Even when you’ve done all your research on your holiday let, hotel room, or when you’re travelling to stay with a friend or relative, there’s inevitably something that doesn’t quite meet your access needs, be it stairs in your friend’s home, no grab rails near the loo or in the shower, or sleeping in a smaller double bed from a king size. We can’t help it, there’s usually a need to travel with some mobility aids. When we’ve travelled recently to places we’ve gone with a car load of things to help Mr Wheel Chic Home to be safe in someone else’s home or in an AirBnb stay.
If you want to know how to make your home more accessible to your friend with mobility issues, I wrote a post about it here – why not take a look?
I wanted to share the pieces we’ve found and use – and some ideas on some things that we don’t use (yet!) – you might have your own favourites which I’d love you to share with me in the comments below!
First up for us, the most important piece of kit is Mr Wheel Chic Home’s wheels. His current chair is a RGK TigaFX, I’ve written more about it in this post – it’s a fabulous lightweight folding set of wheels that fits in the overhead bin of an aircraft. (Not that during a pandemic we’ve flown anywhere of course!). It’s a little battle with the crew onboard the aircraft to get them to allow it into the overhead bin as they haven’t usually seen a folding wheelchair before. In six years of flying with it, we’ve only had to put his chair in the hold once, when the crew refused to allow it in the overhead.
The TigaFX also folds down and fits into the smallest car boot as well (I had a Mini and it fitted in there with a little brute force!) and it’s so helpful when we’re travelling or popping to the shops. Also the beauty of a smaller wheelchair is that it fits through doors easily, and has a smaller turning circle, all useful when visiting somewhere that might have a small room you need to navigate.
Mr Wheel Chic Home is looking to move to a small folding electric chair as his left hand is starting to cause issues with his MS – so he’s looking for a chair with a joystick. In his research we’ve come across this AeroLite chair which has an easily removable battery that’s approved for airline use and it also folds easily to go into the boot of a car. This is a front runner for the next chair – it’s relatively light at 20kg or so, and it’ll fit into the car no worries.
If you’ve booked an accessible hotel room you’re likely to have a bathroom with grab rails of some kind, but if you’re staying with friends or relatives they probably don’t have grab rails in their home, so you might need to take a couple of your own.
You can buy vacuum suction grab rails in a variety of sizes that stick to a tiled wall. I’ll be honest, they are pretty ugly – but they are good for temporary use. Make sure they are well stuck on in the first instance (most of them use a green/red warning system to indicate whether they are attached safely or not) and I also check they are secure every day before Mr Wheel Chic Home uses them but they do hold well if they are secure and they come off easily with no damage to the walls.
They don’t stick well to tiles that have a texture on them, as they need a flat, smooth surface to adhere to. We travel with two of these – and they can easily fit in a suitcase or holdall when travelling. You can get them from online mobility specialist shops or from Amazon or Argos. They’re also relatively cheap, under £30 per bar.
Folding Toilet Frame
If you’re not able to attach a suction grab rail to a wall by the toilet, then taking a folding toilet frame with you in the car will be really helpful if you need support getting on and off the toilet. We’ve travelled with one for trips to holiday lets and to friend’s homes when we’ve stayed and it’s been so useful. It’s also a reasonably nice looking white and grey design. It’s pretty lightweight and folds fairly flat so it’ll fit in the boot, roof box or behind the front seats of a car.
Mr Wheel Chic Home purchased his from NRS Healthcare, and it’s about £55 at time of this post. Remember you don’t have to pay VAT if you have a disability on these types of mobility products.
The frame is simple to assemble (less simple to disassemble, for me anyway, he can do it pretty easily!) and easily fits over the toilet frame behind the lid and seat fixings. If a toilet is very close to a wall there might not be space for it but we’ve managed to squeeze it in everywhere we’ve travelled with it. The footplate at the front is designed for your feet to stand on so it’s your weight that gives it the stability.
