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Since getting ready to travel should have top priority, Global Access News invites you to check out the following tips and resources. To share your own helpful tip(s),  simply click on the e-mail button at the bottom of the buttons on your left.
Travel Resources
Passports
Choosing an Airline
Choosing a Travel Agent
Booking Hotels
Food
Money & Purchases
Health, Oxygen Dialysis & Taking an Attendant
Taking a Service Dog
Packing
Essential Europe

Travel Resources

Most physically disabled travelers canít easily fly off at the last minute or stay in a stair-ridden youth hostel when they arrive. Planning your trip far in advance is critical, and doing  that planning in stages makes the process manageable.

After choosing a destination, check  our Travel Links, Travel Books, and Travel Archives sections for in-depth info on worldwide destinations. These pages are updated frequently. If you can't find what you need there, hit those Internet search engines like Yahoo where and you'll easily find more disability-related sources on the net than in any imaginable library.

Be sure to visit the Tourism Worldwide Directory at http://www.towd.com/ This directory provides excellent contact information for every country's (and state's) tourist bureau. Write your chosen bureau for advice, maps, brochures and request any available disability resources.

Join the Travable Listserver and network through your e-mail account with other people interested in accessible travel. It's easy (and free) to subscribe and sign off. People from all over the world subscribe to this list, so it provides a great opportunity to chat with people who share a passion for travel. Visit their web site for details at::

Travable Listserver

Start networking online with the following USENET groups:

rec.travel.europe

rec.travel.asia

rec.travel.usa-canada

rec.travel.cruises

Libraries

Many large cities allow people to view entire library catalogs online, which makes it easy to reserve traditional travel books dealing with your chosen destination.  Always check publication dates before you invest in a travel book. Don't discount all those books designed for able-bodied travelers; while one can't usually count on them for accurate access info,  they're still a good source for history, culture, city maps, museum information, etc.

For budget travel, we recommend "The Rough Guides," "Lonely Planet"  and "Arthur Frommer" guidebooks. Of those three, "The Rough Guides" provide the best access tips.

After choosing a destination, make lists of what you'd like to see and do at, how long those activities would take you to do them, what it would cost, and what nearby attractions are available. Ferreting out what's accessible comes later. For now, dream.

Worldwide Travel Offices

Travelers planning to visit U.S. cities should request information from the various cities' Chambers of Commerce or Visitor Information Center.

Request access information, city maps and brochures describing places and activities of interest you. Be sure to ask if they have any access info or can refer you to any disability organizations in that city.

Your most reliable access information will often come from those disability organizations and the networking you do through them. When writing an overseas disability organization, be sure to enclose International Reply Coupons (available from the post office). Overseas postage is expensive, and youíre more likely to receive a response if you foot the bill.

Travel Newsletters Published by Disabled People

The best sources of accessible travel information are (not surprisingly) published by disabled people, who invariably provide the most reliable data..

Mobility International, P.O. Box 10767, Eugene, OR 97440, Phone: (541) 343-1284. One of the true pioneers for disabled travelers, Mobility International offers a wonderful quarterly newsletter, "Over the Rainbow" ($15 per year). It details worldwide travel resources and opportunities for disabled people.

The Very Special Traveler, P.O. Box 756, New Windsor, MD 21776. Phone: (410) 635-2881.
E-mail: tbster@aol.com
Beverly Nelson's quarterly newsletter shares personal insights from her many trips while listing the latest in resources.

Access for Disabled Americans, 436 14th Street #200, Oakland, CA 94612. 
Phone: (510) 419-0768, e-mail: PSmither@aol.com
Probably the best source, for U.S. accessible travel, this quarterly newsletter tunes the reader into a full range of  travel opportunities. Subscription is by donation.

SATH (Society for the Advancement of Travel for the Handicapped)347 Fifth Ave., Ste. 610, New York, NY 10016. 
Phone: (212) 447-7284. 
E-mail: sathtravel@aol.com
www.sath.org 

While SATH's Open World publication doesn't provide the disabled traveler's  hands-on approach of the other newsletters, this quarterly newsletter can offer some resources from the viewpoint of travel agents--especially if pricey group tours are in your budget.

