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Tips for Traveling as an Amputee

Map with Airplanes flying over

Assess your capabilities

Just like everything about being an amputee, your capabilities and comfort level are entirely for you to judge; respect where you are and anticipate that the first trip will have surprises and be ready to roll with them.

Mobility devices

Shower grab bar – A plastic grab bar that suctions to the shower wall is a useful and portable way to ensure you’re able to feel secure in a range of accommodations.

Cane/Hiking poles – For the first few years I used a collapsible cane and it worked well, especially for city sightseeing. Since then, I’ve transitioned to adjustable hiking poles. They’re a little bigger, but they’re more versatile — I can use one for help with a hilly city — or use both when hiking over rocky, uneven terrain.

Skincare Supplies – Blisters, chafing, sores, and all the usual woes of wearing a socket are often exacerbated by lots of walking and sightseeing on vacations. I’ve found these products help:

  • Runners glide stick – I always hated running, but I love this glide I slide a little on the back of my limb and along the socket brim and I can reduce friction and the chance of blisters.
  • Blister band-aids – When the glide stick isn’t enough these cushiony, water-resistant bandages are ideal for covering up blisters and sore spots.
  • Tagaderm – This super thin, clear film slaps nicely over those blister band-aids to provide extra staying-power, as well as to keep things sterile without creating still another skin issue.

Planning your trip

Weather – Sweat happens. If my trip involves a lot of walking I only go in the spring or the fall when temperatures are cooler, and I can avoid excess sweat. I have yet to find any product that adequately controls sweat to the point where I’d consider summertime walking for any distance. Plus, traveling during the off-season means fewer crowds, shorter lines and more affordable everything.

Terrain – What is the terrain like at my destination? Is it fairly flat and well-paved or hilly and full of cobblestones? I don’t limit myself to the former, but I definitely prepare myself for slower days and more breaks if it’s the latter.

Activities – I’ve never been an athlete, but I do enjoy a bike ride or a snorkel trip. I’ve found electric bikes to be the best way to go for cycling on vacation. And if snorkeling, an underwater scooter too is extremely useful for keeping pace and conserving energy.

Airport Experience

One of the few perks to this one-leg life is getting to pre-board and knowing my bag will get an overhead bin space. I never check a bag and that helps make the airport experience faster.

Security – If you travel with any frequency, I highly recommend getting TSA pre-check. You’ll still have to undergo the additional pat down but at least the lines are much shorter and faster.

What to Wear – Ensuring your leg is clearly visible and whatever you’re wearing is easy to lift up so TSA can swab it for trace explosives is always best. Shorts and long skirts are also handy if you might need to take your leg off for a bit when on any long-haul flights (truly a lifesaver during my Sydney to Los Angeles to New York to D.C. route flight).

Jetbridge/Stairs – Rarely are stairs involved in most U.S. airports, but I’ve unexpectedly encountered them many times in Europe. It’s definitely worth asking if stairs will be involved at any point in your flight if you’re connecting within Europe or traveling to some Caribbean destinations.