Travel Tips for Amputees
Here you’ll find travel tips for amputees. If you have not yet traveled with assistive devices such as a cane, walker, wheelchair or crutches before your amputation, traveling especially by air, can be overwhelming. Fear not! We’ve prepared a series of blogs that will help you navigate the ins and outs of traveling as an amputee.
The one thing that is probably the most daunting task for amputees traveling for the first time is packing. Let’s face it. Travelling is already a daunting task as a non-amputee. Just imagine how much more it could be when you are traveling with assistive devices or a prosthetic limb. Below is a checklist of what we recommend you should have when traveling.
What To Pack
- The Medical Bag – If your prosthetist has not shared this information with yet, you should definitely have a “medical bag“. This is a bag you can carry on the flight with you. If you don’t have one yet, put one together and carry it with you even if you are not traveling. Make sure to check with the airline company and the Travel Security Administration (TSA) if you are allowed to carry on your medical bag with you on top of the personal carry-on allowance. It has been generally okay, however, we recommend that you check with the airline and TSA yourself. You’ll find the TSA information in the Resources section of our website.
Inside the Medical Bag
- Anti-bacterial cream – overuse of prosthesis, especially an ill-fitting one, can cause abrasions on your skin. You would want to make sure you protect any abrasions or cuts with an antibacterial cream.
- Band-aids – you should always carry band-aids on trips anyway. If you have different sizes, even better!
- Soap – If you use a liquid soap to clean your liner, bring that along with you. Make sure that you do not exceed the allowable limit of liquid that can be carried on the flight with you if you are flying.
- Clean towel – always have a clean towel (face cloth or similar) handy to clean your limb with, dry your liner with, or clean your prosthetic with from any debris or dirt.
- Plastic bags – if you are traveling where you will be around water or sand, use a bag to protect your prosthetic limb or any parts of it that should not come into contact with water or sand.
- Contact sheet – Names of certified prosthetists and prosthetic facilities in the area in which you are traveling, the times they are open, their email, telephone number, and addresses.
- Extra prosthetic socks or ply socks – you know very well that your residual limb can fluctuate in volume throughout the day. It is always best to have extra ply socks handy so that you can adjust accordingly.
- Extra liner – if you wear a liner on a regular basis, you should have a spare. A small hole or a tear on the liner could spell disaster especially if you rely on maintaining a vacuum to keep your prosthesis on.
- Duct tape and/or filament tape – duct tape is great for repairing something really quick like repairing a strap and just about anything you need to be taped together until you get to a professional in the area.
- Spare suction valve and tubing – if you have a vacuum system, it is always good to carry a spare suction valve and tubing with you. You will need a professional to assist you to replace the parts, but at least you have the parts handy in case of an emergency.
The same carry-on rule still applies to medical bags so do not include restricted items such as explosives, sharp items such as scissors and nail clippers, firearms, corrosive materials, and so on. Check with the airline and TSA about what items are allowed in a carry-on baggage.
If you still use a wheelchair, walker, cane or crutches, make sure those are in good working conditions before you travel with them. If you do not use any of these assistive devices, we recommend you carry a folding cane anyway. They are inexpensive, travels light and come in really handy when you need that extra support. This is especially important when you’ve been walking or standing on your prosthesis longer than you are used to.
See Your Prosthetist
Let your prosthetist know that you will be going on a trip and make an appointment to see them ahead of time. During your pre-trip appointment, they can perform a general maintenance check on your prosthesis. They can:
- Tighten up and secure any loose screws that may have come loose from your daily wear
- Listen for any unusual sounds that might indicate a worn out or broken component
- For upper limb amputees, check your cables and/or harness
- For above-knee amputees, check your belt
- Check your socket for a proper fit
- Order any items you might need to replace any worn out part before your trip
Call The Airline
If you are flying to get to your destination, call the airline before you travel. Not only to make sure you have the proper documents for your trip but also to arrange for any assistance you may need at the airport.
See some helpful information below:
- If you have not booked a seat, ask if they can assign you a seat with more leg room (for lower limb amputees). The bulkhead seating often has the best leg room. However, if the emergency exit is there, you cannot sit there. Explain to them your situation and they may be able to offer you seating options with extra legroom. Some airlines charge extra for premium seats. Prepared for any extra costs you might incur.
- If you require assistance between the check-in counter, TSA and the gate(s), let them know ahead of time. They can make a note of it in their log and can call assistance for you while you check in. This can save valuable time. There’s nothing worse than waiting for a golf cart or wheelchair at the check-in counter when you are running late for your flight!
- Ask them about carrying a medical bag. Most of the time, it is not one of your ‘1 carry-on and 1 personal item’, or extra carry-on that you have to pay for. But check with the airline anyway.
Check For Yourself
Last but not least, do an overall check for yourself so that you know you have everything. Read the list below for more information.
- Check your prosthesis – you do not want to get in the car or on the plane to find out that your prosthesis is broken, has a crack or a screw loose. A good overall visual inspection should do since you have had your prosthetist look at it already. *wink*
- Clean your socket – clean your socket with a mild non-perfumed soap and a washcloth. Dry it with a clean soft cloth or let it air-dry. Make sure you remove any debris, especially cloth fibres that could clog your vacuum system or pin-lock system.
- Suspensions and liners – check your suspension for any holes. Even a pinhole can cause for your vacuum system to fail. Check that your suspension still has a grip and clean it with a mild soap as well. Belts, cables, straps, velcro, and harness should be checked to make sure they are not frayed or worn out.
- Prosthetic cover – If you wear a prosthetic cover, make sure that there are no tears, cracks, or loose glued areas. Make sure that your prosthetic cover can be used in specific conditions depending on where you are traveling and what you will be doing.
- Medical bag – Have your medical bag ready and any additional assistive devices. You should also carry any documentation you need from your medical professional that states you need to have these items.
Make sure that you are ready to have fun on your trip!
Stay tuned for Part 2 Travel Tips for Amputees: The TSA!
Amputee Coalition of Toronto welcomes all amputees in Toronto and the surrounding GTA to join our support group for more information on monthly meetups, upcoming events, and a safe space to share your journey. We’re in this together!