Additional Travel Resources

Travel Videos are another great resource for general destination knowledge. Check with  your local library for rentals.

The National Clearinghouse on Disability & Exchange (NCDE), a project managed by Mobility International USA (MIUSA) and sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State, provides free information and referral to individuals with disabilities interested in participating in international study, work, volunteer or research programs overseas and also advises exchange programs on how to accommodate participants with disabilities. Visit the NCDE website at www.miusa.org

For information on NCDE's publications and services, or contact the staff at
MIUSA, PO Box 10767, Eugene, OR 97440
(541) 343-1284 (v/tty), (541) 343-6812 (fax),

clearinghouse@miusa.org

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Planning for the perfect Orlando Vacation? Best of Orlando offers the best selection of Orlando Theme-Parks, Attractions and Tours

Passports

Many overseas destinations require a passport to visit. If you don't already have one, visit your local U.S. post office or government office for an application. Processing may take a month or longer--especially during the summer. They'll need proof of citizenship and a certified copy of your birth certificate, including the registrar's seal. You must enclose two identical 2"x 2" inch photos of yourself. First time applicants over 18 pay $65 for a 10-year passport. If you have an expired U.S. passport, issued no more than 12 years ago, you may apply by mail. Send your old passport, new photos, and DSP-82 renewal form. The cost is $55. Allow 3-4 weeks for its arrival.

Choosing an Airline

Since this is one of the most costly items on your budget, check the online rates and/or call the major airlines and compare prices. Most large carriers have toll-free numbers. Ferret out that lowest fare before you visit a travel agency as agents often promote one airline over another and that may cost you considerably more.

When calling the airlines, research their attitude toward disabled travelers. What are their policies for helping you board, storing a wheelchair, batteries or providing oxygen? Do they provide special dietary meals for diabetics, etc. Ask, ask, ask, and take notes. Check our Travel Archives section for disabled travelers' input. 

Choosing a carrier that expresses disability awareness and concern for your comfort makes a big difference. Letís face it, flying non-stop for six or more hours is not exactly a joy ride without an accessible bathroom. United Airlines is now offering accessible bathrooms on their 777 model  overseas flights, these large attendant-friendly bathrooms are not available on domestic flights. Weíre all still awaiting that day when there will be truly accessible bathrooms will be available on all carriers.

When booking your flight, remember that point-to-point airfares are always cheaper than ďopen-jawĒ fares, but open-jaw fares provide more flexibility. For instance, a point-to-point round-trip fare to London will always be cheaper (by at least two hundred dollars) than a ticket that takes you into London, but allows you to return home from another city (like Amsterdam). If you're traveling in Europe, you may find open-jaw fares are well worth the extra money if you donít have to spend time backtracking in order to catch your flight home.

If you're a U.S. disabled citizen and do have a negative experience with an airline, remember that you do have rights, thanks to the Air Carriers Access Act. That 1985 law guarantees disabled fliers equal treatment.

Click here to familiarize yourself with the Air Carrier Access Act.

In 2003, the DOT issued almost $5.8 million in fines against 11 airlines for violations of this act. Fines were recently increased from $10,000 to $25,000 per incident. As of 2004, DOT requires U.S. airlines to file an annual report of the complaints they received from disabled fliers.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) now has toll-free phones where disabled air travelers can file complaints. Call (800) 778-4838 (voice) or (800) 455-9880 (TTY).

The U.S. Department of Transportation provides a thorough description of your consumer rights at New Horizons: Information for the Air Traveler with a Disability

On August 2, 1999, DOT gave wheelchair travelers reason to celebrate: They  finally removed the $2,500 compensation cap for damages to wheelchairs that airlines are required to pay.  By doing so, they acknowledged that $2,500 was an insufficient amount to cover repairs to many power chairs.

In the fall of 1999, DOT started issuing the tallies of access complaints for each airline carrier. Such reports should give disabled consumers a "heads up" as to which carrier to book with. To obtain copies of the monthly tallies, call (202) 366-2200. www.dot.gov/airconsumer

Snail mail:

Aviation Consumer Protection Division
Dept. of Transportation
Room 4107, C-76
Washington, D.C. 20590

The 9/11 Disaster has made the airport screening process challenging for disabled people. However, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently announced that its new Persons with Disabilities Program will provide disabled travelers with a more secure and dignified manner for screening at the airport.

