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My Top 5 Worst And Scariest Accessible Travel Moments

Travel is one of my favourite things to do. I’ve had some amazing opportunities and visited incredible destinations as a wheelchair user. It was exciting when I recently shared my top 5 best travel moments of 2017, but we know things aren’t always rosy and things can and will go wrong no matter how prepared we are. Therefore I’d like to share with you those unplanned for and sometimes scary situations with my top 5 worst and scariest accessible travel moments.

1. Las Vegas: Dude, Where’s My Ride?

A few years ago we decided to do a tour of Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. It was something we wanted to do for a long time so we were super excited when we finally set off.

Before reaching our first destination of Las Vegas we had to catch a connecting flight from New York. We were exhausted by the time we landed in Las Vegas, but happy as everything was going so well.

As we sat on the plane waiting for special assistance to arrive to help me off, we began to notice airport and cabin staff whispering and looking in my direction. Then the words no wheelchair user wants to hear, “Excuse me, are you waiting for a power wheelchair? I’m sorry, but it’s not on the aircraft. It’s still in New York”.

My worst nightmare come true. Not the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada we were hoping for.

Las Vegas Welcome SignI was transferred into one of the airports rickety manual wheelchairs, with both footplates at different heights. By the time I was wheeled to the lost luggage office, I was in a lot of pain from the unsuitable wheelchair. Combined with the pain and discomfort from sitting on a plane for a total of 12 hours. All I wanted was my specialised wheelchair.

On top of that, the agent dealing with my missing wheelchair was refusing to let me borrow the airport’s wheelchair despite my own wheelchair not due to arrive until the next morning. We had to beg and explain over and over that I couldn’t walk so I needed a wheelchair to get to our hotel.

They finally let us borrow the wheelchair, but they wanted us to bring it back when collecting my wheelchair in the morning. We weren’t willing to do that so we demanded they deliver my wheelchair to our hotel, to which they reluctantly agreed.

Now I always double-check with the cabin crew that my wheelchair has been loaded into the hold or watch for it being loaded on.

2. Los Angeles: Almost Being Killed In Downtown LA

During our second night in Los Angeles, we decided to go out for dinner. We were staying in the Millennium Biltmore Hotel Downtown and on our way back to the hotel we decided to pop into the 7-Eleven store for some drinks and snacks for the room.

The store was really close to the hotel so we knew we wouldn’t be too long. It was dark and out of nowhere, a man appeared on a bike. He began to cycle slowly along beside us while muttering things like “I’m a white boy killer”, “pull in up here white boy” over and over again.

Los Angeles Hollywood Sign at sunset.To say we were intimidated and scared was an understatement. We picked up speed while continuing to ignore him even though he was right on our sides, not knowing if he had a weapon on him.

We finally reached a more lit up street and crossed over into the store. Whilst we tried to spend as long as possible in the store the man was sitting outside waiting. Eventually, he began talking to some people outside so we quickly left and headed in the opposite direction back to our hotel.

We were relieved to get back to our room and relax after that. Adrenaline was well and truly pumping.

3. London: Missed Connections & Christmas Chaos

After a fantastic trip to New York City at Christmas and a delayed departure, we landed in London Heathrow within minutes of our connecting flight to Edinburgh. There was no chance we’d make it. We were told we’d be put on the next available flight.

It was a few days before Christmas so it was chaos. We began to prepare ourselves for a long wait, but to make matters worse I wasn’t given my wheelchair back when I landed in London. My wheelchair had been put on the flight to Edinburgh without me. I was already really sore from the flight and now I was sitting in a hard airport wheelchair with zero comforts or support.

My legs were getting more swollen and the pain was getting more unbearable by the minute. After hours of waiting, we were told there were seats available on an Edinburgh bound flight.

Airplane in the skyFinally, we were heading home. British Airways refused to allow me pre-boarding so I was made to wait until the very end then there was a mix up with special assistance while taking us the long accessible route. This delayed us even more.

When we eventually got to the plane door to begin boarding, I noticed there was a line of people boarding before me. This didn’t seem right as everyone should have boarded already as we were denied pre-booking. Then I heard someone mention Geneva. GENEVA!

