12 hacks for travelling with a hidden (dis)ability
Have you ever wondered what it’s really like to travel with a disability? Or maybe, like this Contiki traveller, Sophie Veron you have a disability that might not be visible to the naked eye (but is equally challenging). Wherever you are in your life, Sophie has a few tips for you. Here are her 12 hacks that will help get you through travelling if you have a hidden (dis)ability.
- Just do it: Make a list of the pros and cons of going travelling in the first place and trust me when I say the pro list will out way the cons by a long way. And remember, there are ways around most of the persistent cons. Take me for example: I struggle with exhaustion, so I did a modular trip where I was on tour for the first eight days of a bigger trip rather than signing up for a full month on tour. I plan to go back and do the other half one day but this was a manageable way for me to travel.
- Make sure you get enough sleep: Investing in earplugs and an eye mask are my secret weapons of choice.
- Try not to give in to FOMO and remember that missing one night out with the group is better than struggling through the next day exhausted.
- Travel light: Don’t pack a day bag that is filled to the hilt like Mary Poppins, including everything but the kitchen sink and think you’ll be able to carry it around all day. This will get heavy and tiring really quickly so instead, opt for a compact body travel wallet and pack the least amount possible.
- If you’re travelling with Contiki, get to the coach early in the morning so you’re guaranteed the best seats at the front of the coach. Plus, the room sheet usually starts at the front so you’ll also get first pick for sleeping arrangements, which is an added bonus.
- Don’t be afraid to tell fellow Contiki travellers about your conditions. It is much better to be honest and give people the chance to understand. For me, the subject usually comes up because, for medical reasons, I am not allowed to drink alcohol, so naturally, the first question is always ‘are you pregnant?’. I laugh this off and then try and give a brief summary of the real reason. I find being honest with the people surrounding you is the best way forward.
- Stay near the guide when walking in large groups: You will be able to hear about the beautiful city you’re visiting better and feel at ease because you are with someone that knows the area. Crowds can be difficult for people with a brain injury like myself, as there is so much going on. One good tip is to take ear plugs around with you and pop them in if you feel it is becoming a bit much. Just keep an eye on your guide and stay with friends so you don’t get lost.
- Another tip is to just breathe. It always amazes me how the body does it, but as we get stressed and panicky we naturally breathe less, so taking a deep breath in for five seconds and out for 10 is a good way to relax and calm your body down straight away.
- Don’t forget to bring any medications you may need: You don’t want to be caught out in a foreign country without your prescription medications, so always take more than you need away with you to allow for any travel delays. Be sure to divide it between your suitcase and day bag, because this way, if you lose one of your bags, you’ll have a backup.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace: These items have an internationally universal symbol on them so health professionals around the world know it is a medical alert. I have two; one on each arm. They are silicone bracelets that have my name, date of birth, medical conditions and my mum’s phone number so I’m always prepared if something goes wrong. As well as for you, this will give your family members some reassurance that should you end up needing medical care, you have the important information available. These can be purchased online and personalised for you.
- Stay connected: Most places you stay on Contiki trips have WiFi and that’s including on the coach. There really is no excuse to not keep in touch with your family and friends as they will worry about you, without a doubt. It is natural that they want to protect you after what you have been through, so when you get that third message of the day from your mum checking in, take a breath and let her know you are ok.
- Enjoy it: Engage in as many things as you can comfortably manage. Talk to as many different people as you can and remember you have hidden abilities within your disabilities.