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Items for Disabled Travelers to Take When Traveling

Photo: It's a struggle, but we get Nancy up and into a small Tundra Buggy, on the frozen river, someplace in the Canadian Arctic. We are easily a zillion miles from anywhere, maybe more. At times like these, you really don't want to have to go to town to pick up the few items you forgot to bring along. A good packing list is essential.

Before Nancy's strokes, we were fairly careless about packing. Whatever we had forgotten to take before we left we could buy at local stores.

Once we became disabled, the entire dynamic changed. In large Western- type cities across the world, adaptive and assistive technology may be surprisingly hard to find. Outside these cities, you may not find any at all. Crutch tips? Sterile bandages? Not a chance.

Most of us have no idea of how much "stuff" we have come to depend upon in our daily lives. When you are preparing to travel away from home, you must be especially careful. Go with the thought that what you don't take with you will become something you will have to do without- because that is likely what will happen.

Perfect example: Flat Tires- We carry spare inner tubes with us, as well as patches and tire change kits (small kits). Best solution when encountering a flat is to locate a bicycle store, although even an auto garage can do this for you. We once had a flat tire on 5th Avenue in New York City, where I was forced to change the tire on the street. Had so many people stop to help that I ended up standing aside and watched as several bike owners took over for me and had us repaired and on our way in less than ten minutes.

Look really carefully around your home. Anything of an "out of the ordinary" nature that you need or use regularly is something you should consider taking with you. Don't worry about not having enough underwear or socks. You can get by with less.

For us, an excellent example of easy-to-overlook necessities is fuses for the electric wheelchair. If a circuit blew out while we were in the Amazon, what would be the chance of finding a replacement fuse? ZERO!

Each of you will have a different list. For us, in addition to electrical circuitry, we also carry some Velcro for the straps on Nancy's arm and leg braces. I carry a small collection of tools and spare parts. When we went to Brazil, we brought along a collapsible hemi-walker. The last few years, we have brought along a lightweight, collapsible wheelchair, the DRIVE chair- the one with the larger front wheels. We find ourselves using this more and more, especially inside hotels and ships, where space is tight and the "Dune Buggy" is too cumbersome.

Whatever adaptive or assistive devices you use at home- bring with you, because you will not be able to replace these except with difficulty- if at all.

Best advice: As soon as you start to plan a trip, begin to make a list of all the things you touch during the day. Do this for a number of days, then eliminate the duplicates and get down to core items. These are the ones to concentrate on.

Unfortunate experience has taught us that copies of prescriptions or actual duplicate medications are something to consider carrying, especially on long trips. Place these in a bag separate from the one in which you place the original medications. Carry the really important ones in a bag beneath your clothing. Pickpockets may steal your wallet, but they will not get "stuff" inside your shirt.

We do not check, but hand carry our medications and vitamins in case our luggage gets lost. On a recent trip to Ecuador, the bag containing all our vital essentials was stolen, along with a Nikon camera and a few other easily replaced things.

We would not be returning home to the US for a number of weeks, so what to do about replacing the vitamins and prescription medications?

I though to duplicate much of this via the Internet. Not a chance. Ecuador does not have that capability.

Then, I thought to have my brother in Pennsylvania buy what we needed from local stores in the U.S. and ship to us. The two and a half pound package he sent was held up in customs in Quito for nearly three weeks. Shipping charges from DHL, customs charges and fees cost me nearly $300.00- more that the cost of the replacements themselves!

To replace the prescription items stolen, I was forced to get new prescriptions from local health providers because the pharmacies would not accept my writing a prescription. For each prescription written by a local doctor, we had to pay $25.00, then pay to get it filled. Not everything we needed was available.

Keep a small notebook or pad on your night table or kitchen table. Each day, write down what you are wearing; what objects you pick up and use- like a toothbrush. After a few days, you will have a pretty good idea of what to consider packing to take with you on your trips.

Here is a great checklist we used on our recent trip to the Amazon. It is not complete, but use what is appropriate for you. Add items as needed:

Passport and photocopies Small lock
Travel insurance and photocopies Water bottle and purifier
Airline tickets and photocopies Toothbrush/paste
Credit or debit card. Record numbers somewhere. USD cash, especially smaller bills, no $100's.
Any entry visas and vaccinations certificates which may be required. Antibacterial soap (Purell)
Reading/writing materials Water treatment tablets
Small tape recorder small penknife
Plastic bags and small zip locks Backpack/Day pack
Alarm clock Binoculars
Toilet paper DEET or mosquito spray
Concealable money belt Sun block
Windproof/waterproof jacket Lightweight fleece top
Underwear, socks, shorts Light raincoat or poncho
Swim suit Sun & rain hat
String Sunglasses
Duct tape Water shoes
Any batteries (flashlight, hearing aid, camera/photo) Sunglasses
Flashlight
Computer and accessory cords

The list is not intended to be all inclusive, but is a good one to start with. Add or subtract as suits your own particular needs. Spend a good bit of time to permit yourself to see if the list is all inclusive. The time to discover you have left something off is before you travel, not after you have left.

Please go to our Disabled Travelers Guide to the World for many additional tips on arranging tours, transport and other details. See, especially, Chapter 8 of the Disabled Travelers Guide. There is also valuable information in Chapter 12 of the Disabled Travelers Guide .

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Have you checked the most important parts of our website? We urge you to go to the Chapter on Essential Plans. Then, whether they apply to you or not, read the Chapters Airlines, Cruises, Hotels, Taxis, Tours. Finally, be sure you read the Chapter Items to Take. The information in these chapters will make all the difference in the success of your trip.