This flight was heading to Geneva, not Edinburgh. I’ve always wanted to go to Geneva, but not that day.

The dispatcher had to call our Edinburgh flight to tell them to wait for us and we had to race halfway across the airport to make it. To make matters worse our seats were almost at the back of the plane, so I think my elbows hit almost every passengers on the way past.

The flight left eventually, bear in mind very late, but at least it left with us. We got to Edinburgh five hours later than expected.

Read more: Tips for Travelling To New York City At Christmas In A Wheelchair

4. North Sea: Vulnerability In The Middle Of The Ocean

I went on a trip to Lerwick, Shetland with my Mum and some of the guys from Euan’s Guide Ambassador Network in October. Since the trip involved travelling by ferry, Allan opted out of being my companion for the weekend as he suffers from terrible sea sickness.

My mum who has been on a few cruises and has good sea legs offered to come along with me instead. Perfect! Well, that’s what we thought until we set sail during Storm Brian.

Shortly after departure, we began to feel the ferry rock back and forth. Then my mum began to be really sick the rest of the night. It wasn’t until we were returning home the following day that it got worse and more intense. It got so bad that my Mum was unable to stand up and was constantly being sick.

NorthLink Ferry sailing.This was an awful situation for both of us. My mum was feeling awful that she physically couldn’t help me. As much as she desperately wanted to, she was completely unable to stand. It wasn’t until I was in this situation that I realise how much I rely on people to care for me.

It made me realise how vulnerable I can be and that’s not a nice feeling. I felt terrible seeing my mum suffering, knowing I couldn’t physically do anything to help, all while she was trying to take me to the toilet. Something that usually takes 10 minutes took four hours because she couldn’t stand without being sick.

The boat was rocking so much that we planned on using the ceiling track hoist in our cabin. The hoist was going to help me to the toilet and into bed, but it didn’t work.

We were given another hoist to try, but that didn’t work either so we had no other option, but to struggle on. It was definitely a challenge those two nights, but we got through it in the end.

Read more: NorthLink Ferries: Crossing The North Sea In A Wheelchair Accessible Cabin

5. Newcastle: Good Nights Sleep (Not) Guaranteed

We stayed at a Premier Inn close to the venue we were attending for a gig in Newcastle. We had a lovely dinner, the room was a good size, everything was working out well.

If you’re familiar with Premier Inn, their motto is a good night’s sleep guarantee. Just as we began to fall asleep we heard a chap at our door. It was the hotel manager asking if we were okay because the emergency cord from our room had been pulled.

Confused we shouted out that everything was fine and that we didn’t touch the cord. We went back to sleep, but a short while later the manager returned claiming it had been set off again. Again we let him know we didn’t touch it as we were sleeping.

Angel of the North, Newcastle

On his 8th visit to our room, he insisted we open the door. With his eyes half shut and exhausted from being disturbed all night, Allan reluctantly opened the door and let him in. The manager then inspected the pull cord while I hid under the duvet.

The alarm went off numerous times throughout the night and morning. There was clearly a fault with the emergency cord and we definitely didn’t have a good nights sleep.

I think the manager thought we were lying and deliberating setting the alarm off. Why would we do that? We like our sleep too much to be staying up all night pulling an emergency cord.

My Top 5 Worst And Scariest Accessible Travel Moments

Although these were some of my worst and scariest accessible travel moments, it has not stopped and will not stop us from travelling. It is all experiences whether good or bad and it allows us to learn from them.

My family have learnt to expect a story or two when we return from our travels, but that’s also what makes it interesting.

It’s always important to remain as safe and vigilant as possible when in a new place. Stay safe and happy travels.

What were some of your worst and scariest accessible travel moments? Let me know in the comments below.

Watch Our HORROR Travel Stories

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5 Best Wheelchair Accessible Beaches in the UK
How to Feel Confident in a Wheelchair
Linlithgow Loch, A Wheelchair Accessible Walk in West Lothian, Scotland

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Meet Emma

Hello I’m Emma. My mission is to show you the possibilities of accessible travel through my travel guides, tips and reviews. I also share personal stories, live event reviews and more.