Seats for Bathing
One of the primary issues for us in a holiday let that’s not fully accessible is somewhere for Mr Wheel Chic Home to bathe, either over the bath or in a shower cubicle. He needs somewhere to sit to be safe when in the shower. He is able to stand for a little while, holding onto a secure grab rail, but then can’t remove his hands to wash, so a seated position is always best for him, and for me (less stress for me!)
If we are travelling somewhere to a friend’s house where they have a bath, we travel with a bath board, which is really easy to throw in the car. We have some of these in our own bathroom and they are cheap, light, and really useful. We have the white ones in our own house. They do go yellow after a few years, so we have replaced them with new shiny white ones and kept a couple of old spares that we keep for travel.
If we’re staying somewhere with a shower cubicle that doesn’t have a built in seat, we’ve used a white plastic shower chair. I’ve got to be honest, it’s pretty ugly, and there are much nicer ones available, but we bought it off Gumtree for £5 and it only gets used once a year so I’m ok with that. To buy from new they’re about £20-30 and you can buy ones with a backrest or without, you can buy commode style seats or a folding chair, it’s whatever suits your needs of course. Again this was pretty easy to get in the car and it’s been really useful when we’ve taken it with us.
We don’t travel with a hoist (yet – that may be in our future in a few years) but I know many families do travel with a hoist. There’s lots of different types available depending on your needs but there are some folding ones that again are pretty helpful for travel, such as this Birdie Mobile Folding Hoist from NRS Healthcare. If you’re travelling to a specifically accessible holiday let such as those advertised in Accessible Holiday Escapes the owners of the holiday let have contacts of places where you can hire a hoist locally to save you from taking one with you, although you will need to prebook and take your own sling/hammock for hygiene reasons.
We purchased a stair climber for staying at friend’s houses after we tried carrying Mr Wheel Chic Home up the stairs of our friend’s tiny Cornish cottage in a metal folding deckchair. (The deck chair did work but it was possibly a little dangerous, and definitely something I DON’T recommend you do!) We found a cheap (£70) used stair climber on ebay – sadly we bought it just before the March 2020 lockdown and during the pandemic we of course haven’t travelled and stayed in anyone’s home, but we are looking forward to using it. It needs two people to operate, one in front and one behind, and three wheels at the back allows the chair to slide up and down the stairs.
Stair Climbers are used for getting people up and down stairs (obvs!) in an evacuation situation or other emergency. They can be pricey but do what we did, look for a second hand one as it won’t be used often. The other reason it’ll be good for us is that the various friends we usually stay with have very small hallways upstairs, so we wouldn’t use the wheelchair upstairs, but I can move him around upstairs with this chair as it can be pushed on flat surfaces too and it’s pretty narrow so will get through doors easily and will be useful for sitting to clean teeth, etc. It does fold flat too, if you wanted to take one with you in a car. Hopefully we’ll get to use it and stay at a friend’s house soon.
One last thing we’ve taken with us on previous trips is the folding Bed grab rail – especially if the bed we are sleeping in is a double when we’re used to a King Size! It helps Mr Wheel Chic Home hold onto something when getting in and out of bed, stops a possible fall out of the bed and also is useful for standing and getting dressed. He bought a small white one that unscrews and fold flat, and again we’ve thrown that in the back of the car when we recently travel (between lockdowns) to a holiday let in Devon. Very simple, lightweight and just slot it under the mattress.
Again, a specific accessible holiday let might have an electric profiling bed with side bars, so you might not need to carry something like this, but we’ve found it useful.
There are quite a few different styles of rail, different heights and so on but this one works fine and was only about £25-30 from NRS Healthcare (similar one here)
It’s a good job that most people with mobility problems have large cars if they need to carry all of this around! We’ve managed to drive to Skye with a full car of this stuff, and Cornwall and Devon.
If we’re staying in a hotel we might take the grab bars as they fit in the suitcase, but for an AirBnb or holiday let that’s not specifically accessible or is missing something we might needs it does end up filling the car pretty well!
What else do you carry with you and what great hacks have you got for travelling with these things? Let me know in the comments below!