Travel as an amputee ~ By LuAnn Kleemeyer
Can I still travel now that I am an amputee?
Traveling as an amputee is not as hard as one might imagine. It does take a little more preparation time but it is very doable and should not stop you from going to the places you have dreamed about. I do speak about this from experience as I have traveled extensively since I have become an amputee. I have been all over Europe (England, Scotland, Wales, Italy, Ireland, Africa) Dominican Republic, cruises that went to Bahamas, Mexico, Haiti, Jamaica, and Alaska. Yes, I love to travel and have found a way to do it and enjoy this wonderful world.
The one thing you will need the most is patience! BUT doesn't everyone need that when dealing with traveling. Your best laid plans will have a better rate of success if you decide which battles you choose to deal with and which ones you choose to let roll down your back. Most issues you will have are not worth letting it ruin your trip. I have had to deal with flights cancelled because of weather, control tower fires, fires in instrument panels, and other passengers acting up. I still made it to where I was going and had fun.
Another really important item to purchase before hand is TRAVEL INSURANCE! We as amputees never know what our bodies may throw at us and we need to be covered if our trip may not occur or be cut short. I have used my insurance a few times from the above issues and gotten a refund, but as with all insurance, most times you pay for it and hope you don't have to use it. It is a nice to have as a backup.
As far as traveling itself, make sure you call the airline you are traveling on and let them know you will be traveling with them a few weeks before your flight, if you need any type of help. I cannot walk far (high above knee amp) without difficulties so I choose to be pushed in a wheelchair to my gate. If you choose to travel with your own wheelchair inform them of that and they will note it. When you get to the counter for check-n just let them know again that you have your own wheelchair and could use someone to push you to your gate. I do this because I do not know where the elevators are located in airports and sometimes it is a very long walk. It may be a bit of a wait for the "pusher" but it is still faster than if I had to walk it! The airport can also provide a wheelchair for you. Traveling with crutches or other medical devices will not count as a carry on. I have travel crutches that I carry with me and don't let out of my sight, they are on the plane with me.
When you are at the gate you board from, inform the ticket counter again that you are there and as in my case, need a push down to the planes doors. You will be called to board first, with your companion, and they will ask you if you can board on your own from there and that is your choice. The plane can provide a very small wheelchair that fits between the seats if you cannot walk to your seat. They will have tagged your chair and put it in the belly of the plane. When you get to your destination, wait in your seat till the plane is empty and they will retrieve your wheelchair or provide a wheelchair if you didn't bring yours and will push you to your next flight or baggage claim. Please tip the one who pushes you, they have just saved you about a million steps!
Another great perk about being pushed to your gate is you will be going straight to the head of the line to get through security. I know this is the part that most amputees fear, but really my friend with her c-pap machine has a harder time then I do getting through security. Make sure and wear clothes that are loose so you are able to show your leg if needed. I kinda put my pant leg up so they see it in advance so they know what they are dealing with. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE YOUR PROSTHETIC DEVICE OFF OR YOUR SHOES! You will be given the option of going through the x-ray machine or wand you. I stand and do the machine and when after going through you will be tested farther for explosives on your shoes and chair. You will probably be patted down a bit, some airports are worse than others, but I just smile and say Thank You! when it is all over. My advice is to kill them (as in everyone you meet that works for the airport) with kindness. They are just doing their jobs and really are not out to get you. I have seen faces change from down and grouchy to a returned smile when I thank them and smile at them. That makes my day!
Just follow the rules and arrive at least 2 to 3 hours early for your flight. There are less planes and that makes for more people on each flight so it is a busy and crazy time. I would always prefer to sit and have a coffee on the other side of security than be worried that I am going to miss my flight. It will be a lot of hurry/wait but if you want help it is on the airports time and I appreciate that they will help me and I can cut ahead and no waiting in the lines. I love to travel and plan on continuing as long as I can. Just take your time, enjoy the thought that you are heading out on a Holiday, laugh and HAVE FUN!
Blessings on your day!