If you think it is necessary to spend big bucks for a vacation to remember, think again. Flying is sometimes a key part of these activities, but it doesn’t always involve commercial airlines. Some of the more exciting adventures may be found within a few hours, or minutes, of home.
During the past two decades I have written several articles about how to travel successfully when using a wheelchair. Those tips have been shared with virtually thousands of readers, yet the airlines keep challenging us with more stringent travel restrictions, excessive fees and unnecessary damage to our mobility devices.
My fellow bloggers and I have also consumed a large portion of our allotted space with tales of our own unsuccessful attempts to fly effortlessly through the friendly skies without enduring such damage, delays or degrading treatment. In the process we have probably dissuaded quite a few of you from travel by air; I don't think any of us intended to do that.
I recently stumbled across a draft of an article that I had started a few years ago, and it is worth revisiting today. It reminded me that we are surrounded by opportunities to participate in activities that will result in anything from an adrenaline rush to wonderment at the beauty of the world around us. Some of these opportunities may be available locally, but others might require you to travel. In either case, having a positive outlook and being prepared for the unique aspects of each activity will result in success and some great memories.
Virtually every major vacation destination features businesses which offer scenic flights, or more challenging activities, in the air. I’ve viewed the inside of the crater of Mount St. Helens from a helicopter, and circled Mount Rainier in the front seat of an open-cockpit biplane. It takes two or more husky people to wrestle my 200-pound frame into the passenger seats of more exotic aircraft, but it’s definitely worth the struggle.
I’ve also flown in the backseat of a two-seater glider circling through desert updrafts, and in the copilot's seat of a float plane over Puget Sound, and the change in perspectives from those aerial viewpoints is amazing. A nearby airport advertises flights in an authentic WWII warplane, but I haven't tried that yet.
Keep in mind that the Air Carrier Access Act
doesn’t apply to those types of flights, and be sure to call ahead to assure that your situation can be accommodated. Be prepared for a little indignity during the loading process, and wear comfortable clothing. For open cockpit flights, dress warmly for the cooler air and wind at higher altitudes.
To find out what unique flight options might be available, there are several methods that work. Check out the local yellow pages for flying services, or call the manager at the nearest private airport. Most businesses involved with flying will know if there are scenic flights available locally, or where the owner of a vintage airplane might be found. The Chamber of Commerce is another good source of information, and if you’re on vacation check out the brochure rack in your hotel’s lobby.
If you fear flying, don’t forget ferryboat rides, river rafting, sailing, scenic cruises and stern-wheeler trips. Several of my friends who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices have taken advantage of kayaks and rowing shells that are equipped with stabilizers so they will not tip over, allowing them to explore the waterfront for a unique and close-up perspective. All of those options (with, perhaps, the exception of river rafting during high-water seasons) are relatively safe, will keep you dry and can make any day worth remembering.
I have recently discovered several other safe recreational options nearby as well. It’s possible to para-sail behind a speedboat and get winched back down to the rear deck without getting wet, hot air balloons that float over my house periodically look like fun, and an indoor "skydiving" center just opened within a few miles of here. Instead of jumping or falling out of a perfectly good airplane, powerful fans hold flyers in the air where they can enjoy the sensation of free-falling without any risk, indoors. My six-year-old grandson did it, so it ought to be safe enough for my friends and me.
To partake in most of these activities, all that is needed is someone to help with transfers, and less than $150. Because of the above information, and some of my personal experiences, I believe that adventures don’t need to be expensive to be memorable. How many of these have you tried on for size? Are there others that you would recommend as well?
© 2012 Michael Collins