It’s been a few years now since I’ve had my wings clipped at T2 and now I face my biggest challenge, taking my mother, wife and two daughters (ages two and nine) to the USA for ten days. Flights, insurance, visas, car hire, airport car park and medical supplies all sorted. Now for the long haul eight hour flight.

We land upstate New York on a Saturday night. We scan for an XL Uber to New Jersey. Ten minutes using my 4G to book the Uber cost me £50 phone credit, and each subsequent call in the states would cost me £20.

Lesson 1: Have in place correct travel Bolt Ons with phone network provider.

We check into the Sheraton Lincoln Harbour Hotel with its skyline city view of Manhattan all lit up in the night sky. I had to pay an extra $240 at check in for incidental charges.

Gabriel resting Downtown New York City

Lesson 2. Check the small print for incidental charges and deposits, for which I pay an extra $400 during my trip in the USA.

Our city view room and bathroom were decent but the bed was taller than the Empire State Building, and I was too tired to move rooms. The next two days we blow dried our hair sailing back and forth across the Hudson on the taxi ferry, checking out as many tourist sites of New York as we could physically manage with my posse of ladies. As most fathers will know, keeping everyone happy is not easy. Lots of mood swings, huffing and tears, especially when they are hungry and tired, and even more so if I didn’t take them to the hotel pool each evening. And that was just my mother and wife, don’t get me started on the kids!

On the 4th day, a tired bunch of tourists made it to Pennsylvania train station. We found the Red Caps (special Amtrak employees who provide free assistance to disabled passengers) who helped us embark our five hour train to Boston. Time to sit back and enjoy the views.

Red Caps & Gabriel & Daughters on the train

We picked up our hire car at South Boston. It was an SUV, even though we booked an estate, but at least the hand controls were fitted. We gingerly meandered through Boston on the right hand side of the road to our Boston hotel. Upon check in my bank card is declined.

Gabriel in the hired SUV

Lesson 3: Let your bank know early, if you are travelling abroad.

We went for a pizza with cousins from Boston, then bed. We visited Boston Children’s Museum with more cousins, visited parks and went shopping quite a bit. Each evening we went dining with different cousins. The love was quite overwhelming. Then came a good old UTI which I introduced to my selection of antibiotics. I had to take it easy the next day with more shopping, dozens of calls to my bank, two visits to the hotel pool and a BBQ at my cousins place.

Gabriel and Daughter at the pool

The next day we paid our respects to the wonderful Bostonians and their beautiful city and headed east to Cape Cod with our lovely relatives.

I admit I wasn’t prepared for such a wonderful end to our trip at the Blue Water Red Jacket beach resort. I had been so used to the fast pace of the USA and dealing with the ups and downs of a typical family holiday, the next thing I know, I’m plopped down on a poolside sun lounger beside a private white sandy beach with a cocktail in my hand ordering lobster for lunch and the thermometer reading 32°C. Time to take it easy and oh my God this was heaven. The next day, we had the difficulties of sun bathing, drinking cocktails and eating more great food. We all went up the coastline for a walk at night under a full red moon and we were treated to a local firework display.

Our last day in Cape Cod we visited more relatives in Plymouth, where we had a wonderful evening BBQ before we hugged and said our last goodbyes. The next day we packed up and headed for Providence city for some last ditch shopping before dropping off the SUV and boarding the night flight home across the Atlantic Ocean.

Gabriel & Family in Cape Cod

Overall during the ten days I found the American people very kind and helpful to disabled people. I would definitely go back.

I only have one tip for someone with a SCI taking the family on holiday… just do it.

The truth is, I was the biggest complainer who made every excuse not to do anything with my overused line ‘I can’t do that’. This complaining continued at the start of our trip in the USA about high and low chair and bed transfers, using all sorts of toilets and funny shower stools. But after my holiday, where I was forced to get used to these daily challenges, I realised with practice, things became easy. So when I got home, I threw away the sliding board, cancelled my care package and took care of myself. I now always tell myself, ‘don’t be lazy and have a go at this, Gabriel!

I am as happy now as I was before my injury, I just wished I had a better attitude before now. And you know what? My family are far happier too, as I can see they have their free time back again.

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