One of the most rewarding things about creating Have Wheelchair Will Travel has been receiving messages from our HWWT community. I feel privileged to hear about your travels, to see your holiday photos and it’s always rewarding to know that some of our tips have helped with your travel planning.
I was thrilled to receive an email from Mereana telling me of their accessible New Zealand adventure – complete with the ups and downs which come with a family holiday.
One Family’s Accessible New Zealand Adventure
Let me introduce us. We are a family of four, mum, dad and two boisterous boys aged 8 and 11. Master F is classed as having cerebral palsy as we don’t really fall into any particular basket. He is non-verbal and is dependent on us for all aspects of his day to day life which is challenging at times but it has made us who we are today – a family that is full of love, understanding and sometimes patience.
When our boys came along we took them to Fiji which was easy – they were still little and it was no different to any other family travelling with toddlers. So we went again the following year. Then life happened – Master F started got his first wheelchair, started school, we built a house, Master N started school and before we knew it a few years had passed. I had however found this amazing blog and was completely inspired by the fabulous advice that was being shared by Julie and others. I have grand plans again that I thought would be impossible with my ultimate goal to one day travel to Macchu Pichu with my family but we need to start small so we started planning a trip to New Zealand.
I messaged Julie who was able to get me in touch with some lovely ladies who were based in New Zealand (Accessible Travel Forum New Zealand Facebook group) and they gave some great tips that got me started. I was just a tad obsessive with my planning deliberating over accommodation for hours and hours, checking that everything we were doing was wheelchair friendly and driving people mad in general. Our plan was to fly into Auckland spending time with family and then a road trip from Auckland to Whitianga to Rotorua, Lake Taupo and finally windy Wellington. As an added bonus we had very good friends decide to come with us whose children are of a similar age. The perfect travelling relationship in that they would do their own thing whist we did ours but we would stay at the same hotels and do dinner together each night. We had a fantastic time, my boys were able to learn about their culture, caught up with family and friends that we hadn’t seen in a long time and experienced so much! And they also got to do all of this with mates! Perfect!!!
Unfortunately, all the planning in the world didn’t prepare us for a few hiccups along the way. We had the insanely annoying case of the missing wheelchair when we arrived in Auckland which took over two hours for the airline to find. My first thought was “I should have made the personalised signs for the wheelchair that Julie had blogged about!” but just as we were starting to make plans to hire a chair for our stay it appeared like a miracle before us and we were able to leave the airport.
Our second hurdle was the surprising 24 hour stomach bug that hit both the boys at Lake Taupo. It was like something out of a horror movie. I won’t go into details but whatever you are imagining times it by 10! Thank goodness for our friends who came to the rescue with Hydralyte and Immodium. When I explained to the front desk the following morning what had happened and asked for more cleaning products was when I found out about additional cleaning fees. What?? I can pay you $75 and just walk away??? Done!!! Although it was revolting at the time, it certainly has made for some amusing anecdotes afterwards.
Pack the fears away about travelling and embrace the adventure. Our tips for a great trip are:
- Plan as much as possible – it will pay off when you are on your way
- Expect the unexpected – all the planning in the world does not equal a perfect trip but what is perfect anyway? Perfect is an ideal and doesn’t really exist.
- Use personalized signs on your equipment including pictures – the baggage handlers will with luck read them and be a bit extra careful with your cargo.
- Apply for parking permits before you go. Such a simple thing can make such a big difference.
- Take those extra medications with you – your own personal first aid kit. A little bit of whatever you normally stock and don’t forget to take copies of any prescription medications in case you need to restock or prove that you are allowed to have them. I also got a letter from our GP listing Master F’s medications.
- Be realistic about travel times – allow extra time for everything. Google maps might tell you that from A-B is 120 kms but if its winding roads it may take 3 hours not 2 to get to your destination.
- Enjoy the time with your loved ones – build memories and adventures to hold onto forever.
Thank you HWWT for inspiring us then and continuing to do so as we plan for our next adventure.
I couldn’t agree more with Mereana’s second last point. New Zealand’s roads are rarely straight and therefore extra time should be allowed for journeys. A big thanks for sharing your accessible New Zealand story Mereana.