Planning to see your loved ones over the holidays – or any other time, for that matter – can be quite an exciting prospect. But, if you’re an amputee, it can also come with a certain amount of anxiety – especially if you’re planning on flying. After all, air travel is a notoriously tedious affair, and even more so for individuals with prosthetic devices…
…but don’t let that dampen your holiday spirits! By following these prosthetic care and amputee travel tips, you can ensure that your airport experience goes as smoothly and enjoyably as possible.
Even if extra fees apply, we highly recommend reserving bulkhead seating or selecting an airline such as Virgin America, Delta, or JetBlue that offer seating options with extra legroom. This is especially true if you’re going on a long-distance flight (4 hours or more) where the extended amount of time you spend sitting in one position with minimal room for movement could increase your risk for blood clots.
Conversely, by finding a seating area with extra legroom, such as in a bulkhead row, you’ll be able to move around more during the flight by stretching out or even getting up for a quick walk up the aisle. This will provide invaluable peace of mind that you won’t incur a blood clot while in the air.
The TSA are meticulous with their screening processes, so it’s a good idea to get to your gate with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately, that might mean waking up earlier than you’d like – but it’s better than missing your flight! Depending on how large or small your airport is, plus what time of year it is (i.e., Christmas), you should arrive at least a full two to three hours before your flight’s scheduled departure time.
While going through the TSA screening process, you’ll surely set off some security monitors – but don’t be alarmed. They’ll need to check out your devices, so we recommend wearing comfortable, loose hanging clothes and slip-on shoes so it’s easy to show your devices.
For more details and recommendations about medical device travel security and best practices, check with the TSA.
Whether you’re a below-knee amputee, pelvic amputee, or any other kind of amputee, you likely spend a lot of energy walking. It’s no secret that airports can be quite exhausting as you hurriedly try to make it from your first flight to the next, especially if it’s in a particularly large airport with multiple terminals to navigate.
Before you book, research the biggest and busiest airports in the US that you might be forced to connect to. If you do have to stop at one of the bigger or busier ones – don’t panic. Just make sure you have enough of a layover to get where you need to go with plenty of time and energy leftover.
Also, keep in mind that airports provide wheelchair and golf escort services – but if you’re in a hurry, these might not always be readily available.
Remember this important rule: bags containing medical devices go free of charge! So, if an airline ever wants to charge extra because they see that one of your bags or carry-ons has prosthetic supplies or parts in it, just let them know that these are essential medical devices. Note, however, that this rule applies to bags that contain only medical devices and nothing else. In addition, some airlines are stricter than others, so you should make extra sure by Googling your specific airline’s policies on this before heading out.
As far as the specific parts and supplies you should bring along, the best rule of thumb is to simply be proactive. Consider anything that could possibly go wrong with your prosthesis either in the airport, on the plane, or at your cousin’s house 300 miles away. What would you need to keep your devices working optimally and efficiently? Whether it’s an extra liner for your socket, medicine for a diabetes-related amputation, or even simple everyday things like screwdrivers, choroline wipes, and skip ointments, make sure to bring along anything necessary to keep your devices working.
You might feel the urge to remove your prosthetic device while you’re on your flight – but you shouldn’t. At the very least, you can let a little fresh air into the socket, but the last thing you want to do while flying is remove your prosthesis entirely – lest you jeopardize not being able to put it back on!
If you make sure to follow all of the aforementioned steps, you will greatly lessen the amount of anxiety you experience while flying. However, it’s important to remember that flying isn’t your only option. After all, there are plenty of other travel providers out there. In addition, there are specialized agencies that can help you plan accessible vacations and other exciting adventures.