By Julie Jones
Road tripping is ingrained into Aussie culture; backpackers, families and grey nomads take to our highways and lesser known tracks to enjoy the freedom of the open road.
Before children, hearing anyone mention a road trip would conjure up thoughts of a carefree holiday filled with spontaneity and without time constraints. Fast forward several years to life with two children, one of whom lives with cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair and requires various pieces of equipment to travel, and a road trip has taken on a whole new meaning. We’ve found there are still many advantages to driving to a destination, but that spontaneity I dreamed of has been replaced with research and planning.
ADVANTAGES TO ROAD TRIPPING
Swapping plane travel for our car provides many comforts. We don’t pack light so the ease of loading the car the day before we travel without weight restrictions makes life easier. Airlines’ strict luggage limits mean we often travel without items we need.
Travelling on our own schedule means any last- minute delays, aren’t a problem. No-one holds a plane because your child needs one last bathroom visit. Car travel offers time flexibility.
Progress is instant on a road trip, unlike the many hours spent at an airport before you even get on a plane. Check in for an international flight is 3 hours prior to departure and then it’s a matter of entertaining the troops at the airport before take-off.
When travelling by car we arrive at our destination knowing our son’s wheelchair and our luggage won’t be damaged. It’s always nerve-wracking entrusting expensive and vital equipment to baggage handlers who may not treat it with the same care.
Breaking up a trip with frequent stops when, or if needed, is a bonus to road tripping. It gives everyone a chance to change position and have a stretch. Air travel poses a challenge for our on-the- go son who gets fed up with sitting for long periods of time.
Whizzing by other cars, scenery and towns provides entertainment and stimulation. For this reason, car trips keep our son far more content as he watches the world go by from his window. He finds take-off and landing on a plane exciting but once we are floating above the clouds, he loses interest.
In our family, road tripping equals increased appetites and I find food and drinks are requested regularly. It’s easy to have a cooler bag filled with favourite foods and drinks to satisfy the snack attack which is inevitable. Liquid restrictions on international flights are a challenge with our son so it’s lovely to be able to carry what we need in the car.
Car rental is expensive and finding wheelchair accessible vehicles can be difficult, particularly in regional areas of Australia. Using your own vehicle saves money and you can be confident you have the right vehicle for your needs.
DISADVANTAGES OF ROAD TRIPPING
We find there’s only so long we can spend in the car getting to a destination and therefore we often need to break up a journey with an overnight stay on the way. This adds to holiday costs but also to the inconvenience of the journey. With a car packed like a Tetris game it’s nearly impossible to remove the wheelchair without the rest of the luggage. We are usually packed to the roof with every inch of space used.
“Are We There Yet?” – not everyone is as keen on road tripping and with one family member suffering from motion sickness, particularly on windy roads, we need to plan drives carefully. We stop regularly, switch seats and try to stick to straight roads as much as possible.
TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL ROAD TRIP
After many road trips we’ve found a few simple things make travel more comfortable.
- Purchasing a roof pod for our car increased space, allowing us to travel with everything we need. Even on weekends having the extra space
- of a roof pod has meant we have enough room to take our son’s beach wheelchair and his manual chair on outings to the beach.
- Getting our son’s wheelchair in and out of the car is tough on the boot floor. We travel with a thick plastic sheet which covers and protects the carpet in the boot of our station wagon.
- Loving off-road wheelchair adventures, we often find the tyres of the chair get thick with dirt. Travelling with a dish brush helps us clean the tyres before putting the chair in the back of the car.
- A relaxed dress code on car trips allows our son to have bare feet, which he prefers. On hot days or pebbly surfaces this poses a problem, so we always keep a thin piece of rubber matting in the car to put on the ground for transfers to save his feet.
- The availability of accessible bathrooms makes road tripping easier than flying but we suggest researching locations. A list of hoisted and adult change facilities can be found on the Changing Places Australia website. Other accessible bathrooms can be found on the National Toilet Map. And when in doubt, most McDonald’s have a stand-alone accessible bathroom.
- Like any travel, planning and research will help to make your road trip holiday as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.