|Copyright: Sian Wootton|
Following my post about my trip to Brussels, which if you have not read you can read here, I wanted to compile a list of tips and advise for anyone that might be considering a city break holiday. You can read my other travel tips here, some of which may crossover into organizing a city break trip, so be sure to read them too.
Before you go
Researching a good hotel- Trip Advisor is a great app/ website for helping you find exactly what you need from a hotel. You can refine your choices not only by price range and star rating but also by facilities such as wheelchair accessible rooms. A hotel that offers room service can also be a good option in case you are too unwell to leave your room. Look through the photos and read through the reviews to get a clearer picture of what the hotel is like. Look out for comments like "a lot of road noise" or "rooms at the back of tbe hotel have no road noise." Also use Google maps to see where the hotel is situated, if it is close to where you want to be but also is it located somewhere quiet.
If you need an accessible room usually you won't be able to book these through certain websites. Usually you need to book direct with the hotel. But certainly look up what the offers are and see if by booking direct they will price match that.
Request a room in the quietest area of the hotel. But also remember to pack ear plugs and a sleep mask for extra help should you need it.
If you are going to see a specific thing then see if you can stay as close as you possibly can to it, to give yourself the best chance of being able to do so.
Do the maths- flying might seem your quickest way to get to some places but remember to factor in your journey time to the airport, how long you need to be at the airport before your departure and the length of your journey on the other side, on top of your flight time. Sometimes other transportation might be less or the same. If you live somewhere with great rail links then this could be worth considering. Airports require a lot of attention and concentration that could be time spent switched off and relaxed on a train. Cost does of course also sway that decision. Eurostar has some great offers for wheelchair users and a companion. As well as offering great special assistance. It's certainly something I would like to try.
Pack smart- Not just the items you pack but about what you use to pack it all in. With a city break it's very easy to think that you will only use hand luggage if you are flying by air and with the expense of putting baggage into the hold that temptation grows. Firstly, check your airlines policies on how many pieces of handluggage you can have. Some you can only have 1. You can see a list of the current restrictions on the contents of hand luggage and hold luggage here. Then think logistics. Can you manage with a big carry on bag? If you are in a wheelchair can someone push you and the cases, which is a useful question for both hand luggage only and if you are checking in hold luggage. Airport assistance can help you with bags to sime extent. Check with the airport that the assistance company there offer a from the drop off point service. In Manchester airport I have seen call buttons to call for assistance from car parks and drop off points. Think about the times you are not at the airport. Transfering to your hotel etc and getting back to the airport. If you intend to get a taxi, yes you may get lucky and have an assistant that will help you with bags until you are in the taxi/ coach but this isn't always a guarantee. If you are in a foreign country there may be language barrier problems and it's always better to be over prepared. And if your illness/disability is invisible they may have an even harder time understanding. Ways around this can be to prebook a taxi and explain that they will need to park up and help you with your bags into the airport. You could also book a car service for when you arrive at your destination who will pick you up from inside arrivals. This way you know you have the help that you need.
Another question you need to ask if you are travelling by plane with regards to packing is: Are the items I need to pack ok to put in hand luggage? Rules and regulations catch a lot of people out so be savvy. The items you really need for your trip you don't want left at customs. So keep to the rules and play safe. If you can compromise on some items to keep to hand luggage only then do so otherwise you may need to think about checking a bag into the hold.
Pack things to help you cope with any extra noise and light. Such as earplugs, ear defenders and eye mask.
If you're going abroad learn the word for thank you to be extra polite when people help you and offer assistance.
Either way you travel can be a long time to have your legs standing or sitting. So try and elevate them as much as possible. Flight socks can be great for helping blood flow and easing leg pain.
Have your essential items to help you cope with the journey as accessible as possible. Eapecially if you are flying. I like to pack the things I know I will need straight away in a separate bag (although if the airline only allows 1 piece of hand luggage then it is also small enough to go into larger bag). In this I put my neck pillow, back pillow, travel bands, some face wipes (on take off I sometimes overheat so I have these to cool down, also at my side for panic induced sweats) sweets and mints to help my ears for take off.