Sandra Cammaroto developed the Screening of Persons with Disabilities Program.  Before TSA, there were no specific or consistent procedures to screen persons with disabilities. The program was designed to train TSA screeners how to screen consistently, safely, and with sensitivity to individual needs.   

Cammaroto focused the program on passengers whose disabilities fall into four categories - mobility, visual, hearing, and hidden.  'Mobility' refers to limitation of body movement, and involves people using wheelchairs, scooters, crutches, canes, etc. 'Hearing' includes persons who are deaf or have a hearing loss.  'Visual' includes persons who are blind or have limited (low) vision.  And, 'Hidden' refers to persons who have heart and lung conditions, diabetes, brain injuries, etc., and may be using devices such as a pacemaker, insulin pumps, or other devices.

TSA plans to publish travel tips on its website, so disabled travelers can learn what to expect at security checkpoints.  To learn how to make your airport screening procedure move smoothly, visit the TSA site at http://129.33.119.130/public/display?theme=1
Click on "Travelers & Consumers," then click on "Persons with Disabilities & Medical Conditions."

For a list of prohibited items that cannot be brought aboard in carry-on luggage, visit http://www.tsa.gov/public/
Under "Travel Tips" click on the phrase "A MUST read for anyone traveling by air."

Choosing a Travel Agent

If you'd rather have someone else figure out the best airfare and schedules for you, then pick a travel agent, but choose one carefully. First, ask your disabled friends for referrals. Getting a good recommendation could help you avoid novice agents and/or those who know zip about travel requirements for disabled people. Visit at least two of the agencies and interview the agents about their knowledge of your chosen destination(s). Veteran agents are more likely to remember a hotel with an elevator or recall a museum's access. You'll be able to quickly determine if the agent has a greater interest in your wallet than your access needs. Not that you can totally rely on them for accurate access help. They're there to book planes and tickets, not measure bathroom doors. Any hotel listings they do provide will most likely be in the four to five-star price range.

Booking Hotels

Few things can prove more disappointing or challenging for a disabled traveler than discovering that an allegedly accessible hotel room is anything but. Unfortunately, all too few lodgings have any real idea of what accessibility means, and while the United States is, no doubt, the leader in the access movement, the ADA (American with Disabilities Act) does still not guarantee that transportation and lodgings will adhere its requirements. Since businesses often claim that the law is vague, the interpretation of the ADA is constantly being  interpreted in court.

While such vague interpretations of access exist, a disabled traveler must act assertively to locate suitable lodgings. Here is a short list of helpful hints that will maximize your chances of booking a suitable room.

1. Be wary of calling the 800 numbers for the hotel/motel chains.  The phone reservationists who work these lines aren't often located anywhere near the hotel you're calling about, and they rarely have a clue about a room's accessibility. Call the hotel's direct number (which you can get from the 800 line)  and ask to speak to the manager, who should be able to provide you with access info. Be specific about your requirements. How wide are the doors? Does the bathroom have a roll-in shower and grab bars? What about a handheld shower spray? No one knows your traveling needs better than you, so if you need a shower chair or TDD, it's up to you to ascertain if the hotel actually has  them. 

Since hotels require a credit card to hold your room, be certain of your dates when making a reservation as cancellations can be costly. If you cancel, the hotel may keep all or part of the cost of your room. Every reservation should be confirmed in writing through a letter or FAX. If you're traveling overseas, send your message with the international wheelchair symbol on it to remind the hotel that a disabled person is heading their way. 

Want to lodge a complaint against a hotel or other facility governed under the ADA? Call the Department of Transportation at (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800)514-0383 (TDD).

The U.S. and many European nations demonstrate the most concern for access issues. The high-speed trains of Europe (specifically Britain, France) even provide accessible bathrooms aboard.

Buses

Greyhound Buses, serving the U.S., now guarantee lift-equipped bus service between any of the 2,600 destinations it serves as long as disabled passengers provide them with a 48-hour notice.

