Well I’m not flying, so don’t be expecting any tips on accessible flights. I haven’t flown since I was a child. A combination of reasons really. The fear of loosing my wheelchair or arriving to find it smashed up, the discomfort of sitting in an unsupportive aeroplane seat, flying with a wheelchair isn’t always smooth sailing. Don’t let me put you off though, plenty of wheelers do it all the time. Hopefully one day it may become more accessible for my needs and I’ll give it a go again! For this trip I’ll be using Eurostar, but we will come to that soon.
Booking a holiday accessible to me isn’t as easy as just clicking a button like it is for many. Finding the best online deal and pressing book isn’t how it works. It involves much more planning than that. I’m fortunate enough to have been to Disneyland Paris a few times now (yes I love it!) and have found the best way for me. I’ve (well not me) driven all the way from door to door via the tunnel. I’ve driven, parked up, and taken the Eurostar straight to Disneyland, and this is the way we chose to travel this time.
Although the quickest and easiest way to travel, this does work out the most expensive. For myself anyway. You see there is only one (stay-seated-in) wheelchair space on the Disney Eurostar, and that train goes once daily. As you can imagine these often book up quickly! If I book my accessible hotel room and then go to book the travel this wheelchair space could be gone. Vice versa. So I have to book a package, via a travel agent, with Disneyland. The most expensive way to book a holiday.
Another added expense due to my disability is hiring equipment. I’ve only done this once before on my trip to Center Parcs. That went smoothly, but Center Parcs is just down the road.
I debated for a while on whether I’d actually need a hoist, I use one at home but am generally used to being thrown around and lifted when away. I’m getting a little more fragile with age though, my joints aren’t what they used to be. It’s also not great on the thrower and their back either.
So I decided to hire a hoist. I asked the travel agent and they enquired direct with Disney, who gave them the contact details of a hire company they recommend. Long story short they only spoke French, emails happened but they never got back to the travel agent with confirmation and she never got back to me. I’m sure she could have tried harder.
So as the saying goes, if you want something done properly do it yourself. I posted on an accessible travel Facebook group asking if anybody in my situation had done this before. What a great invention Facebook is, sometimes. I was suggested a company/agent called Mobility Equipment Hire Direct, they hire hoists and various other equipment out all over the world. From Malta to Mexico. I gave their website a little peruse.
You could book online, give them an email, or phone one of two numbers apparently based on London and Glasgow. As I’d decided to do this just 6 days before I arrived in Paris (very unlike me) I thought it best to phone. They were super friendly and helpful, I would have a hoist delivered to my hotel ready for when I arrive. All for the sum of £169.75.
I am not a girl that travels lightly. Maybe in a different life I would be, I’m not bothered about heels, make up, or having 27 tops to choose from on an evening. I’m fairly practical (well I think so anyway). What takes up much of my suitcase is the essentials that come with my disability. Wheelchair charger (because that would be a disaster!), bipap (overnight ventilator), tubes, syringes, medication, sling, etc, etc. Oh also I always pack extension leads! We all know there are never enough plug sockets in a hotel room and they are never in practical places, especially if like me you have multiple things to plug in overnight and need to be within reasonable distance of electricity to plug your breathing machine into!
For this trip I also decided to purchase (£20 in Argos) and take an inflatable camping mattress. I have trouble sleeping and frequently get uncomfortable during the night. At home I use a pressure relief air mattress, the kind you see in hospitals. So I figured this would be similar. Although not on the same level, it would provide some comfort. (You’ll here how that went soon!).
This isn’t just mine, it’s for 6 of us!
Seeing 3am is only worth it when going on holiday. I’ve got to the age (if not physically then mentally!) that I don’t even see 3am from the night before anymore. I like sleep.
I am not a person that likes to rush. I am also not a person that likes to be late. Our aim of loading the car with luggage, children and myself by 5.30am to be on the road well before 6am. I needed two cups of tea just at the thought of it!
I need time in the mornings, and I need tea. I do not get up and go.
There was a little detour due to roadworks (when isn’t there?!) but we arrived at Ashford International Train Station car park in good time.
Parking on level 5 in the spacious multi-storey, where the Blue Badge spaces are, means that no lift is required to reach the check in. There’s a walk through sky-tunnel/bridge that leads straight into the station.
After getting through passport control there is enough time to chill with a brew before being called to the platform.
As I said above there is only one wheelchair space on the Disney Eurostar, this happens to be in Business/First Class. I’m assuming that’s because I need a fair bit of space to park my wheels. I get mine and a companion ticket at a reduced cost, the equivalent of what it would cost for me to travel in the regular carriages. Travelling First Class means a lovely helpful assistant checking on me, and complimentary breakfast. Who am I to complain!
Mum and I enjoy this while the rest of our tribe are a few carriages away in the cheap seats.
Boarding the train is a breeze. An assistant arrives, foldable and wheel-able ramp in hand. I wheel on and we are shown to our seats. A button is pointed out to me ‘if you need anything just press this’.
The journey is a little bumpy but not terribly so. Within two hours we have arrived at Disneyland!
Before the train even stops my helpful man arrives, removes my table and ushers me to the exit. I am first off the train, the access ramp waiting for me to depart. Excellent service!
We head straight to the lift and up to Disney Express to drop off our cases.
Disney Express is a handy service that you can book direct with Disney or via your travel agent. For a small charge you can drop off your luggage at the station when you depart the train and it will get taken to your hotel for you. This is great if you have lots to carry or struggle to carry things long distance. It’s also brilliant if you’re impatient like us and want to head straight for the Disneyland magic, worrying about checking in and unpacking later!
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