Zev's travel tips

Travelling interstate or overseas? Do you have some mobility issues?
 
Zev shares his very extensive travel experience with some practical tips on how to make it work for you.

Planning ahead is key. What’s in Zev’s kit for a great holiday?
  • Navigating airlines and airports for a comfortable and safe transit and trip
  • Organising medications, health insurance and researching health care in the destination
  • Booking accommodation carefully
  • Researching disability friendly places to visit.
Watch the video or read the transcript to find out more.
 
 

Travelling with mobility issues: Zev's tips - video transcript

Zev: My name is Zev Fishman, and I'm 71 years old and I have severe haemophilia. The big thing for me is that I have some mobility issues, and to travel, you really have to be prepared.

Planning ahead

Book your trip early

First of all, you’ve got to book your trip very, very early, especially if you do have issues with your legs or mobility. You’ve got to understand that a 20 hour flight can be somewhat uncomfortable and having to step over two people to get to the toilet might be a difficulty.

Choose your seat carefully

So do things like get an aisle seat if that's going to be the problem. I can't bend one of my legs. So if I can, I’ll get a seat to the left of me available. If the airline knows about you, they know you're not - you have a history and you tell them that, look, if you can keep the seat to my left free, then that means I can, after we've taken off, I can move my leg over to the seat, which is so much easier.

Should I call the airline or use a travel agent to get an aisle seat?

Book your airline seat well ahead of time

I don't go through a travel agent, but that might be a good option. I usually go straight to the airline that I'm flying with, with plenty of time. Tell them what the story is. And they usually block off seats for you.

They're generally terrific if you if you get in early. Book your flights early, tell them what you need, then I think the earlier, the better.

Travel insurance and documentation about your treatment product

You should know where you're going and how friendly they're going to be with people with disabilities. Certainly your product, you need to have that documented. So if you do get held up at customs, you've got all the right information for them. So that just makes it trouble free. Double check, triple check. Look around. Look, I'm sure there's plenty of information about traveling and insurance on our HFA or HFV websites.

Before travel, it is essential to organise
  • travel insurance
  • your treatment product
  • documentation for treatment product and your other medicines

There are some countries that have a reciprocal understanding with our Medicare. So that's worth looking at where you're going. (For a list of countries, see smartraveller.gov.au)

Research the health care arrangements in the countries you are visiting
  • How do they charge overseas visitors for medical services?
  • Where are the HTCs?
  • Do they have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia?
    • If so, what does the Agreement cover? 
    • Agreements usually only cover emergency medical treatment – not regular prophylaxis
Talk to your Haemophilia Treatment Centre well ahead of time about
  • your travel plans
  • your treatment needs
  • how to travel with your treatment product
  • any documents required

Booking accommodation

Book your accommodation carefully

What I find really difficult is my accommodation. You've got to be very, very clear. What you don't want to do is find out that some of these European apartments, you really can't swing a cat in. I've got a bath and I've got a shower and I've got everything. I've been in some showers where you drop your soap and you can't get it back because it's such a small place.

Make your needs clear when booking

So you really need to be very clear about what your needs are about accommodation. Ask them to send you pictures. Let me see the bathroom. Let me see the shower. Is the shower over the bath? Because I won't step into a shower that's over a bath because that's an accident waiting to happen. So you ask them to give you pictures.

Book a wheelchair/disability accessible room if possible

So it's basically you need a disabled room. That will probably solve all your problems. Or a wheelchair accessible room. Most places have that. Some of the European countries are a bit difficult.

Do you need a fridge?

But if you do have a disability, make sure you know exactly what you're going to, because what you don't want to do is when you get there and you can't - and then you've got to find another accommodation and it's really very stressful if that happens.

Plan your journey: Are there stairs involved?

I have issues with stairs. I try to avoid stairs. That's another thing that I'll make sure my accommodation - it's nice to be in a flat that's perfectly flat and it's got a wheelchair accessible – but you can't get to the apartment because you've got to walk up four flights of stairs because they don't have a lift.

Ask if there are stairs to get to your room

So that's another thing. You could get caught out where the bathroom might not be great in the apartment. But you've got to take full flights of stairs to get to the apartment. That's something you don't want to have to find if you've got a disability. Certainly the Spanish Steps in Italy is something to be avoided.

But you get by generally. It's worth planning these things if you’re adding to your itinerary where you're going. And there’s plenty of websites out there that tell you these places aren’t good to go to for people with disabilities and these places are.

Travelling by plane

Take your medications as carry-on

Your product must go where you go. If you need something urgently with your luggage or you need it to be handy, you don't put it in luggage. If it goes into the luggage, then it could go anywhere. Make sure you've got your product on you, make sure your medication is on you and make sure you've got the right documentation for that.

Don’t hesitate to ask for a wheelchair

The other thing that's terribly important when you get to an airport, I always ask for a wheelchair. If you have a disability, a fair dinkum disability where you can't walk - there are some lounges now that are two kilometres away. So what you don't want to do is have to walk two kilometres and then have a bleed in your ankle. It's stuffed up your holiday there and then. So really don't be shy, get a wheelchair at the beginning.

Just tell them I need a wheelchair and you don't need a wheelchair to get onto the plane. You just need a wheelchair to get you to the lounge that you need.

Booking a wheelchair:
  • Request a wheelchair when booking your flights
  • Don’t forget stopovers and at your destination
  • Call the airline to confirm
  • Ask if the airline or airport service will take you to your transport/taxi

Plan ahead - and have a good trip!

There are lots of do's and don'ts. The airport’s the big thing, the insurance is the big thing. Make sure you go where your product goes. In other words, your product goes where you go, not where your luggage goes. And plan way ahead. Make sure your airline's very clear. This is the seat I want. They’re usually terrific if it's pretty obvious that you've got a disability.

I think that's about all the tricks of the trade. And just bon voyage and enjoy your trips.


For more information, Speak to your Haemophilia Treatment Centre or visit the travel tips section.

Thanks to Zev for sharing his personal travel tips.

This video was developed by Haemophilia Foundation Australia for education and peer support purposes only and does not replace advice from a health professional. Always see your health care provider for assessment and advice about your individual health before taking action or relying on published information.


Date last reviewed: 14 September 2023