Health, Oxygen, Dialysis & Taking an Attendant

Traveling can be a tiring experience even if you're in the best of health. If you require medication, take extra bottles along and a written prescription from your doctor.

If you are planning to visit a developing country or one where there is a threat of contagious disease, visit either the Center for Disease Control or Medicine Planet on the Internet to learn if there are any health advisories for your destination.

For a list of English speaking physicians throughout the world (125 countries), who will visit your hotel, write the International Association for for Medical assistance for Travelers at 417 Center St., Lewiston, NY 14092. Phone: (716) 754-4883. 

An increasing number of travelers need oxygen as a necessity. Air travel presents special circumstances as each airline has different policies regarding use of oxygen. One of the best web sites we've seen that deals with this topic is Breathin' Easy --A Guide for Travelers with Pulmonary Disabilities.

The Oxygen Traveler at 937-848-7100 Fax: 937-848-7949 or e-mail: oxygen0202@aol.com

Check out Ed Long's breathtaking tale of traveling with oxygen: "The Breathless Traveler" in our Travel Archives section.

Dialysis

The following groups focus on dialysis for travelers:

Loretta Powell
Dialysis at Sea
611 Barry Place
Indian Rocks Beach, FL 34635
Phone: 800-544-7604
They cruise: Alaska, Mississippi, Near/Far East, Africa, Russia, Panama Canal, Bermuda, Caribbean, Canada and New England. Most ships are wheelchair accessible.
>

Linda Byers McGrath
Journeys on Dialysis
65 East India Row #22G
Boston, MA 02110
Phone: 800-622-0446

For dialysis at resorts in Europe, Asia, etc. call:

Spa & Dialysis Travel
12 Colbert Rd.
Newton, MA 02165
Phone: 800-972-6020

Cruise Planners
800-801-9002

e-mail: love2cruise@msn.com

While Global Access News does not endorse any of the following organizations, we wanted to list them as possible sources for your consideration.

Medic Alert offers an identity bracelet or necklace containing your medical history. In case of an emergency, your medical history is available 24 hours a day to physicians throughout the world. This may be ordered from: Medic Alert Foundation International, P.O. Box 1009, Turlock, CA 95381-1009. The bracelet has a one-time fee.
http://www.medicalert.org/(onqhwizerltx0cf0xp1tzu45)/home/Homegradient.aspx

Travel Assistance International offers overseas medical insurance. For further information contact: Travel Assistance International, Europe Assistance Worldwide Services, Inc., 1333 F Street, N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20004, Phone: (202)347-2025 or (800) 821-2828.

Taking along an able-bodied friend or attendant will make your trip go a lot smoother, especially if you plan to use a lot of rental cars and hand controls arenít available. If your disability requires a lot of personal care, donít travel with anyone who is not familiar with your needs.

If you need to hire a travel helper, here are some sources for your consideration:

Accessible Journeys, 35 West Sellers Avenue, Ridley Park, PA 19078, USA, Phone: 800-846-4537, FAX:610-521-6959, e-mail: sales@disabilitytravel.com
. hey operate tours exclusively for slow walkers, wheelchair travelers, their friends and families and can provide travel companions who are registered nurses.

Travel Companion Exchange, Box 833, Amityville, NY 11701, Phone: (516) 454-0880.

Budgeting for meals demands discipline and setting limits. Travel doesnít have to be expensive, but you can sift right through your budget if you donít economize by buying snacks from vendors, markets and delis instead of dashing for a restaurant meal that costs four times as much.

Money & Purchases

A bank Gold Card can save you a lot of grief by insuring your purchases for 90 days from the date of purchase. Use this for purchasing something like a video camera that you'd use on the trip within that time frame, and enjoy peace of mind knowing it would be replaced if something happened to it.

Gold cards also come in handy for avoiding collision damage waiver (CDW) insurance charges for overseas car rentals. Without a card, CDW can cost an additional $20-$30 per day. If you refuse the rental car company's CDW, and use your Gold Card for this transaction, you can avoid the CDW charges. In addition, your card company will pick up all or part of the bill in case you do have an accident. Check with your individual card company to ascertain their CDW policies.

