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The top 10 travel tips for amputees

August 21, 2013
Rachel Bennett

Summer may be winding down, but there’s still time to take that vacation you’ve been dreaming about.


Most trips require planning, but for amputees, it usually takes more time and preparation than it does for those without disabilities.

Fortunately, there are numerous resources — including the Transportation Security Administration and the Amputee Coalition — to help amputees make their dream vacations as smooth as possible.

Although there are numerous guidelines depending on mode of transportation, here are the top 10 travel tips amputees should follow when getting out of town:

10. Check your prosthesis before you leave

When examining your prosthesis, look for these warning signs:

  • Cracks
  • Tears in the liner
  • Loose parts
  • Strange sounds (these could signify a broken or worn piece)

If you notice any of these, have your prosthetist fix it before your trip. It’s also important to clean your prosthesis with a mild, unscented soap and a washcloth before you leave.

9. Pack extras

As you compile a list of what to take with you, make sure to include these items:

  • Extra socks for your prosthesis
  • Tape to repair buckle or strap breaks
  • Extra socket liner
  • Small tool kit with screwdriver
  • Plastic bags to put around a prosthesis when near sand or water

Check out this great list from the Association of Children’s Prosthetic-Orthotic Clinics for more ideas!

8. Take phone numbers

In case something happens to your prosthesis, it’s always handy to have your prosthetist’s phone number and email address with you. It’s also a good idea to get the names and numbers of prosthetists in the area where you’re vacationing. Call the Amputee Coalition at (888) 267-5669 for help finding these contacts.

7. If taking an airplane, request bulkhead seating

What is bulkhead seating? They are seats at the front of a plane section, and they face a wall as opposed to other seats. Bulkhead seating provides more space to get in and out, and they are usually reserved for travelers with disabilities. If there are none available, reserve an aisle seat that is close to the front of the plane but is not in an emergency exit row. When you are about to board the plane, you can also ask a flight attendant for help securing bulkhead seating.

6. Ask for wheelchair assistance

Even if you are able to walk to your flight, wheelchair assistance may be beneficial. You can request it when you book a flight or check in any baggage. Wheelchair assistance will get you to the front of the line at customs, and if you have a leg prosthesis, it can also save you from a possible strenuous walk if you have to connect flights and/or if you are in a large airport.

5. Wear loose clothing and have a letter from your prosthetist

Loose clothing and slip-on shoes will make it easy to get through airport security and to show anyone your prosthesis if need be. Having a letter from your doctor or prosthetist describing your need for a prosthesis is also helpful in case a TSA officer questions your disability. Your prosthesis will most likely set off an alarm at security, but as long as you’re forthcoming about it, there should be no trouble.

4. Consider Amtrak

If you don’t want to take a plane, Amtrak is a great option. Amtrak offers a discount for people with disabilities — all you need is a letter from a doctor, which you present at the ticket counter and when you board the train.

3. Consider the Greyhound Line

“The Greyhound Line not only has the most extensive routes but also one of the best programs for accommodating the needs of travelers with disabilities,” the Amputee Coalition says. Greyhound has a Customers with Disabilities Assist Line, which is (800) 752-4841, and someone can arrange any assistance you may need — just make sure to call at least 48 hours before your trip. The company also provides priority seating for passengers with disabilities and offers a free personal care attendant to accompany you if needed.

2. Ask about your hotel room

When reserving a hotel room, make sure to get as many details as possible — especially if you need a wheelchair-accessible room. First, ask to speak to someone who has actually been in the rooms and knows them well. As you are requesting information, avoid “yes” or “no” questions. If you can, get a room on or as close to the first floor as possible, as elevators are sometimes turned off during an emergency. Finally, before you check in, ask to see your room to make sure it’s what you expected.

1. Keep calm and know your rights

Traveling with a prosthesis can be frustrating, but if you prepare and keep calm in difficult situations, most problems can be resolved. However, if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable or seems to be overstepping their boundaries in inspecting your prosthesis, voice your concerns.

If a hotel loses your reservation or the hotel room is not to your liking, ask the hotel what they will do about it. As the Amputee Coalition notes, “Remember, this isn’t your problem, it’s the hotel’s.” Speak to a manager if necessary. Most of all, remember to have fun — you are on vacation, after all.

Please be aware that the tips above are informed suggestions. If you do not feel comfortable with them, please do not attempt them and instead contact your medical professional or the Amputee Coalition for help.