Jim's Wheelchair Traveler Tips & Information
I've been fortunate to have traveled to many corners of the globe. Although planning comes to me fairly easily, traveling in a wheelchair necessitates becoming an even better planner. Experience has taught me many lessons. I've been to hotels where the wheelchair could not fit through doors or into an elevator, and visited too many restaurants without an accessible restroom. While traveling, I've had wheels, axles, the wheelchair frame and footrests break or fall off. And getting into a taxi or renting a car was far easier 30 years ago when vehicles were considerably larger.
Today I plan my hotel and restaurant reservations with great care, calling and emailing and following up well in advance. It is now possible to arrange almost everything including taxis and van rentals across the globe in advance. Every location can be put on speed dial before departure. It's also nice to know the location of the local wheelchair repair shop and have access to medical supplies when and where needed. We have attempted our best to provide you with some helpful hints throughout our website including some local contacts below that you might find helpful.
New Zealand Tours and Guides:
i-SITE VISITOR CENTER: I found that in each city, town or village in New Zealand there was an i-SITE VISITOR CENTER. Each town operates independently but they were extremely helpful in arranging tours and transportation and provided free maps. Visit Website
Shore Trips and Tours: When cruising New Zealand, Shore Trips and Tours provides private tours for multiple ports and is competitively priced with many onboard excursions. Shore Trips and Tours does not offer accessible vans or cars but does provide private tours which we used on our Princess New Zealand cruise. We used "Penny" at the Tauranga Port for our Rotorua day tour; Penny was knowledgeable and delightful; She provided a new Chrysler 300 which worked well for my wheelchair and my transfers into the front passenger side seat. Penny is highly recommended. Visit Website
Tours by Locals: We used them extensively in South America, and I suspect they operate throughout New Zealand. They did not offer accessible vans or vehicles in South America, but they were reliable and I highly recommend them. I prefer Tours by Locals over their competitor Viator Tours.
Cruise Notes: Most cruise lines do not provide many wheelchair accessible excursions, and several ports do not even have accessible transportation. Consider using the 2 tour companies above and visit the i-SITE VISITOR CENTERS.
Taxi Notes: In New Zealand, with the exception of Dunedin, I found many taxis but no wheelchair accessible taxis in any city including Auckland.
Booking your Hotel Room
Booking a hotel room online is convenient, but more often than not it results in arriving to the hotel only to find out they did not properly reserve an accessible room, or even worse - they have no accessible rooms in the hotel. Before booking a hotel room, we recommend reviewing our list of certified New Zealand hotels. And please remember international hotels typically offer fewer wheelchair accessible rooms and do not use the term ADA, so book your room well in advance and request a room that is wheelchair accessible with a bathroom that is accessible for a wheelchair. When booking a hotel room, WCJ highly recommends the following:
- Call the hotel directly and "block" your wheelchair accessible room for the desired dates of travel.
- Have the hotel email or fax you a confirmation, noting the accessible room and bring this with you at check-in.
- Call the hotel directly 24-48 hours in advance of your arrival to re-confirm your wheelchair accessible room.
When calling the nationwide reservations call center for many hotel chains, they do not have the ability to "block" wheelchair accessible rooms with individual hotel properties. We recommended to call the hotel directly, and speak to the front desk to properly reserve and block your accessible guestroom.
Pack You Airlines Bags Carefully
Wheelchair passengers are always last to exit the plane, sometimes 30 minutes or more after all other passengers have departed. Since I'm generally the last person to the luggage carousel, I'm always concerned someone will steal my bags (yes, this has happened). As a result, I always pack a special carry on bag with anything I might need for 2 days if my luggage is lost or stolen. This includes critical medical supplies and medications, an extra seat cushion cover, lightweight wheelchair repair tools, handy wipes and plastic bags.
I always bring large black plastic bags to collect my detachable wheelchair parts at the end of the jet way. These should be placed in the over head luggage rack, not in the cargo area.
You should also know that the Air Carrier Access Act mandates that fold up wheelchairs have priority for on-board storage if a closet is available. Keep your wheelchair on-board if possible. Demand your rights!