If you’re planning a staycation this summer, chances are you’ll be driving there. Not only are road trips a great way to see more, but they can also be an easier way to travel for wheelchair or scooter users. Here, Emma Muldoon has put together her top tips when planning a road trip.
Road trips are one of my favourite ways to travel around the UK. Not only are road trips a great way to see more, but they are also an easy way to travel as a wheelchair user. Research, planning, and preparation are key to ensuring an accessible road trip goes as smoothly as possible, limiting any surprise bumps along the road. Here are some tips when planning a road trip for wheelchair or scooter users.
Plan the route
My partner and I are no strangers to travelling up and down the UK following our favorite bands on tour (pre-Covid!). There are many things to consider when planning the route for the road trip so it’s best to be as prepared as possible in advance of taking the trip. How long will the journey take? Are we visiting multiple cities/towns along the way?
We always work out how long the drive is likely to take according to Google maps and add between one to two hours for rest breaks and traffic. We are then able to decide whether we need to split the journey up with an overnight stay. Booking overnight accommodation helps lessen my discomfort of sitting in the car for long periods of time especially if we are driving from our home in Central Scotland to cities down south like Bristol, Birmingham, Cornwall, London etc.
Another factor you may want to consider is whether to stick to motorways for the convenience of service stations with Changing Places facilities. If you favor country back roads instead, you may have to research where the nearest accessible toilet facilities are along the route.
Want to find out more about Changing Places facilities? Click here to read Helen Dolphin’s article on these accessible toilets.
Book accessible accommodation
The next step is finding accessible accommodation. This usually requires some research online and directly contacting the hotel via email or telephone to confirm accessibility before making a reservation. As a wheelchair user, I require an accessible hotel room with a roll-in shower, so it’s important I book my accommodation in advance as these types of room are often very limited and get booked out quickly.
Making a list of the accessibility features you require will help you form questions to ask the hotel when confirming whether the hotels facilities and room will meet your accessibility needs. When choosing an accessible hotel we always check if the hotel has its own onsite car park and if not how far is the nearest car park or on street blue badge bays.
Read Helen Dolphin’s article on accessible hotels in the UK.
Making lists helps me stay organised and there is less chance of forgetting anything if it’s written down. I list everything we need to take including clothes, toiletries, medical equipment, medication, electrical devices/chargers and even our concert tickets.
For me, I try to pack as light as possible, but it doesn’t always work out that way. As a powered wheelchair user, I cannot go anywhere without my wheelchair charger. I also take my headrest and wheelchair tray table as they both help me while travelling in the car.
When it comes to packing clothes this ultimately comes down to what the weather will be like. I’m usually cold so warm jumpers, winter jackets and scarves are my go-to. They take up more space in our suitcase so I try to plan outfits to ensure I only take what I need and will actually wear. If we take a long road trip then we would use the hotel laundry facility to save space in our suitcase.
We recently bought a cool box which plugs into the cigarette lighter. We fill it with drinks and snacks to save spending too much money at service stations. The cool box can also keep ice packs cool to relieve swelling or pain and store medication.
Prepare for emergencies
Sometimes things don’t work out the way we expect them to so it’s important to prepare and have a plan B. We quickly learnt our lesson when our car broke down and we didn’t know who to call. We now have a list of emergency contact numbers saved on our phones but also written down on paper and kept safely in the glove compartment. RAC Motability Assist, Kwik Fit and Autoglass are some of the emergency contact numbers we have saved.
RAC Motability Assist
Don’t forget that as a Motability Scheme customer you are covered for breakdown assistance by RAC Motability Assist for the whole of your lease. If you do ever breakdown then please call 0800 73 111 73, or 0333 202 1878 if you’re calling from your mobile, for expert assistance.
Check the oil, water, brakes, fluid levels and tyre pressures to ensure your vehicle is roadworthy before taking a road trip.
You never know when you might need an allen key so we always take a wheelchair repair kit with us. The kit includes basic tools to fix simple problems and tighten loose nuts and bolts.
When preparing for emergencies it is also important to remember to pack extra medication, a first aid kit, water/snacks and a phone charger for the car.
Take Rest Breaks
Ideally, we want to get to our destination as soon as possible, but it’s important to pace ourselves and take rest breaks. Being in the car for too long can be exhausting for both the driver and passengers. We usually try to limit our driving time and have a rest break as this allows us both to change our positions and stretch. Although I am a full-time wheelchair user and unable to walk at all, I find it particularly uncomfortable and tiring being stuck in the same position for too long in the car.
“Simply sitting outside with my wheelchair reclined and enjoying the natural beauty and stunning scenery are some of our favourite things to do during rest breaks.”
You can read more from Emma on her blog Simply Emma