If you're planning an overseas trip, click on this site to use a handy currency converter.

Currency Converter

At Thomas Cook, exchange U.S. dollars for about $100 currency of each country you plan to visit. Having local currency upon arrival, enables you to skip the long money changing lines at the rail stations. By the way, when you do cash U.S. traveler's checks into local currency, check the commission rate the money changers charge. It can vary a great deal. Railways stations charge more than banks, and banks offer better exchange rates than hotels.

At Thomas Cook, you can also buy traveler's checks in the currency of each country you plan to visit. Hotels accept them as easily as cash.

Be sure to keep a list of the numbered checks you use in a separate place than your checks and keep emergency numbers handy to replace your checks or credit cards in case they're lost or stolen. Some U.S. banks allow customers to withdraw cash from ATM machines in Europe, but each bank's fee varies.

Try to keep souvenir buying to a minimum. After all, whatever you buy you have to either lug around or mail home, which can be costly. Always charge purchases on a Gold credit card that insures all purchases from loss, theft or damage for 90 days.

Road Safety

Visit the Association for Safe International Road Travel to determine the road conditions at your travel destination.

Packing

Traveling disabled takes a great deal of planning. Decide what you need on a daily basis but on a much smaller scale.

If you are ambulatory, try to manage with just one carry-on piece of luggage. If you're a wheelchair traveler, take another one for wheelchair parts, charger, etc., and a wheelchair backpack.

If you do use a wheelchair, take the narrowest one you can find. If you can cope without a motor chair, your luggage will be minimal. If not, you might want to consider a motor add-on device that fits your lightweight chair. Damaco actually makes a motor that attaches to a Quickie frame. It collapses in minutes and fits easily into a car trunk. The detachable motor weighs about 17 pounds and fits into a carry-on case, as does the detachable armrest and joystick. Major chair parts can be on-board with you at all times, and you needn't be concerned about mishandling in the airplane baggage department. Let your batteries travel in the cargo after being boxed and labeled.

New wheelchair batteries may be essential if youíre taking a power chair. The airlines love gel cells. Even so, when packed they can  resemble a suspicious-looking package. Get used to being searched.

Many scooter and wheelchair users have experienced damage to their vehicles from airline mishandling. Haseltine Systems sells protective containers for your vehicle. Phone: (203) 387-0450.

If you're traveling outside the U.S., you'll need a voltage converter if you plan to use electrical appliances or have a power wheelchair.

Consider electrical current. Whether you take a power chair, or any electrical appliances, be aware that electricity abroad varies drastically from the U.S. The U.S. and Canada are 110 volts but many countries use 22o volts , so you'll need adaptor plugs and a transformer.

When buying adapters, plugs and transformers at a travel store in the U.S., be sure you get the right products. They're not easy to get overseas and cost five times as much. For example, Continental Europe's wall sockets need two round pins, while British outlets use three flat prongs on their plugs. Stay alert.

Don't plug your hairdryer or wheelchair into the hotel's razor plugs. Since they only handle 15 watt appliances, you'll blow a fuse, wreck your equipment and get an angry knock on your door from the manager.

If you have questions about converters, first check with your wheelchair manufacturer then when you can describe your wheelchair needs properly, contact the Franzus Company, Dept. B50 Murtha Industrial Park, PO Box 142 Beacon Falls, CT 06403, Tel. (203) 723-6664. They'll send you a free pamphlet describing foreign electricity. Or  check these handy sites:

Walk About Travel Gear

Magellan's

Kropla

Electricity 101

A Universal Charger is now available for wheelchairs and scooters from Soneil. Check it out at their web site: http://soneil.com/

U.S. and Canadian citizens can order it from National Power Chair 
2642 Commerce Blvd. 
Box 118, Mound, MN 55364 
U.S.A. 
Ph. 612-472-1511 Fax. 612-472-1512 
1-800-444-3528 


Other Packing Considerations

Here are some recommended travel essentials.

Extra medications and refill prescriptions.

Spare eyeglasses if you use them.

An inflatable head cushion is perfect for plane or  train travel.

A small bottle of concentrated liquid detergent for washing out socks, underwear or a shirt.

