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Summer Nights

Since everything happened, I have realised how much more effort goes into planning holidays and days out. This blog is based on everything I've learned.

When you start thinking about a holiday, consider the destination; you need to find somewhere that is suitable for you and that is still fun. If you have mainly been affected physically by your TBI, an active holiday will probably not work. With my mobility problems, I don't want to go somewhere that involves too much walking, especially on challenging terrain. It will be our 10th wedding anniversary later this year. I was thinking of holidays to celebrate it and how far my recovery has come. I've always thought a cruise around South America would be fun. However, when I looked at the daily excursions on some company's itineraries, my limitations would impact quite a bit on which ones I could do. Missing out on a trip to the rainforest with an aerial tram tour would be very disappointing.

Regarding accommodation, I can't recommend highly enough that you call the places you're interested in and don't rely purely on websites. Hotels can vary as to what "accessible" means. I have stayed in areas with a ground floor room, a bathroom with a walk-in shower (with a step-up into it) and two with a proper wet room, shower, shower seat, grab rails and grab rails on the loo. If you choose a travel agent, I still recommend calling the property booked to clarify that they have been told about your specific needs. For self-catering properties, there are specialist websites such as Accessible. If you find a property via Airbnb or similar companies, there are sometimes floorplans and notes on the property when you look at the website. Once again, everything varies depending on an individual's specific needs, and it's worth making phone calls to clarify precisely what property is your best option. If you are booking any transport, such as airplane tickets, ferry/cruise tickets, airport transfers (shuttles),  or a hire car, especially one requires something that needs extra adaptions (space for larger items like a wheelchair). It's worth looking into your different options.

Once you have confirmed your holiday plans and everything is booked, it is a good idea to contact the place you're staying at again and any transport company to check that they are 100% aware of your needs. This can include accessibility features in your room and dietary needs, and it's worth asking about accessibility in public areas of a hotel (such as a restaurant). If the hotel has a pool, ask about access to it, as some may have special access methods for disabled guests. Again, for transport, clarify everything, even when it's booked. This means airport transfers, airport assistance, the assistance provided on a cruise ship or ferry, and any hire car. You need to confirm that the company will assign you a car specific to your requirements. Forewarning: airports are notoriously slow or may fail to bring a mobility aid at all, so allow plenty of time.

If your holiday is abroad and you take medication, it's worth checking for restrictions for the country you are visiting. It can be helpful to see if they require paperwork when you reach customs. Paperwork is useful should you need emergency refills locally where you're staying. My medical history is pretty complicated, so I bring paperwork about it as well as a list of medications I take. This is a good idea should I fall ill abroad. Regardless of where you go, bringing plenty of medication with you is the biggest thing. I recommend having a supply in your checked luggage and some in your carry-on. Pack the paperwork in your carry-on luggage (there's always a chance checked bags get lost).

Preparing for a day out, be it on holiday or a one-off day out at the weekend, requires more thought. There are a lot of different elements to consider, such as transport, accessibility of the place you are visiting and things you need to take with you. The type of place you're visiting affects a lot of different things. Historical places can make as many accessible features as logistically possible. For example, a venue such as the Tower of London cannot have all areas 100% accessible for guests with restricted mobility. Theme parks may have some rides that can accommodate a wheelchair, and some require transfer to the ride vehicle or potentially ones that are ambulatory and need assistance from a companion. Take into account the terrain where you're visiting.

Outdoors can be uneven and have inclines. Surfaces like cobblestones can be tough to walk on (especially in bad weather). Some types of indoor flooring are more complicated to walk on than others, and mobility aids may struggle more on some surfaces. Bear in mind any steps. Some places may be able to add ramps or lifts, but due to the type of building, others may not physically be able to do so. The weather plays a big part in planning a day out. It influences clothing, things you need to take with you, and, depending on where you are going, how long you are out.

Any event you are planning, from a dinner out with friends to a long-haul holiday, will require much more thought than before. I have done one holiday abroad since my stroke and have another planned for later this year. I have also had a week away in a cottage in the UK. Both of these made me realise the preparation needed for any time away. Even a day out in London requires more than it used to. You have to factor in public transport (I can no longer use the tube), so I have to think about taxis sitting in traffic. Trains are nearly always delayed, and you need time to access the platform, find a staff member for assistance, and board the train. My mobility is also a lot slower, which also comes into play. Combine all this, and it makes for a much longer, tiring day out! 

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