Report from the Road (Part 3) - Plan Ahead for Success
Planning ahead doesn’t make you Clark Griswald. It makes everything easier on your trip! In the past week we received a frantic call from someone who arrived in Paris only to find out the bathroom door at their “accessible” apartment was too narrow for a wheelchair, and a call from a slow walker who arrived in Rome then immediately realized they needed a rental wheelchair. Don’t let this happen to you! Do your own research in advance or use an experience travel agent that knows accessibility!
On the recent cruise that Tiffany and I took, we had numerous examples of where planning ahead really makes a difference when traveling with a disability. Here are a few of our own experiences:
Port accessibility varies greatly – We found that some ports have sights within walking distance like in Monaco. In others, disabled tourists who can’t ascend steps can’t leave the port without reserving a wheelchair accessible vehicle in advance as was the case in Livorno’s commercial port. Find out the accessibility details before you arrive so you can plan accordingly.
Avoid the inaccessible buses in Livorno!
Few taxis in Mykonos – Like many cruise passengers, we just figured we would grab a taxi when we arrived in Mykonos to get to Paradise Beach. It turns out that there are only 32 taxis in Mykonos (for 3600 cruise passengers) and all of them had been booked in advance. Of course, not everyone knew that, and there was a line of people waiting at Taxi Square that moved nowhere. We ended up renting a car for the afternoon to get to Paradise Beach. The drive over the beach ended up being a trip highlight, but we probably wasted one hour of our six hours in port just figuring out how we were going to get around the island. We should have done a better job of planning ahead!
Taxi Square in Mykonos…with no taxis to be found!
Places you haven’t heard of may be your favorite – Do your research to find the most enchanting and fascinating destinations that appeal to YOUR interests. The city names that you’ve heard of may not make the best experiences. Often the best kept secrets contribute so much to your trip. Great examples of this from my travels are: Lucerne instead of Geneva, the Ancient Agora in Athens instead of the Acropolis, Lucca instead of Pisa, and the Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent instead of the Blue Mosque.
Having a travel agent can really help if things change during your cruise – You don’t know what you don’t know. And even if you do know everything, things can change. A train strike can occur, there could be unannounced construction near a wheelchair ramp, or cruise port activity could result in your ship docking in a different location than expected. A travel agent can help handle changes while you get to enjoy your vacation. This is especially true on cruise ships where the internet is not only slow but also expensive which makes it hard to research and plan for these hiccups in your travels. Consider hiring a knowledgeable travel agent for your trip…it could be the best money you spend!
Do your homework on excursions. Excursions may have a driver that doesn’t even speak your language which can present issues. To the contrary, you may luck out with an incredibly knowledgeable tour guide that makes your day extremely memorable. In many destinations, tour guides have to be professionally licensed (and pass tests on history, art, architecture, etc…) to enter the tourist sights. If you don’t do your homework, you might end up with a local just walking you around their town pointing out buildings. While I always enjoy the perspective and opinion of a local, this may not be historically correct and could take away for the experience. I’ve actually asked enough questions that the tour guide had to pull out a Rick Steve’s guidebook to look up the answer….definitely not a licensed guide!
What’s new at Sage Traveling?
I’ll be in London the next couple of weeks researching accessible hotels, accessible day-trips from London (so excited about Stonehenge!), and accessible transportation options. Accessible travel to London is a great option for disabled travelers visiting Europe for the first-time, and we’ll make it as easy as possible!
We’ve spent thousands of hours researching accessibility across Europe. If you’d like us to help plan your trip, please email Donna at email@example.com.
John Sage, Founder and President of Sage Traveling