Chris is a passionate traveler and explorer. He grew up exploring and traveling around his native Australia and now he travels to various destinations every year with his wife and children. Chris has used a wheelchair for about 50 years. He is a business advisor, a Paralympic athlete in various sports, and an avid skier and hand-cyclist. He and his wife traveled with Wheel the World to Torres del Paine in Patagonia in 2018. We talked to Chris about all things travel and he offered us his 4 top tips for accessible travel.
1. Always plan ahead
“I’ve put together a spreadsheet that links all my bookings and makes sure I don’t have any gaps.I’ve got friends who will quite happily fly to any city in the world and wing it. But I can’t. I need a hotel room that’s accessible, I want to make sure it’s the right hotel at the right price and in the right location. I don’t want to have to catch a tram or vehicle to get to where I want to go. So I book it a long time ahead and make sure everything is in order.
I go as far as 6-9 months ahead. I’ll show you how I do it. I like driving when I travel and I have two absolutely fantastic references. I like to use National Geographic’s guide to scenic highways and byways for driving in the United States. You can link all the drives together and create a fantastic drive, and the US is one of the most amazing places to take photographs.
Similarly, I also like the book Back Roads Italy from the Back Roads Series. It also gives you lots of drives in Italy that you can connect together. That’s how I plan it all, and I book everything. I book the car, the hotels, I work out how far between each city, and I do it well in advance, and that way I really look forward to it.”
2. Book your trip early
“Book it early. That way you are guaranteed that the accessible room is available, you get the best value on flights and accommodations, and you get the places you want. You can potentially use frequent flyer points if you want to and you get to enjoy it earlier.
If you’re booking accommodation through a common booking website, you can’t always choose an accessible place. They usually have a filter that allows you to search for an accessible room, but if you want to be sure, contact the hotel.”
Or if you’re traveling to one of the accessible destinations we offer at Wheel the World, contact our team here and we will help you find an accommodation to fit your accessibility needs.
3. Be smart about how you travel
“You need to be smart about how you travel, solo travel can be a lot of fun but it’s hard when things go wrong. I was in Germany, my wife was doing a walking tour in France and I thought, ‘I’ll go to Germany by myself.’ My wife had done this boat cruise on the river, just an hour or two and I thought I’d do it. I tried to catch the train there but I caught it on the wrong side of the platform because I don’t speak German and I headed the wrong direction and ended up in the middle of nowhere.
The only way to the other side of the platform was down a flight of stairs. I can get down stairs, but I can’t get up. So I’m underground, there’s nobody around, the only thing I could do was get out of my chair and hold my wheelchair behind me. I managed to do it, but I wouldn’t want to do it again. Solo travel can be a bit tricky. Another tip for smart traveling, I use Tripadvisor to choose restaurants. You can sort by rating, avoid all the ads and get some good value, interesting restaurants.”
4. Pack Smart
“I created a list a long time ago of the things I needed to take because there are certain things I can’t be without. If I run out of certain things, whether it’s spare parts or medicine or tools, I could be in a bit of trouble. I have a backpack where I carry some basic tools like tape, and if you’ve got a backpack, think of things you might need should your luggage get lost.
There’ve been a few times where we’ve landed somewhere and we hadn’t received our luggage and we were stuck. Make sure you’ve got things you need like underwear, toothpaste, medicine, phone chargers – anything you might need, maybe even something to access Netflix. Whatever it is, being smart about what and how you pack makes a big difference.”
Chris lives his life exploring without limits, his favorite destination is always the next one. To learn more about the trip he took to Patagonia, click here. And to catch a glimpse of his trip and for more of the conversation on travel, check out the documentary below!