I've always loved to travel, so one of my biggest worries when I had my accident was that this would no longer be possible.  Fortunately, it definitely is.

When flying, I always book assistance beforehand so they know I'm coming.  Plus I make it very clear at the check-in desk that I need an aisle chair to get on the plane.  Unfortunately, it still means you often have to have conversations where it takes them a while to really understand what's going on: "So you can't walk at all?... But you can walk up the stairs if we get you to the bottom of them?... But if we get you onto the plane you can walk to your seat?"  It's important to be very clear on what assistance you need.

Travelling?  It definitely is possible.

I also stress the importance of how much I need my wheelchair to be there at the other end.  Sometimes on long-haul flights, if you ask nicely, they store the chair in the cabin which is great for peace of mind.  Otherwise, just ensure your chair is tagged before it goes into the cargo hold, and it's worth keeping your cushion with you so it doesn't get lost.  There have been times when my wheelchair has been sent to baggage reclaim instead of being brought to the cabin on arrival - really not very useful!  When it does happen, you have no choice but to go in one of the airport wheelchairs which are huge - I could fit in one three times over!

Jane, in her wheelchair, inspecting her skis

Even when you do everything right there can still be problems.  Once, when flying to Egypt, there was no aisle chair to get me off the plane.  They said we'd have to wait an hour.  So we took the wheels off my wheelchair so it would fit up the aisle, then my friend held the back up and pushed me towards the obviously astounded - but also impressed - flight attendants!

If you are flying, always ask for a free upgrade.  You might not get it, but it's worth a try - I make a bee-line for the check-in desk with the most smiley member of staff!  And don't forget that with most airlines you can take 'medical equipment' as part of your baggage allowance.  Carry important medication in your hand luggage though, just in case.

Being on the British Disabled Ski Team, I travel the world.  Airline staff look like they are about to have a heart attack when we turn up - seven wheelchair athletes each with a large bag, a huge long bag full of race skis and an enormous sit-ski.  That is the definition of not travelling light!

Travelling is sometimes a bit of a hassle, but it's always worth it.

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