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8 Responses

  1. Hi. We also have terrible memories of Las Vegas Airport. We had booked special assistance and were met at the aircraft, with the right chairs(!) but when we went to the toilets, desparately needed, they disappeared and we ended up, 2 wheelchair users, pushing two huge cases through LV Airport.

  2. I’ve only been in a wheelchair for two years and cannot imagine traveling my old stomping grounds of Laos and Cambodia. Have has two good trips to Amsterdam the only problem being the lack of accessible toilets in the old cafes. Went on a photographic trip to Gran Canaria where the organizer had the right transport but the accommodation was almost inaccessible and once inside was unsuitable .I landed up in a normal room in a very very expensive hotel. Am off to Berlin in May so will see what that’s like. So fr Travelodge Premier Inns and IBIS have been my standby hotels. Biggest annoyance hotel booking websites with no ‘Disabled Access’ filters in the option list

    1. Exactly my bug burr too, it can take so long to get info from hotels I’ve gone off the idea! Like you Premier Inn is my go to staple in the UK but the Marriott chain (can be expensive) also have info on the website about adapted rooms and you can book one on-line but I always double check with the hotel directly that I have an adapted room booked.

  3. I hate travelling, I find it exhausting and stressfu. I often fly to Bristol from Inverness and, like you, I always watch to make sure my mobility scooter gets put on board. On one occasion, the handlers came on board and asked to speak to the person with the mobility scooter. They came over and asked me if I definitely needed the scooter as they were running out of room in the hold!

    1. Thanks for your comment Karen! Why on earth would the handlers think it was acceptable to come onboard and ask if you needed your scooter at the other end. Absolutely ridiculous isn’t it? They wouldn’t have asked other passengers if they definitely needed their luggage.

  4. Going across the tarmac at some speed in an ambi-lift at Tenerife airport the brakes suddenly came on tipping everyone out of their chairs onto the floor. Thankfully I was unhurt but for bruises, but as we had another trip planned with the same company I contacted them asking that they put procedures in place to stop it happening again. Thompson (Tui) messed about for months saying they were dealing with it but did nothing, so I asked for a refund of my deposit (I wasn’t after compensation). They then said the incident never happened as an airbridge had been used for that flight & the deposit was non-refundable. Needless to say I have never used Tui again!
    The ‘straw that broke the camels back’ and stopped me wanting to fly was the assistance at Heathrow, we had over 2 hours to get our connection but it took them so long to get me off the plane our next flight was boarding when we got to the gate. They complained about having to transfer me to another terminal & when their boss called them to see what the problem was she said ‘the lady is too fat’!They had been so incompetent that the crew on the first flight arranged for us to be upgraded and the BA crew really looked after us. On our return via Amsterdam when no assistance turned up the Captain & First Officer had to help me off & Richard had to run through the airport pushing me for us to be ‘the last two remaining passengers’. We neaded a holiday by the time we got home and decided enough is enough. We have always travelled and will continue but the joys of being retired means we have time and can now take the train or sail, QM2 to New York planned for 2020.

    1. Oh no Glynis…you’ve had your fair share of scary and awful travel moments too. I’m so glad you weren’t badly hurt when the ambu-lift suddenly stopped. That could have ended up a lot worse. I think I will always make sure they put the belts on my chair from now on. So dangerous.

      I also disliked the assistance at Heathrow and it put me off flying for a little while. I said I would never go to Heathrow again and I hope I never need to.

      Sailing on the QM2 to New York sounds absolutely lovely. You’ll have a fantastic time I’m sure. Please let me know how it all goes as I’d love to hear all about it 🙂

  5. My exact thoughts on Heathrow, we had chosen to go with KLM via Amsterdam but at check-in they bumped us over to BA as ‘KLM don’t carry wheelchair users when there is a storm forecast’!
    As I mentioned we are retired now, but we have been lucky to do a lot of travelling in our younger days, both before & after I needed assistance, so my advice is if you love the thrill of travelling do it. Yes things will go wrong but they do for everyone able bodied or not, as long as you enjoy keep on going, we no longer enjoy flying but it isn’t stopping us travelling.

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