Research how accessible public transport is where you are going. Especially with regards from getting from the airport to your hotel. Do the buses have wheelchair spaces? Does the metro/train have elevators for you to get to the platform? Or no drop between the platform and the train. Do you need to prebook to get assistance to use the trains? How big are the taxi's? Would your wheelchair fit in the boot? Do they have specialist vehicles for wheelchair users? Trip Advisor forums can provide a lot of this kind of information. Booking a car service can be useful as you will know all the info in advance as well as have help as soon as you arrive.
Plan your route- Know the way to the places you want to go. Getting lost is not as fun when you are gritting your teeth trying to do what you can. Also scope out cafe's etc that you could stop at should you need to sit down and have a break. Planning your route is all the more important if you're in a wheelchair. Tourist information may have a special street map for accessibility showing what are the best routes to use and ones to avoid. Some old cities have cobbled streets and while they give the place so much history and character they cause so much pain and discomfort. Also always be on the look out for where you can cross the road, especially for drops in the kerb.
It may be worth paying for data usuage on your phone whilst abroad so that when you are not in free wifi spots you can still consult google maps or an attractions website. Most phone companies have good deals nowadays.
With this in mind, also consider purchasing a power bank/ portable charger to make sure that you always have enough battery power on your phone. Especially if you are taking photos with your phone which can quickly drain the battery.
In a wheelchair or on foot either way wear comfy shoes
Many cities and towns are old and not necessarily very flat therefore accessibility can be an issue with steps into the buildings etc. Also in some countries their accessibility policies aren't that great and you may find some places you won't be able to visit. Or in some restaurants/ cafes/ bars there won't be an accessible toilet.
If you want to go sightseeing research those that are accessible or don't involve climbing up many steps etc.
Padding! Cushion yourself in the event of a bumpy ride over cobbles or bad paving. Also if you are out for longer than you are used to they will help keep you comfortable.
You might be a spoonie but...
Enjoy the little things. Sometimes you aren't going to get to enjoy the bigger attractions the city has to offer so immerse yourself in getting your culture fix in smaller ways? Enlist your senses. Try some of the local delicacies and refreshmebrs. Is there a much raved about ice cream parlour with ice cream you just have to try? In need of some quiet then visit one of the parks and enjoy a picnic of yummy goods. You may find this is where the locals come too and be able to enjoy the sounds of a different language. Visit a mini market and explore the different goods they have from back home and buy them if they take your fancy. I'm always so impressed by the amount of different Harribo abroad. And who can resist a giggle at a chocolate bar named Plopp? Anything that let's you know you're not back home.
Give yourself plenty of rest breaks throughout your trip as you would at home. Even if that means taking a day or more of down time to recharge. It's better to not keep pushing too much and then potentially make yourself miss more. You might be in a different place but that illness is still with you (damn them!)
The same with getting good quality sleep. Sleep let's us recover.
Be aware that you might not be on a beach holiday but if the sun is out be sure to put on sunscreen. Wearing a hat can protect you a lot, burning the sensitive skin on your scalp and heat stroke can make you feel very ill. Also be sure to stay well hydrated.
Invest in a water bottle with a filter, such as the bobble bottle. That way you can drink the tap water and know that it's safe to drink.
Relaxing methods- Great for airports, on the plane and also when you need to take a break. Make a playlist of relaxing music. Use meditation tracks. Whatever you use to chill out.
Be prepared that things won't always go to plan. I guess as spoonie's we are always prepared for this but approach everything with as positive an attitude as you can and be armed with back up plans and coping stratergies.
Be grateful for what you did get to do and not focus on what you might not have got to do. Appreciate that you were able to make the trip. Savour the memories you made. Take lots of photos. Scrapbook or journal about it.
Get yourself a souvenier from the trip to remind you of this achievement.
Give yourself a big pat on the back. 1) for having the courage to try and 2) for going. It's not easy but with planning and coping stratergies you got there.
Let yourself recover and rest for as long as your body needs afterwards. Clear your schedule for the week you get back and let yourself recover properly. Lie back and think of the happy memories.
I hope these tips are useful and come in handy to any spoonies or their travel buddies that are considering visiting a city.