If I could travel anywhere in the world I’d probably choose to go to China.
If you asked me the same question a few years ago I would’ve given you a more typical answer like Australia or India. But thoughts change, especially when you get involved in child sponsorship.
Around the time I became intrigued with the special needs community online I was also reading a lot of adoption blogs. I don’t remember why but I was immediately drawn to the community, even though I’m still nowhere near that point in my life. It didn’t take long before I discovered that many of the families I was reading about not only adopted multiple children but sponsored children as well.
I figured if I couldn’t adopt a child I could sponsor a child. I had paid off my undergrad loans and it was only $30 a month. It was only 1 extra shift a month, completely manageable. I was looking at it from the money prospective.
It didn’t take long before I fell in love with China itself.
I’d love the opportunity to see the country I’ve fallen in love with.
However I have a few reservations about it. How could I not?
For one thing I start to lose my grip on reality if I’m at 32,000 feet for longer than 2 hours. A flight to China is significantly longer than that (although it would be in a bigger aircraft so there’s a chance I’d fair better).
Almost all of my air travel experience is based on shorter flights, or less than ideal experiences on longer flights. I don’t have it all figured out, but I think I fair better than most people. I’m happy for that, for myself and what I can share with others.
There’s also the issue of being a disabled person visiting China. Attitudes have changed since the Olympics &Paralympics BUT I’ve heard they haven’t changed enough, so I’d do my research before I got there (as should anyone else regardless of ability).
I’d make sure to have all my “ducks in a row” before I left home. Any medication I might need would be carried on my person, along with any relevant paperwork. Clothing would probably be the last thing I’d pack.
Traveling anywhere with a disability is a challenging experience, no matter how many times you’ve done it. Do your research. Make a plan. Stick to your plan but be flexible. Don’t forget to bring your most positive attitude, you’ll need it.
As for tips that I have:
Travel Tips For People With Disabilities, And Those Who Travel With Them
It’s better to plan for as much as possible beforehand, the definition of accessible varies considerably.
Bring all your medications with you, even ones you don’t use regularly or haven’t needed in a while. It’s not great to be somewhere and have to search for an acceptable drug store.
If you need medical documentation for security, like a notice of medical metal implant(s), have a copy on you and two more in your carry on (one for the travel back & an extra).
Keep everything you might need, meds, paperwork, etc in your carry on.
If you wear any sort of brace(s) wear them. It can get uncomfortable during flights, especially long ones, but it’s better than having it get lost with your checked baggage, or having to explain it to the TSA agent why it’s in your carry on.
Traveling takes time. Traveling with a disability takes more time. If it’s suggested you get to the airport an hour before your flight make it an hour and a half. Airport personal do their best but it can take some extra time.
Traveling by train may mean you’ll be sharing space with oversized luggage or people’s shopping bags. Prepare your dirty looks in advance.
I prefer to sit towards the back of the aircraft whenever possible, it’s closer to the bathroom, less stress on my spine, and it gives the grounds crew more time to bring my wheelchair up to the jet way without me having to look lost. However I have never turned down an upgrade.
Always travel with singles on hand. Your never know when you’ll have to tip an attendant (or want to tip someone if they’re very nice).
Traveling by car will bring out a side of people you may not like. Be sure you know your traveling companions well, really well.
Always have a backup plan and a good attitude. Always. Traveling is stressful for everyone. Try to be the passenger people remember for good reasons.
Cheaper isn’t always better. Using discount travel sites is great but they’re lacking in the accommodations department. Be prepared to contact your airline, train service, etc separately. Sometimes bigger really is better, because they have the resources.
Direct isn’t always best. If spasms, cramps, or contractures are something you struggle with consider taking a few shorter flights, or train rides, or making a few more rest stops, instead of one long journey. Your muscles will thank you for it, and so will your bladder since you’ll be able to avoid a few trips to the airplane toilet.
What are some of your travel tips?
I’m taking part in The Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge this month (also known as #HAWMC).
*A similar version of this post was written on March 14, 2013 & April 20, 2014