I enjoy traveling solo, but sometimes I want or need someone to travel with me depending on where I am going and what I am doing. There is an indisputable need for travel companions and caregivers that can assist in various way, especially in the wheelchair community.
Some of our daily needs and routines are different while others quite similar, so it is a good idea to be clear about needs and what does or could happen. For instance, issues such as fatigue, dysreflexia, sensitivity to heat or sun, and trouble swallowing. With this understanding everyone can travel more safely and be prepared if something does happen–have an emergency plan. A travel companion could obviously be good company while exploring a destination, a friend to share the experience with. For those using a manual wheelchair, a travel companion can perhaps push you up hills or help you up steps. A travel companion that is more medically trained in caregiving is also in demand for those requiring personal care services, like bathing.
If you are looking for someone to travel with, companion or caregiver, it’s good idea to speak with them about the trip so that everyone is on the same page. Again everyone is different, so not all questions below will apply to each situation. Select questions to guide your discussion with what you will need to have an enjoyable and safe trip or holiday.
1. Money. Is everyone paying for their own expenses? Is one person responsible for everything? Who is paying for what? Who is managing the travel money? Are there any hourly work fees also required? If you are paying the bill plus a hiring fee then consider this person an employee.
2. Equipment. Will the travel companion or caregiver be expected to have some knowledge about the mobile equipment brought? Any setup, maintenance and repairs? If a piece of equipment is damaged, what are the options? Is there anything you can bring to prepare? Any backups or spares?
3. Air Travel. Will you be flying on a plane? Do you need assistance with packing, carrying your luggage and getting to the airport? If it’s a longer flight, will you need assistance on and off the on-board aisle chair to access the bathroom? Or will a urine bag of some kind be used in flight? If so, discuss disposing the used contents. Should a strict diet or meal plan be implemented?
4. Transfers. Do you need help with transfers, sometimes or all the time? Be as specific as possible on when and where. Explain and even practice the best way to be transferred.
5. Rooms. Will you be sharing a room? If not, where and when will you meet up? Who is making the reservations? What’s needed in the room?
6. Bathroom Stuff. Do you need assistance in the bathroom? Be as specific as possible.
7. Personal Stuff. Do you need help getting dressed or eating?
8. Hills. Will you need a push up hills or otherwise? How hilly is the destination you are going to? This is an important planning step, even with a power wheelchair battery life needs to be considered.
9. Transportation. When you arrive, what are the options? Will you need to use public or private transportation? Rent a vehicle (with or without ramp)? If renting a vehicle, who will be driving? Best to plan routes accordingly to not exhaust driver.
10. Attractions and Activities. What are a few attractions and activities on the agenda? Researching accessibility is recommended as one attraction or activity could have more barriers than another, which will require more or less time. Some things may have no access, but may still be possible with human will or ingenuity. It is a good idea to get an understanding on what each party expects from the destination. How active or leisure will the days be? Will you always be together? Are some separate activities desired or required? Some parties will want to plan out a detailed itinerary for each day while others want to “wing it” or “go with the flow,” either way or in between, it is best to discuss each person’s travel nature.