​Planning a Vacation with a Wheelchair

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on March 31, 2021 # Travel

Zack and his dog on boardwalk in front of beach

Most of us like to go on vacation. I love to plan each vacation that we go on. If you are not the type of person who likes to plan, this can feel completely overwhelming, especially if you add in a wheelchair. Some of you may not even know where to start. I happen to be a planner, so I enjoy the whole process. I love to look up different places to visit, look through travel guides, books, magazines and read reviews. Reviews from real people are the absolute best! I have learned the smallest details before arriving that have made our trips so much better. One thing we learned from a review was when we went to Yellowstone, Wyoming. We learned from a review that the cabin we were going to stay in had only a small wall heater, so we brought along another small portable one, and with the two heaters, the whole cabin stayed toasty warm.

I can spend hours scrolling and reading people's previous trip itinerary, information and looking through photos. Photos are also a huge help. I zoom in on the bathroom pictures that advertise a roll-in shower. I want to make sure it is truly a roll-in or one we can make work with my son's commode chair. When I plan a trip with Zack, a C-4 Quadriplegic, the roll-in shower is a travel must. In the past, I have booked "wheelchair-accessible hotel rooms" only to find out that means a grab bar in the regular bathtub.

Vacations start with a thought, "I need a vacation, I want or need to get away, I love to travel, or I've always wanted to see." You fill in the blank. You act and decide where you'd like to go. The nice thing about most hotels is you can reserve a room and pay later, giving you time to save up. Once things are reserved, you have something exciting to look forward to.Zack wearing a lei

When you book the reservation, ask for an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) room, this room should have larger doorways and more space in general. Sometimes the entrance door will have a lower handle or even a special key remote or handicap push button to get in. Ask for a roll-in shower and confirm it's an actual roll-in. Call and double-check before your vacation to confirm that you booked in the ADA accessible room with a ROLL-IN SHOWER!

One of the first steps to planning a vacation is knowing the dates you want to go and where you will stay. If a flight is needed, you can book that next. A wheelchair-accessible van is another must when using a power wheelchair. I like to use one that is at the airport. If there is none available, you can take a shuttle or wheelchair taxi. I believe it is worth the extra money if one is available. Remember you are going to have all your luggage with you.

Once these things are squared away, you can now plan the fun stuff, excursions and activities. What I like to do when going on a long trip is to use the first day for travel and settle in. Maybe go out for a local dinner or even room service at the hotel. I like to have an activity day followed by a relaxing day. I always like to change it up, some trips we have more excursion days and others we have more days to relax. You want to come home rested from vacation, not needing a vacation from your vacation. How you use and spend your time will determine this.

Now, I realize sometimes you are in a place with lots to see. I have found having at least one "down day" with no plans is still a good idea. Wherever you go, look up the top things to do in the area. Again, look at reviews! It is so nice to hear those experiences and view real photos taken from people who have gone before you. I have a travel jar I toss money into, and you'd be surprised how fast it can add up. I have broken down the financial part into months and saved it that way. I love having something fun to look forward to!

My life has had many parts, I could write a book just on that section but let's fast forward to when I married Adron Collie. Two weeks after turning 20 (yes, very young!) I had Zackery at age 22, Levi at 24, six years later Kaden, and 18 months after that daughter Laila, making me a busy mother of four. At that time, I also ran a photography business. The year Zack was injured I had a child in Preschool, Elementary, Jr. High and High School. Four kids in four schools! I thought I was so busy, just getting their drop off and pick up times correct was a challenge. I have to laugh now thinking back on that because little did I know my life was just about to turn upside down.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.