Traveling with medical supplies is an absolute necessity for those living with a disability. Packing them compactly, and in the right bag, is essential to making sure you always have what you need with you.
TSA, airlines and customs have regulations posted on their websites, so always check there to make
sure you are within their compliance. To help you prepare for your trip, we’re sharing tips from our travel experts who use manual wheelchairs, medical supplies and travel frequently. Plan for the unexpected and you’ll be prepared!
Preparing for Your Trip
As you prepare for your trip, plan out your overall medical supply needs for the days you are gone.
Our experts always add two to three days’ worth of extra supplies in case their plans change; always plan
for unexpected travel delays. Be sure to remember your intermittent catheters, blue pads, gloves, suppositories, anti-bacterial hand sanitizer and any other items you use for your bowel and bladder routine. One of our experts creates zip bags for each day they are gone. Each bag has all their needed supplies for that day and is labeled with the date so they know they have everything to stay healthy, comfortable and compliant to their routine. While it helps you stay organized, it also helps with packing your supplies – they are easier to pack when grouped than by singles. If you are packing multiple suitcases, or traveling with a companion, split your supply bags between all your suitcases. This way, if a bag is lost, you will always have supplies.
Preparing for Plane Rides and Airport Travel
Plane rides can pose a challenge for people with disabilities. When booking your flight, request a
bulkhead seat, aisle or window – whichever will make your flight easiest for you. Tell them about
anything you need when you are booking. If you have a plane change to get to your final destination, make
sure you have no less than one hour between flights. Typically, you will be the last one off the plane and
it can take up to 30 minutes longer for you to deplane, get your wheelchair and be on your way to
the next flight.
No matter how many days you are gone, always carry on at least a three day supply of your medical supplies in addition to what you’ve already packed. If your luggage gets lost, you will always have your supplies with you. When you check-in at the ticket counter let them know you have medical supplies in your luggage and they may waive the baggage fees. One of our travel experts packs double the amount of supplies needed for a trip. Half are in the checked suitcase, and the other half are split between their wheelchair and carry-on. You can also tuck a few intermittent catheters on the underside of your wheelchair seat cushion for emergency situations – bring your seat cushion with you on the plane!
Before you board a plane, use the restroom! Our experts reduce their liquid intake, avoid caffeine, and ensure their bowel routine was completed beforehand.
Don’t stop drinking water, though! You don’t want to become dehydrated, lightheaded or get a UTI. When you get to your gate, ask if your plane with have an onboard aisle chair. If they don’t, you won’t be able to transfer to the restroom and there will be times during a flight that you have to cath on the plane. When you board your plane, let the flight attendant know that you’ll be managing your bladder from your seat. Some people prefer to have a foley catheter for long flights. Speak with your doctor to see if this is a viable option for you. Wear clothing that is easy to maneuver – skirts for women or sweatpants for anyone. One of our experts travels with a small blanket and puts it over their head and caths into a water bottle. They put the water bottle in their backpack and dispose of it once they land. Bringing extra wipes will help with your clean-up. Another expert packs an outfit change in their carry-on just in case. Always be prepared!
Finally, to help prevent leg swelling, prop your legs on your carry-on and enjoy the flight!
Preparing for Hotel Stays
When you are booking your hotel room, always request an accessible room. Beforehand, confirm there is an elevator that takes you to that section of the hotel if you are not on the first floor. If you require a roll-in shower, you must request this when you are booking. Some hotels have shower chairs available; ask when you are making your reservation.
The most important tip is to prepare for the unexpected! It’s also a good practice to give a family member or friend a key to your house and tell them where your supplies are in case you need them to overnight you extra supplies. Always remember the name and phone number of your medical supply company in case you need an emergency shipment.