map showing best paths and areas to avoid

Vacation Prep 101: Know Before You Go

Last updated: July 2019

You’ve planned the perfect vacation. Everything is booked and paid for, all that is left is for you to go and have the time of your life. But what if everything goes wrong? Would you have to cut your trip short?

When vacation plans go awry

One of my most frustrating vacation experiences took place at Disneyland in 2005, a few years before I had to start using mobility aids on a regular basis. At the time we were living in Arizona and had planned a fantastic week-long family vacation at our favorite place.

Despite fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, and psoriasis, I made it through the first day without issue. I went to bed that night excited for day two. At 2 AM I awoke with abdominal pain. By 6 AM I knew something was wrong and woke my husband. He took me to the closest emergency room. That evening I had my appendix removed.

I was released the next day, but there was no way I could walk more than a few feet. I know, most people would go home, but there was no way I was going home. Instead, we rented a wheelchair and we resumed our family vacation.

What we didn’t know about using a mobility aid

I do not regret continuing our vacation or the day we added to make up for the one that I was in the hospital. What I do regret is not having an understanding of what it is like to visit Disneyland with a mobility aid. One of the biggies after having surgery was knowing where the cobblestone and brick walkways were. Let me tell you, the last thing you want to ride over after having major abdominal surgery is a bumpy walkway!! Then there was figuring out where to enter attractions, where I could remain in my wheelchair, and more.

A few years later my illnesses required me to use a mobility aid for all-day outings and in 2009 we had to begin figuring out how Disneyland’s disability service worked. It was frustrating. Years later, I began blogging about the accessibility at Disneyland on my personal blog to give others the information that I wished I had known before visiting with a mobility aid and chronic illness.

What you need to know

To avoid turning your vacation into a course on how to get around or what you would be able to do if injured or flaring, do some pre-trip research.

Do your research

Research accessibility services and tips for your destination. Disneyland gives basics, but not enough to make your trip less stressful. Because of this, I suggest you first go to the official website of your destination and see what they have to say. Then I would search for blogs that discuss that location and chronic illnesses and disabilities.

Is it worth renting a mobility aid?

If you are visiting an amusement park, zoo, museum, etc. and you are not bringing your own mobility aid, find out if they rent them. Learn the details of their use. For example, you can rent a wheelchair at the Disneyland park gates and use it in the parks, but you cannot take them outside of a designated area which means you would have to walk to the resort hotels if you should choose to dine at one of the character buffets.

Look up and keep handy, contact information for outside mobility aid rental companies. I didn’t expect to need a wheelchair in 2005 and while our hotel concierge gave us a few recommendations, we might have gotten a better deal had I done some research beforehand.

Navigating your surroundings with a mobility aid

Find out which rides or attractions requires a guest to transfer out of their wheelchair. Is the attraction equipped to handle a large motorized scooter?

The due diligence is worth it!

Living with a chronic body means never knowing what to expect. Learning everything you can about what to expect when the unexpected occurs will give you peace of mind no matter what happens.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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