Accessible travelling and staying at Travelodge

*Disclaimer – I’m aware that many Travelodge hotels are being refurbished and updated to improve their style and facilities. However I have stayed at the Oswestry Travelodge hotel several times over the last few years and it doesn’t appear to have had any sort of makeover, yet.

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I’m not expecting rose gold taps and feather pillows, I’m just expecting a clean, accessible room which I can move around easily in, with my partner and my children.

Booking a Travelodge stay online (and this applies to Premier Inn hotels too) you select the destination, the dates, the number of guests and the room you require. Quite simple it should be!

Not when you’re a wheelchair user who is also a parent! If you select an accessible room, AND you have a child/children with you, no such room exists for your needs. You can either book an accessible room OR a family room. Apparently people with disabilities don’t have children.

So I book an accessible room, as those requirements take priority incase they give us a room up 3 flights of stairs or something. I do not add that I have children staying, which I’m sure goes against their fire regulations but that is not my fault. We bring our toddler along and his travel cot fits in the corner of the room. We were even able to select an option to add a domestic pet, as our whippet Jackson also came along. So I could bring my pet dog (not an assistance dog) but not my child! Luckily my grandparents live nearby and our daughters could stay at their house. It’s easier for us to stay at a hotel down the road as it has the access we need, privacy and an accessible bathroom.

OR DOES IT?

When I think of an accessible hotel room I assume it will have a wet room type shower and accessible sink and toilet. Not here. Many older Travelodge hotels have a bath in their ‘accessible’ bathrooms. A bath which, when you sit in it, has a massive grab rail along the wall which sticks into your side meaning you have to sit leaning to the outside edge of the bath whilst washing. Comfy!

The room is almost big enough, but with my wheelchair taking up a large proportion of the available floor space, there is little room for me to sit on the floor to get dressed.

The beds are twin beds, usually placed separately unless you request for them to be put together. Because of course disabled people don’t have partners, silly! Luckily my partner hooked the beds together, though one hook didn’t work so if you lean on the gap you might slowly disappear between the beds like I almost did a couple of times.

Did I mention there was only 1 set of towels? Tom looked great with the tiny bath mat towel wrapped round him though.

So to sum it up, no facilities will suit everyone with differing needs. But a wetroom and a room with space to move around is a start. And disabled people have partners. And children. So why do we have to pretend to be childless single people when booking a hotel room?!

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Disabled Girl in France.

I have recently returned from a family holiday to France. It was lovely spending a decent length of time with my family, as our encounters are normally rushed over a weekend and it never feels enough. I always worry that my nephews and younger cousins won’t know me enough, and that when I do see them they will be nervous or apprehensive about what their disabled Aunty/cousin can and cannot do. But after spending a whole week around them, I felt so much more comfortable that everything seems ‘okay’ for them. My two-year-old nephew must have thought so anyway, he asked me just as much as anyone else if he could go on the ‘jumpoline’ and the swings. I love that complete innocent ignorance in thinking I’d have the strength to hoik him into a swing seat, as much as I’d love to.

Being away from home and with other people is not just a learning curve for the younger family members, though. Every trip out, let alone abroad, with me and two kids in tow is never just as simple as ‘pack bags and get in car’. There are delightful logistical mares (night or otherwise), such as the inevitable game of Suitcase-Wheelchair Tetris, and which route Tom will take from the car door, via said wheelchair, to retrieve a child yelling “I need a wee!” from a carseat buried amongst various armbands, bikes and bags of beach towels, being able to retrieve aforementioned older child, 10 month old non-walking baby, and non-walking me, my manual wheelchair, baby changing bag, pushchair and Tom himself out of the car and into a lift on the ferry all in less time than those people on Challenge TV wearing lime-green lycra and army boots trying to retrieve a crystal from a cage surrounded by code-protected sawdust. It’s exciting and sweat-inducing all at the same time.

Then there’s the joy of finding somewhere accessible to sit where I can actually sit in a different chair and try to ignore the stomach-churning sensation and headache which sets in after about thirty minutes of sailing. Seriously, if you’ve ever been on a cross-channel ferry and thought you got away without any sea sickness, try doing it sat in a wheelchair. It feels a bit like being stuck in a snow-globe. Without any snow or reindeer. Just overpriced pastries and takeaway tea. And other people’s screaming children in the background whom are so much more annoying than my own.
I’ve lost my train of thought now.

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Amélie and Geneviève enjoying the comforts of ferry travel

The logistics of holidaying with incapabilities such as my own, continue at each stage of the trip. It’s all well and good knowing somewhere has ‘disabled access’ and that is great, albeit ambiguous, but holiday accommodation abroad or in my own country will never just be simple to use for me. That aside, the gite we stayed in was lovely and clean, and pretty easy to get around, this makes for a happy Lizzy. And there was a downstairs toilet AND shower, quel surprise! Normal people don’t appreciate a good ground floor toilet like Tom and I do. Easily pleased and all that.

Then there are the trips out to neighbouring French towns, not knowing what the French government regard as a statutory level of suitable facilities for disabled people. It turns out that all disabled people living in France are one-armed. At least that is what I gathered from the apparent lack of grab rails in accessible toilets. Just on one side, not both. They like to make going to the toilet that little bit more of a cryptic challenge.

Back at the gite it was pretty chilled, lots of laughing, card games and delicious food and drink, just with the added game of Locate-a-Kid, somewhere within the large gardens belonging to the gite and main house owners. In the event of child misplacement, our first guess would be the infamous ‘jumpoline’ which was responsible for such injuries as my elder nephew’s fat-lip-with-blood and also my own squashed finger. I may have ignored the No Adults rule on the trampoline, but I figured that, well, I can’t stand up and/or actually bounce, so that rule didn’t apply to me. I was merely supervising the children from within the circular edging of the CHILDREN’S trampoline. The fact that I may or may not have a broken little finger is simply the price I paid for the rebellion of having great fun being out of my wheelchair and thrown around by surprisingly heavy kids.

“Get out your seat and jump around… “

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You leave your chair unattended for one minute and it becomes open to shotgun etiquette…
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The ferry ride home seemed to go very quickly, and before we knew it we were off the boat, had said our goodbyes to our nearest and dearest and were on our way home. Barely a week had gone by much too quickly and our first proper family holiday will definitely be one to remember. I just hope the next one isn’t too far in the distance. I think I might fly next time.

Don’t get me started on the logistical nightmares of even telling an airline that you have a WHEELCHAIR.