A sink stopper and small clothesline (available at any travel store).

An inflatable hanger is great for drying freshly washed things overnight.

A small bedpan and one roll of toilet paper could come in handy in rustic areas.

Extra name labels for your batteries and luggage.

Pre-moistened tissues are great for quick clean-ups.

Resalable plastic bags are perfect for storing food, film, container liquids like shampoos, and even maps.

Bring a minimum of travel books. Tear out or photocopy the essential pages you'll need and forego the heavy books. Too many books = too much baggage weight

Camera and film. Protect film from airport radiation with a protective pouch sold at camera stores. Since most museums will not allow flash, take plenty of 400 ASA film.

Take a resalable storage box to hold your toiletries and prevent spillage in your luggage.

Sharing shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, etc. with a companion really cuts luggage weight.

Essential Europe

These are basic tips for anyone planning their first European trip.

Taking a Service Dog

Because entry regulations for animals vary for each nation, your best bet is to contact the consular office or embassy of each country you plan to visit and determine if they have any restrictions on dogs.

For example, Italy's Tourist Board issues a pet approval form that states the dog's health and vaccinations. The form  must be signed by a veterinarian 

France also requires a recent note from your vet that states your dog is in good health and states that you have proof of your dog's  rabies vaccination at least a month prior to your trip. 

The UK has recently altered their restrictions, too. Dogs and cats no longer need to be quarantined for six months before entering the UK from North America. However, there are rules to follow, so check this web site for details http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/quarantine/index.htm

Be sure to check with the airline you plan to use for their specific requirements. Some airlines allow a small dog in the cabin. If your pet must travel in cargo, try to book a direct flight as it will prove less stressful for your dog.

Booking Rooms

While booking rooms, remember that in Europe first floor doesn't necessarily mean ground floor. Europeans refer to what we in the U.S. Call our second floor as their first floor. If a hotel clerk tells you they have a first floor room available, be aware that that doesn't mean it's without steps, as your room may be one flight up with no elevator.

If you're planning on taking trains, get used to the 24-hour clock, better known as military time. It's the same as our regular clock until noon, then in lieu of p.m. you'll use 13:00 for 1 p.m. 14:00 for 2 p.m., etc. This is in standard use outside the U.S. and it helps to think in these time terms, especially when reading a train timetable. It's simple to convert back to regular time by subtracting 12 hours, i.e. 16:00 -12:00 = 4:00 p.m.

Europeans use trains as commonly as we use freeways. For the most part, their rail systems are clean, modern and fast. For overnight trains, You can transfer to the train's couchette seat which reclines and sleep comfortably. Don't expect accessible restrooms, however.

The EurailPass will take you far for a reasonable price. There are many versions of this pass. Either try their web site: Rail Europe or call Rail Europe (800) 438-7245. For Brit Rail: 1-800-677-8585

Friendly Agents efficiently provide needed information regarding train timetables, distances between destinations, etc.

There are many rail and rail/drive options available. You can chose a Eurail Drive pass that allows the flexibility of using the train to cover long distances then pick up a car at the train station to explore a specific area. In addition to buying a pass, you may find it to your benefit to buy point-to-point tickets for short train rides. Example: Instead of using passes (equal to $45 a day per person) to travel from Venice to Florence (a three-hour ride), purchase point-to-point second class train tickets for $32 apiece. Second class is fine. You'll still get the spacious wheelchair compartment, along with the same views experienced by first class passengers, and save your passes for longer train trips.

For overnight train travel, consider a cable lock to secure bags to the overhead rack.

Driving a car in Europe offers a lot more flexibility than taking planes and trains, but cars with hand controls are difficult to locate. They are available in London and Paris through both Hertz and Avis.

Parking in Europe

Great news! European countries now honor disabled parking placards from the U.S. and Canada. The placards must display the international symbol for disability and state the name of the document holder. Prominently display your documents inside your car's windshield. This resolution, passed in 1997 by the ECMT (European Conference of Ministers of Transportation), applies to travelers from EMCT member countries and  associated member countries..

