It’s expensive to be disabled, and when it comes traveling, it gets even more expensive. Not everybody can afford those fancy travel shower chairs that fold down perfectly into its own piece of luggage. Sometimes there’s no other option but to fly with your at-home shower chair. You can try renting a shower chair, but sometimes rental chairs just aren’t up to snuff.
But how do you travel with your shower chair, safely and without breaking something so critical to your independent living? Here is what I’ve learned along my travels. And as a quadriplegic, I can tell you I have learned a lot traveling with this bulky piece of equipment.
Whenever you’re flying with anything medical related, you always want to get to the airport as soon as they recommend, which is about 2 to 3 hours before the flight. This ensures there’s plenty of time to properly check and secure the shower chair in the underbelly of the plane. There’s nothing worse than having the check-in process (see below) be rushed. This is when bad things can happen to equipment. Checking your shower chair is a must.
Put Your Name on It
Before you hand over your shower chair to the check-in counter staff, make sure you use their labels and write your name, address and phone number on several of these and tie them to your chair. Just because they put your flight number sticker on your shower chair, doesn’t mean your chair will always end up in its end-destination. These labels make sure you get it back no matter what.
Remove Everything That Comes Off
Also, before handing over your shower chair at the check-in counter, take off everything that can be removed from it and pack it separately; typically in its own piece of luggage. Armrests, footrests, even the seat (if it can be removed). Take it all off and pack it snugly in another piece of luggage so that it cannot be damaged by the people that handle the medical equipment. Unfortunately, they handle it all too roughly.
Make Use of Those Free Zip-Ties
While checking-in your shower chair, you’ll see a bowl of free zip-ties (or just ask for some) to securely hold your shower chair together while it’s being transported, rolled and lifted through the airport and into/out of the plane. If after removing the seat you can fold your shower chair, definitely do this. The more compact you can make it, the better shape your shower chair will be in when you get it upon arrival. Zip-tie the folded frame together at all joints.
Get “Fragile” Stickers
Even though it sometimes doesn’t seem to help, ask for several “Fragile: Handle with care” stickers to put on your luggage when you’re checking-in. Some people even create their own signs to warn handlers to be careful with their equipment, with some very creative warnings. This is definitely something to think about if you have a very expensive shower chair.
Know Where to Pick It Up
And when you land, most shower chairs end up by the “Special luggage” area that’s a handful of feet away from your assigned luggage carousel. If your airline did it right, it should be waiting for you here once you arrive, especially since you’ll be the last to exit the plane. This should give the handlers plenty of time to get your shower chair to the right location.
If for whatever reason your shower chair ends up lost, don’t panic – every airline has a back-up-plan in place to replace your shower chair, and find your rental in the interim asap. It can be scary traveling with something so fragile and important, but just know it can be done, as long as you follow the steps above.
What tips do you have for traveling with your shower chair?