Saturday, 21 May 2016

Getting Away

I feel like we've been away a lot recently. There was a time when going away was so easy. I could decide on the spur of the moment to go somewhere, pack a small bag of essentials and just go. Then we had kids and going away suddenly required military planning and an overnight stay required so much stuff that the car looked like we were heading off for several months. Then the kids got bigger and spontaneity and small bags came back into our lives again. Now we're back to military planning and enough luggage to equip a small village.

We've had a number of trips away that have been difficult in some way or even downright disastrous! Accommodation, we have learnt, can make or break a holiday or trip away. As time goes on, I've become more comfortable with checking out what we're booking and ensuring that we get what we need. Here are some of the things we have learnt to do...

1. For basic overnight stops, to break a journey or be in the right place for an early morning start, we have found nothing to beat Premier Inn. You can book online and choose an accessible room. Having said that, an accessible room might have a wet room or a shower over bath and the only way to know, is to ring before booking. I generally do the online search and then ring the intended hotel to check that they have wet rooms. It's always a 0845 number but there's a website called 'SayNoTo0870' where you can put the number in and it usually gives you a normal, local number to ring instead. So I ring and then, if they have wet rooms, I book and then ring them back with the reservation number and get a wet room allocated. We did once try this process with Travelodge but it didn't work out anywhere near as well and we certainly won't be trying that again.

2. For a week or more holiday, it is worth paying more for good quality accommodation. Last October, we went to Cardiff and stayed in a cottage in Porthcawl. It was not accessible, though advertised as okay for people with restricted mobility (just not wheelchairs). It was a nightmare! The bathroom was impossible! The bath had its own mobility issues and felt like it was going to collapse. There was nothing to hold onto, no grab rails, nothing. The toilet was low down and the seat was loose. The beds were very low and had a thick wooden surround which made it very difficult to get out of bed. I just thought, "Never again!" We're going back to Cardiff again this year for Josh's graduation but this time, we're booking a wheelchair accessible city centre apartment and paying a lot more for it.

3. Check out restaurants, pubs, town centres, etc before leaving home. It all goes back to the military planning thing again. A good example was Stavanger in Norway. Before we went, I had looked it up online and found out which places were good for wheelchair access. As a result of what I read, we took my freewheel (which we hadn't planned to take) and boy, did we need it?!?! Both locally and on holiday, we have had occasions where we have attempted to eat in pubs and restaurants which had steps and no accessible loo. Fortunately, we always manage but it makes it less enjoyable, so now we tend to ring in advance and check.

4. It's easy to run out of medication, medical equipment, etc whilst away. Now, I try to organise these well in advance and I always take more than I should need. Yes, it does mean taking a case full of Tenas and catheters, as well as all the associated wipes, bags and protective mats, but that is much better than running out and not being able to empty or having to buy expensive replacements whilst away.

I like going away, especially for a weekend. It's nice to go to events or see towns that I've not seen before. It's lovely if those visits work out well and you end up feeling totally normal and relaxed. It's really not nice though, if you can get to places and you end up feeling like an inconvenience and in the way. Do other disabled people plan really carefully? Is there a way of bringing back that spontaneity and just deciding to go somewhere? How do others find short breaks and holidays?

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