The combination Eurail/Drive and Brit Rail/Drive passes are a bargain. In the U.S., purchase the exact number of train and car days you want in advance. Vouchers can provide you with a reserved car of your choice. Car rentals include unlimited mileage and taxes. At each rental location, exchange your pre-bought vouchers for the rental car and be on our way.

If you wait to rent a car after arriving in Europe, it can cost over $100 a day.

Some travel agents suggest buying an International Driver's Permit. They're available for $10 from the American Automobile Association.

If you're taking a wheelchair, consider new tires. In Europe, traditional air-filled inner tubes provide more shock resistance on cobblestones.

Wheelchair repair shops are not a common sight in Europe. A tube repair kit should include: bicycle wrenches, puncture repair kit, a tire changing kit and cheap garden gloves. Forget taking a pump. Bicycles shops are common in Europe.

You'll find that a narrowing device is essential for doors skinnier than your wheelchair. Use a 12-inch long 1/4" chain with a snap hook at each end that attaches through holes in each wheel axle brace. Shortening the chain as needed by moving the hook to a different link, and re-attaching it will pull the wheels together and narrow the chair.

A wheelchair backpack comes in handy constantly for carrying cameras, maps, snacks, etc. A small lock on the pack will keep it free from pickpockets.

Money belts provide the ultimate peace of mind for cash, passports, credit cards, tickets etc. Choose one of three styles. One style fits around your waist, another around your neck, and still another style can be worn on your calf. By keeping your valuables in them, you foil potential pickpockets, and sleep comfortably on trains, etc.

Your eating utensil pack should include: a plastic folding cup (available at camping stores), straws - they aren't always available in Europe when you need them, a plastic knife, fork and spoon. After arriving at your destination, buy a small knife for cutting cheese, bread, fruit.

Pack some extra snacks like granola bars, dried fruit, and nuts that could come in handy for snacking on the train or waiting for one.

Buy your film in the U.S. It's a lot cheaper. Tap water is usually drinkable everywhere, but for good taste and a cold drink on a hot day bottled water bought from markets and vendors can't be beat.

If you'd like to pick up on equivalent disability terms, you might want to order the Disabled Traveler's International Phrase Book for £1.75 ($2.73). It's available from Disability Press Ltd., Applemarket House, 17 Union Street, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey KT1 1RP, England, Tel. 081-549-6399. It features French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish and Dutch phrases that might come in handy

Self-service Laundromats are not the 24-hour type places we're accustomed to in the U.S. Most European establishments aren't open late in the evening, and quality of machines can vary. Your hotel manager will direct you to the most convenient one.

If you must call home, use a calling card. Direct dial calls cost about $3 per minute, but calls charged on a card are one-third to one-half the direct dial cost.

Clothing

Unless you're taking along a pack mule, both you (and any helper) will appreciate minimal luggage. This helps one avoid long lines at the baggage claim area as well as any chance of lost luggage. I travel with two carry-on suitcases (one for clothes and one for wheelchair essentials) and an empty wheelchair backpack. Here are some packing suggestions.

A selection of cotton/poly clothing that won't wrinkle or retain stains.

One warm, lightweight jacket, preferably one with a detachable liner.

One plastic hooded rain poncho. This is critical gear, as the weather can be unpredictable. You needn't splurge for the pricey ones offered in the disability clothing catalogs. Just pick up one from your travel or luggage store, and tuck the back in so it won't get caught on your wheels.

One everyday warm sweater and one dressy sweater (men and women).

A warm scarf and a brimmed hat.

One long-sleeved cotton/poly dress shirt and tie (men). One cotton/poly dressy blouse (women).

One extra pair of jeans and one pair of dress slacks (men or women). A skirt or dress is optional.

Five polo shirts or T-shirts and one sweatshirt to layer over them.

Five changes of socks and underwear.

Your most comfortable shoes imaginable with a non-slip sole.

What to Leave at Home

Sometimes it's more important to know what not to take. Here are some suggestions for what to leave behind.

Any valuable jewelry. It's just one more thing to keep track of. If you can't bear to leave something behind, put it in the hotel safe when you're not wearing it. Never leave it in your room.

Clothing that can't be thrown in a washer and dryer without looking like hell.

Anything you will use only once.

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