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Flying with disabled adult children

Flying with disabled adult children

Old Mar 22, 2024, 9:36 am
  #1  
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Flying with disabled adult children

We are a family of 4. Two seniors and 2 adult children with developmental disabilities. Our oldest child has Down syndrome and uses a wheelchair to walk long distances due to a heart condition and low muscle tone. Younger son has Autism and loves to travel. We have traveled across the US (even Hawaii) and into Mexico, Bahamas, etc. via air. We have found the airlines have been very helpful with our situation and helpful especially when we have to transfer within airports to connect to different flights.

We are planning to take a once in a lifetime trip to Paris, France this fall. We have never been to Europe with our kids. Our home airport is Buffalo, NY so we cannot get any non-stop flights and need to connect somewhere on the east coast or Chicago. On reading some of the airport reviews, it seems that Newark and Dulles can be very difficult with a wheelchair transfer from domestic to international terminals. Baltimore is not an option that I have found for international flights to Europe. Chicago we have used in the past for Mexico, Hawaii and Europe. Some airlines use Philadelphia, JFK, Charlotte or Atlanta for transfers. Any recommendations on what east coast airports would be best/easiest for us? I just want to make our flight as stress-free as possible. Any other tips or tricks we can use for trip? We have a 2 bedroom townhouse reserved for 1 week near Disneyland Paris and then a VRBO in Paris for the 2nd week.

Last edited by blondietink; Mar 22, 2024 at 3:34 pm Reason: left out word
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Old Mar 23, 2024, 12:31 am
  #2  
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I’m an Autistic Adult who doesn’t drive, I have an Autistic 14 year old daughter and have spent significant time in a wheelchair.

I have been to Paris several times, enough to know that I don’t have the skills or resources to manage what you want to do. Am not saying it isn’t possible, but I genuinely don’t know how I would do it.

Tokyo (I have family there but don’t speak Japanese), yes. I can envision most of the challenges you’d face in the city as well as the Disney Theme Parks and know how to navigate and accomplish them.

Please consider asking specific questions about Paris itself in the Paris/France forum.
https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/france-monaco-467/

it’s a bit old but here is some relevant advice from our wonderful moderator, Katja
https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/17598443-post12.html

Last edited by LapLap; Mar 23, 2024 at 12:36 am
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Old Mar 23, 2024, 12:46 am
  #3  
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Originally Posted by blondietink
We are a family of 4. Two seniors and 2 adult children with developmental disabilities. Our oldest child has Down syndrome and uses a wheelchair to walk long distances due to a heart condition and low muscle tone. Younger son has Autism and loves to travel. We have traveled across the US (even Hawaii) and into Mexico, Bahamas, etc. via air. We have found the airlines have been very helpful with our situation and helpful especially when we have to transfer within airports to connect to different flights.

We are planning to take a once in a lifetime trip to Paris, France this fall. We have never been to Europe with our kids. Our home airport is Buffalo, NY so we cannot get any non-stop flights and need to connect somewhere on the east coast or Chicago. On reading some of the airport reviews, it seems that Newark and Dulles can be very difficult with a wheelchair transfer from domestic to international terminals. Baltimore is not an option that I have found for international flights to Europe. Chicago we have used in the past for Mexico, Hawaii and Europe. Some airlines use Philadelphia, JFK, Charlotte or Atlanta for transfers. Any recommendations on what east coast airports would be best/easiest for us? I just want to make our flight as stress-free as possible. Any other tips or tricks we can use for trip? We have a 2 bedroom townhouse reserved for 1 week near Disneyland Paris and then a VRBO in Paris for the 2nd week.
If ORD has worked for you in the past, it might make sense to use ORD again since you have some familiarity with the procedures there.

Otherwise, it's not just the airport but the combination of airport and airline(s) that matters. For example, in the past the transfer between the domestic terminals (1/2/3) and the international terminal (called 5) at ORD would have been brutal, but now UA uses 2 or 3 three for both domestic and international, while DL (and in fact, all of SkyTeam) uses 5 for everything. JFK is another example where changing terminals can be terrible. Service at PHL in general is known to be rude and bad, but domestic and international AA flights use the same terminal A. People don't seem to like Charlotte airport, but their reasons might not matter in your case.
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Old Mar 24, 2024, 8:24 pm
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Originally Posted by blondietink
We are a family of 4. Two seniors and 2 adult children with developmental disabilities. Our oldest child has Down syndrome and uses a wheelchair to walk long distances due to a heart condition and low muscle tone. Younger son has Autism and loves to travel. We have traveled across the US (even Hawaii) and into Mexico, Bahamas, etc. via air. We have found the airlines have been very helpful with our situation and helpful especially when we have to transfer within airports to connect to different flights.

We are planning to take a once in a lifetime trip to Paris, France this fall. We have never been to Europe with our kids. Our home airport is Buffalo, NY so we cannot get any non-stop flights and need to connect somewhere on the east coast or Chicago. On reading some of the airport reviews, it seems that Newark and Dulles can be very difficult with a wheelchair transfer from domestic to international terminals. Baltimore is not an option that I have found for international flights to Europe. Chicago we have used in the past for Mexico, Hawaii and Europe. Some airlines use Philadelphia, JFK, Charlotte or Atlanta for transfers. Any recommendations on what east coast airports would be best/easiest for us? I just want to make our flight as stress-free as possible. Any other tips or tricks we can use for trip? We have a 2 bedroom townhouse reserved for 1 week near Disneyland Paris and then a VRBO in Paris for the 2nd week.
Do any of you speak French would be my first question. If not, maybe Paris would be more of a challenge than you want to take on. For Americans without a second language, there are "easy" European countries, and "hard" ones, and while I have no first hand experience of France, I have many friends who found being unable to speak the language made for a very disappointing trip.

