speak up, and lead the process. This is often where your partner needs to take charge and be the one they listen too, after all it's his body.
6) Medications and Pills should stay on board with you at all times incase you are separated from your luggage. Keep one week supplies of catheters and bags with you as well.
7) Foley Catheter System - If you can possibly transition to an indwelling system with an extension tube on the valve. (We use a IC cath, with the tip cut off, on the end of a flip low valve). I then use a sock covered empty pop bottle to empty the bag and take to the bathroom when I go. It's discreet and no-one can see me do it. Some planes have wheelchair bathrooms, but the aisle chair is a major pain and no way to help them if they need it.
8) Transfers depend on your needs. For high level injuries, the Eagle lift is available. You must check the airport you are departing and landing both have access to this if you need it. Otherwise, the standard one person in back reaching the armpits and grabbing the wrists and one person on the legs is the easiest way to do it. Here is a link to our video on Youtube showing a transfer.
9) Ask to see the Captain and visit the cockpit if the kids are bored while you wait for deplaning! This is a favourite and not always approved. But when they say yes, it's great.
10) Insist to take your chair to the plane door ALWAYS - some uneducated airline staff will ask if you really need to take your chair all the way to the door and the answer is YES! This is non-negotiable.
11) There's always an 11.. make sure you have fun. The plane journey need not be stressful or a scary process.
I have so much more to share, but there is start for you and I'll put together some more info as you guys ask for it.
Is there something I forgot to mention? Ask away!
I hope this has helped some you today.. and if you have any questions that I can help with, just reply below and I will do my best to answer your questions. Have a great day WAGS1