Mastering Air Travel as a Blind Person: Packing
In the last blog, I talked about checking-in at the airport and dealing with customer service representatives. In this post I’ll look at luggage and packing.
Packing. I’ve deliberately waited to discuss packing until I was able to give some small sense as to what the experience of confronting an airport as a blind person is like. As anyone who has flown knows, it’s impossible to anticipate everything, but the more you can plan for the better. Most of the suggestions for packing as a visually impaired person are pretty similar to what a sighted person would do with the qualification that organization is far more important. If everything goes smoothly and there are no flight delays, no mechanical failures, no bad weather, and no missed connections, (something that happens only slightly more often than an appearance of Halley’s comet) then most of the following suggestions will be unnecessary. If, however, your travel plans implode, and, if you fly enough, you know they will, you’ll be glad of taking the following precautions.
- Create a check-list for packing. If you don’t do this, sooner or later, you’ll arrive at your destination to discover that you forgotten to pack your razor or tooth paste. That’s annoying and inconvenient, but, let’s be honest, even if you are the greatest cane traveler or dog handler in the Western Hemisphere, it’s going to take you additional time to buy replacements in a unfamiliar environment. Maybe, you’re lucky and have time to do this; however, if you need to get to an appointment, meeting, etc. and are pressed for time, a minor inconvenience has been needlessly transformed into a stressful event.
- Pack all critical items in a carry-on. This is especially true of medications. All it takes is being separated once from your luggage when you need these items to learn the lesson. Don’t even think about what happens if you are in Miami and your luggage is sent to Sacramento.
- Travel documents kept on your person. You want to have these close at hand because airport personnel and passenger assist staff are going to want to see them. They’re not going to take your word for it. They’ll insist on seeing the actual documents.
- Pack snacks. If plane travel were always dependable and if the airlines served real food (which they did once upon a time, many, many years ago), this wouldn’t be necessary. There are any number of situations when a sighted traveler can get food and drink in the airport with minimal effort. If the stars are properly aligned, you can too, but, if they aren’t, you’re out of luck, hungry, and thirsty.
- Always have ready access to your favorite mobility device. If this happens to be a dog, this, of course, should never be a problem. A cane, however, may be a bit more problematic. Personally, I always pack a cane in a readily-accessible pocket of my carry-on. Incidentally, even though I almost always travel with a dog, I still have a cane as a back-up; highly unlikely that I’ll need it, I know, but why take the chance?
- Emergency items for unplanned overnight. It can never be repeated too often that, while you’re sure your travel should be brief and uncomplicated, pack the carry-on with those items you would need in case everything falls apart and you are stuck in Bismarck overnight. I remember once having an 11:00 a.m. flight scheduled only to have a storm in the Midwest shut down virtually all flights in the East. After waiting until 9 p.m. for a break in the weather, the airport completely closed, and all passengers had to make arrangements to spend the night elsewhere. Two hours later, the terminal was entirely deserted. You could have set off a bomb in the main concourse and not hurt a living soul. By the time I recovered my luggage, located transportation, and finally checked-in to the last available hotel, it was 2 a.m. Having all emergency items easily available in my carry-on was the only positive thing in the Day from Hell.
Now that we’ve looked at packing, checking-in, and passenger assist personnel, in the next post I’ll look at the process of going through security.
Read the first post in this series, Checking-in.