For passengers with special needs, here are a few thoughts to consider when planning your trip to paradise.
"Trays in an upright position, seat belts fastened...welcome to the friendly skies of…"
These words jump started my adventure across the ocean to the Hawaiian Archipelago. My first travel experience to the Pacific Isles was not a success. I didn't do my homework, nor did I search for wisdom from veteran travelers. I assumed because I was a frequent international flyer, vacationing alone as a paraplegic with a large wheelchair would not be a problem.
Magical ThinkingThere are extra considerations that a person with a disability needs to make to be comfortable on a plane. To deny special arrangements can mean an unhappy experience. What precautions can be taken for a safe and memorable journey?
Plan AheadStart planning months before for a trip to an unfamiliar location. Research on-line your carriers' best routes, terminal changes, and frequent layovers. Avoid the dreaded five to six hour layover sitting upright, far from a toilet, in a deserted “wait” area.
Before You BoardCheck online for flight schedules, seat configuration, and arrival time. Airlines are typically good about helping passengers with special needs. Call and request to speak personally with an agent to work out the details to get you on board and seated with ease and comfort.
Restrooms, Ramps, And WeatherRead up on the internet for information about ADA compliance for public facilities, and transportation. The weather can be a consideration for your assistive devices. If you are on a tour, your transport will be arranged. Be sure the van has a lift or a ramp.
Finally On Board!At check-in, your ticket will be flagged with your requests. Regardless of coach or first class, you will be boarded first assisted by the ground crew who whisks you down the jet way, out-running the hoards nipping at your heels. This is when you can finally settle down with the in-flight magazine, and mentally unwind with thoughts of exotic luaus, cross-cultural music and dance, and Mai Thais while watching stunning sunsets.
Well, Almost Finally!Remember that Hawaii has five main islands and each airport has different facilities. Many carriers arrive in Honolulu on the island of Oahu where you may take an inter-island flight to your final destination. The arrangements and cautions already mentioned are still considerations.
The Big Island (Hawaii) promises many adaptive water and land activities, as well as accessible beaches and restaurants. For additional helpful details, look forward to articles on medical equipment, service animals, and local customs. A pleasant arrival and departure can make or break a perfect holiday.
Mahalo! Remember to pack T shirts, cotton shorts, and "slippas" to change into as you are greeted by the warm breezes of the islands.
Don't just look at the ocean, get wet.
Written By Jean Hartley
Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii
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