“When you are a parent of a seriously ill child, it can be easy to lose your resilience, and parents can often feel that it is too difficult to go away for a break, with thoughts such as ‘how do we even begin?’ It is almost too hard to think about, and you think about the barriers before the benefits of going on holiday” (Mum, WellChild’s Parent Advisory Group).
With the summer holidays just round the corner you may be thinking about having a family holiday either in the UK or travelling abroad. We hope that the following information will make the experience of organising and going on your holiday less confusing and more achievable…
It’s really important to have affordable, good insurance. Freedom Insure, All Clear and Fish Insurance all offer travel insurance policies for families across the UK with children or young people with complex care needs.
All airlines require you to carry a ‘Medical Information Form’ (MEDIF) for fitness to travel. This form has sections that must be completed by your doctor, so make sure you book an appointment with your doctor before you fly.
If you are struggling to get a passport photo of the person you are caring for, contact the Passport Advice line on 0300 222 0000. Generally the photo together with proof of diagnosis and GP letter outlining why the person cannot meet the standard passport photo requirements (e.g. unable to close mouth or look directly) should be accepted. If you have a local Snappy Snaps store they have someone that can take your photo and will print them while you wait.
Travelling with your wheelchair
If you are flying for your holiday it is recommended you contact the airline 48 hours before your departure. At check-in you will be offered an airport wheelchair but you are perfectly entitled to keep your own wheelchair until you board the aircraft. Each airline has its own procedure for boarding and disembarking. As a general rule passengers requiring assistance and those with disabilities are boarded first. If you are unable to walk you will be transferred to an aisle chair (a narrow wheelchair) in order to get to your seat. Your chair will be placed into the hold and you will be provided with an on-board chair – remember to ensure your insurance covers your wheelchair. The majority of airports that you will use will either have a jetty or a hydraulic lift to enable you to get to the door of the aircraft.
Top Tip: Tryb4ufly is a charitable service that offers children and adults with disabilities an opportunity to trial specially designed aircraft seating to see which one works best for them. They stock a range of supportive devices and equipment, such as the AirChair, Burnett Body Support and Crelling Harness. Try before you fly!
Travelling with Oxygen
Each airline has its own policy on carrying and using oxygen on board. Some will provide oxygen free of charge and some will expect you to provide your own and may charge you to take it on board. The British Lung Foundation has a list of almost all major airlines and their policies on carrying and using oxygen on board.
If the person you look after is taking a course of medication, check beforehand if the countries you’re travelling to have different legal restrictions on medication. Contact the embassy or high commission of the country you’re visiting and check the types and quantities of drugs allowed into the country. You should speak to your GP about any special travel requirements that may need to be met. For example, the GP may need to write a letter detailing specific medical needs, which can be shown to customs officials. You could also obtain a translation of the letter in the language of the country you’re visiting.
If you need to take more than a certain amount (the permitted allowance) of some controlled substances or medicines, you’ll need a licence from the Home Office.
Permitted allowances are based on a 15-day standard dosage of your medicine. If you take the permitted allowance or less, you don’t need a Home Office licence, but check with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about restrictions at your destination(s).
Transporting your medicine
If you cannot bring your medicines in your hand luggage and need to put them in the hold, ask a pharmacist what will happen to the medicines in cold temperatures (it can get cold in a cargo hold during a flight). Insulin can be damaged if it’s frozen. Check if there are any crystals in insulin after a flight and don’t use it if you find any. Take your medicines on the plane with you if you can, but check with the cabin crew first.
All medicines should be properly boxed and labelled as they were when they were given to you. Make sure that everything you take, if it’s restricted, appears on your doctor’s letter.
Top Tip for travelling by plane with medication: always pack half in your hand luggage in case your suitcase goes walkabout. That way, you will have enough with you until your case is relocated or you get some more locally.
If you are travelling with EuroStar make sure you phone ahead, they will allocate you a member of staff who will take you into a quiet room before the train is announced and escort you to the platform. At the other end you will be greeted by staff who will escort you to the front & help you through.
If you would like a list of charity organisations that provide or may contribute towards the cost of your holiday email email@example.com