Getting Mobile—Driving and Travel Tips

Being empowered to drive or travel is an important step in your journey after a spinal cord injury. Explore some important considerations. 

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Learn tips to help you drive and travel after a spinal cord injury.

Having greater mobility, whether driving locally or traveling far from home, takes some research and preparation. It’s well worth the effort, however, if it allows you to gain independence and see more of the world. 

Driving forward

Being able to drive can offer you a sense of independence and greater access to daily activities. If you’d like to drive, there are physical therapists and driving specialists with the training to help you get behind the wheel.

Once your healthcare team and physical therapist have confirmed your ability to drive safely, consider these important action steps:

  • Contact your local department of motor vehicles (DMV) for the requirements you’ll need to meet in order to drive, such as any tests or evaluations
  • Contact your auto insurance company about your medical status and equipment needs
  • Work with your physical therapist or driving specialist to choose the right adaptive driving equipment for you. There are many choices and options, so expert help is essential.
  • Depending on your mobility and your current vehicle, you may need to consider a van 
  • Whatever your choice, make sure to select a vehicle that matches your ability to transfer and store your wheelchair

General travel tips

It is possible to travel throughout the world after a spinal cord injury. It takes a bit more planning, however. Here are a few general travel tips:

  • Air travel: Contact your airline carrier for special accommodations (i.e., ask for assistance to board the plane if needed, request a larger baggage allowance). You should also familiarize yourself with the policies of your airline. Carry your medications and supplies for catheterization and other self-care routines in your carry-on luggage.
  • Hotels: Alert hotels about your needs before your arrival and request any equipment you will need (e.g., tub, bench, roll-in shower, etc.) 
  • Cruises: Even cruise lines must provide handicap accessible rooms. Be very specific about what you need when making reservations.

You should also research your travel destination, so you don’t run into any unexpected physical barriers. When traveling, it’s important to get as much rest as possible, maintain your usual care routines, and drink plenty of fluids.