It’s been three years since Braeden last went on a plane and oh my goodness, he was excited to rejoin the travelling world again when we headed off on an adventure to the Gold Coast last week. Our alarm went off at 4am to allow plenty of time to get ready and arrive at the airport with time to spare. Given news reports recently showed delays, snaking queues of people at check in and a variety of other travel hiccups we wanted to set ourselves up for success.
We found a good deal on parking at the airport, so we drove our own car and this reduced pressure in the morning. As Braeden wheeled through the airport terminal doors he let out a sound of delight that had other passengers looking around. They soon returned a smile when they saw the great big grin on his face.
It was just after 6am when we arrived at check in and the airport was crowded. Airport staff directed us immediately to the priority lane and we were served fairly quickly.
At security we were directed to the assistance line where staff were considerate in giving us space and time to unload our hand luggage. Notice the sunflower symbol on the sign above? This line is also available to those with a hidden disability. The sunflower symbol seems to be used at airports around the world to signify the ability for people with a hidden disability to use this line.
I am annoyed that security staff who do pat downs on wheelchair users are not required to wear masks. There is no way of physically distancing during a pat down and considering a wheelchair user has no choice but to undergo a pat down it seems neglectful not to wear a mask. I guess it is something everyone needs to consider when weighing up the risks of travelling now.
We had plenty of time for plane spotting while waiting for our flight and I found a sign which summed up my packing style, “Going on a trip and need about 5 outfits ………………. I’ve packed 35 just to be safe.” Does anyone else pack clothes and get to their destination and not like anything they’ve packed? I think after I’ve packed Braeden’s gear, I tend to just shove whatever in a bag for myself.
I also felt obliged to take a photo of the cute, and uniquely Australian, assistance animal relief bathroom sign and much to the family’s embarrassment a pic inside too. I love the little fire hydrants they provide.
As is usual for wheelchair users we were first to board the aircraft and took Braeden’s wheelchair to the door of the plane. Braeden then walked with Hubby’s assistance to his seat.
Given the rise in Covid cases in recent weeks and Braeden’s inability to wear a mask we upgraded our seats to Virgin’s Economy X seating.
The seats offer more room and are the three rows directly behind business class. I have no idea if it makes a difference but having additional space around us made me feel more comfortable.
Braeden was enthralled watching all the goings on of flight attendants and fellow passengers. It was all such a novelty to him after such a long absence from flying. I was pleased to hear it would be a quicker than usual flight to the Gold Coast due to a tailwind. The downside of the quick flight was that no tea or coffee would be served. For this tea addict it was a devastating blow.
We arrived at the Gold Coast and despite the great ramp that is available, a cherry picker style lift was brought to the aircraft for Braeden. He chose to stand for the lift down even though he was offered an aisle chair. He delighted in every part of the process.
His wheelchair was waiting for him on the tarmac and we were soon in our hire car. We never travel light but the Hyundai Santa Fe managed to squeeze our luggage and Braeden’s unassembled wheelchair in for the ride to our hotel.
We were being hosted for our stay on the Gold Coast by Accor Hotels and we were staying in two rooms at the Novotel Hotel Surfers Paradise. I didn’t have much time for researching the trip prior to leaving Sydney so I was delighted to find the hotel was so well located. We were just a short wheel/walk from the beach and right in the heart of the shopping district of Cavell Avenue. I will write a full review of the hotel in the coming weeks so keep an eye out for that.
We had four days to explore and managed to squeeze in as much as possible including whale watching, a visit to Sea World, a gondola sunset cruise, some culture at HOTA and sunset at SkyPoint Observation Deck.
On our final day we borrowed a beach wheelchair so we could get the sand between our toes and wander in the shallows of the ocean. A coastal walk at Burleigh Heads finished off a lovely extended weekend break.
Our return flight was smooth and although the Economy X seating was sold out we were allocated seats near the front of the aircraft. Our flight attendant Lauren was delightful and told us she’d worked previously as a disability support worker. Braeden took a real shine to her and it was again a reminder that people make a trip extra special.
Despite Braeden’s wheelchair having a red gate tag attached, which should have alerted baggage handlers to the need to bring the chair to the aircraft, it was taken to the oversized luggage area at the carousel. It was a minor hiccup in what was a fantastic short break but how ridiculously large is the airline wheelchair for Braeden!
The Gold Coast certainly offers activities for all abilities, and you really can choose to be active (yes, that’s Braeden) or relaxed in your approach to soaking up the atmosphere.
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