On the basis of language, Britain or Ireland would be "easy" but I'd rate Britain poorly for persons with mobility issues. Two counties where I found traveling with a medically fragile child to be "easy" were The Netherlands and Denmark, as many in the tourism sector speak English and there is a welcoming and hospitable attitude toward persons with disabilities. If you're interested, I can give you more info on The Netherlands with a special needs companion.

One last thought: how far are you from Toronto? There are several airlines flying nonstop from there to various European cities.

Last edited by CDTraveler; Mar 24, 2024 at 9:40 pm Reason: omitted a word
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Old Mar 24, 2024, 8:34 pm
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Keep in mind that the Olympics will be in Paris 26 July to 11 August.
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Old Mar 25, 2024, 1:47 am
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Originally Posted by RetiredATLATC
Keep in mind that the Olympics will be in Paris 26 July to 11 August.
More importantly, the Paralympic Games will be from 28th August to 8th September.

Im assuming the planned trip will be just after this. The recent Paralympics may well have brought in more opportunities for disabled visitors.
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Old Mar 25, 2024, 11:42 am
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I will check out PHL. I seem to recall some connecting flights there on AA. We are 2 hours from Toronto and have flown out of there in the past. It would add difficulty to an already complicated scenario, plus the traffic from here to there is enough to give me a stroke before even getting on the plane.

Our hotel is booked at the very end of September and into October, so all the Olympic stuff should be over with by the time we get there. But you are right, it seems accessible subways, buses and transportation are being implemented for the event. My husband's friend's wife is from France and she has hooked us up with an Uber driver to take us around the city/plus airport for a very reasonable price and has a large truck.
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Last edited by blondietink; Mar 27, 2024 at 12:37 pm Reason: clarification
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Old Mar 25, 2024, 4:21 pm
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Originally Posted by blondietink
I will check out PHL. I seem to recall some connecting flights there on AA. We are 2 hours from Toronto and have flown out of there in the past. It would add difficulty to an already complicated scenario, plus the traffic from here to there is enough to give me a stroke before even getting on the plane.
In your particular situation, I would think long and hard before choosing a connection over a nonstop from YYZ -- despite the drive from your home to YYZ. But only you can decide which would be the least stressful.
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Old Mar 25, 2024, 10:39 pm
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If you cannot or do not prefer to get a nonstop from Toronto, I would suggest ORD, where you do have familiarity. Perhaps split up the journey even. You could fly direct into ORD, spend the night at the Hilton in terminal (assuming you choose an airline that departs from T2 or T3, but AA will fly ORD to CDG from T3, I believe). That would allow rest as well. The Hilton is hardly fancy, but it's accessible to get to and back, and has accessible rooms. You can also do a multi-city (open jaw), if that makes it simpler when you see availability. Maybe ORD is the easiest departure, but you find a direct return to Toronto or PHL, etc. Sometimes these costs are not much, if any, more. Sometimes they are. It really depends, to be honest. I do these sorts of trips often, though without those accessibility issues. But I am familiar with pricing.

OP, I think this is wonderful; I have a dear friend with an adult disabled son who has done some travel, and quite successfully with careful planning. You have clearly traveled often and have made on-the-ground arrangements, and I applaud you for this! I know you have many details to work out, but I think a "trip of a lifetime" is wonderful! My best suggestions are simply to plan for things to go wrong with the travel like being stuck overnight (which leans to my suggestion to break up the trip). If you have a back up plan like this, that will help alleviate any extra issues. I would steer away from the NYC airports, as others say. ORD is probably the best of these that you mention. It certainly can be chaotic, but it's got the capacity (unlike CLT) and the facilities such as a hotel you can access directly with with assistance.

One final note: If you have traveled to Hawaii from Buffalo, you have taken a trip that is basically the same length of time, so you will be fine with all your planning! Also, here's a link to ORD's accessibility office and coordinator. You might consider reaching out and arranging any services you might need, such as a cart to transport you all (like a golf cart), other than the individual airline services, as well.

Let us know how it goes!
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Old Mar 25, 2024, 11:35 pm
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Originally Posted by blondietink
I will check out PHL.
PHL is my local airport. It is not easy to navigate for persons with mobility issues.
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Old Mar 28, 2024, 9:41 pm
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EWR gets plenty of negative posts, but we have flown through EWR a couple times in the last year both domestic and international with my mobility impaired husband and had terrific service. The wheelchair transfers were seamless, and the assistance staff friendly and knowledgeable. UA has stepped up their game big time. Contact the Accessibility Desk at 1-800-228-2744 once you have made your ticket purchase. You can also enter assistance request online, but I've found it a good idea to call, too. One other thing - if at all possible, think about flying in the Premium Plus cabin - worth every penny/mile above coach fare.

PHL, on he other hand, is rather lousy and I'd avoid it if possible.

And AA is a crapshoot at best - I avoid AA like the plague. It's a safe bet that on any AA itinerary you will encounter some combination of snarly staff, delayed flights, dirty aircraft, misdirected luggage and lousy customer service overall.

Do you plan to use your own wheelchair in transit, or to check it and use airport assistance. The latter would likely be easier overall.

As for Paris, it was getting better accessibility wise, and I expect the prep for the Olympics/Paralympics will only improve things further. On a trip to London a couple months ago we were quite impressed with how accessible things were for my husband who cannot walk long distances or negotiate stairs.

Bon voyage!
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Last edited by SeamusSA; Mar 28, 2024 at 9:45 pm Reason: typos
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