I planned ahead for changing at the airport. Jilly does not bear any weight, so she needs to lie down for changing. I have heard of very few airports that are equipped with changing facilities appropriate for adults who require them, and unfortunately at the airports for this trip we had access only to a regular public bathroom, a family bathroom, or a mother’s nursing room, none of which had more than a typical baby’s changing table. Thinking this might be the case, I packed a tarp, which my husband and I utilized in the family bathroom on our way out and the mother’s nursing room on the way home. When we laid the tarp on the floor we explained to Jilly what we were doing. It didn’t feel dignified whatsoever, but I was thankful I had thought of the tarp. We were able to wash it at our destination and use it on our return trip.
We used Jilly’s wheelchair until the last minute. For both flights we were able to push Jilly’s wheelchair right up to the first row of the plane, which was where we requested our seating. My husband transferred Jilly from her chair to the seat and then made sure her chair was given to the appropriate person. Her chair had been tagged with a bright pink tag stating it was an “Assistive Device,” and the tag included our contact information and chair information (that it can not be disassembled, it is not motorized, etc.). The chair was brought to us after both flights and let me tell you, it was a major relief both times.
We considered the best seating situation and learned from our experience. When thinking about seating options ahead of time, we thought it would be easiest if we had the first row, closest to the entrance. However, when we boarded we learned that the front row seats had fixed arm rests. We had envisioned being able to sit closely next to Jilly to hold her upright, but that was not possible. If being able to move the armrest is important to you for positioning reasons, confirm with your airline which seats have adjustable armrests.
We were granted early seating, which gave us an extra 30 minutes to get seated prior to departure. Upon arrival we were the last people off the plane because we had to wait for Jilly’s chair to be delivered to the door. Boarding early and exiting last added almost an hour to our travel time, so definitely be prepared for extra time on the airplane with the whole family.
We made the flight as comfortable as possible for Jilly. As for keeping Jilly entertained and comfortable on the plane, we were sure to have her iPad and iPod fully charged. We massaged her legs and feet periodically. We propped her up with blankets, and we kept her feet from dangling by placing them on a folded up blanket. There were times that she was not happy sitting in the seat, so we managed to get her on our laps for a bit of cuddling. Be sure to pack as many comforts from home as possible!
We planned ahead for transportation at our destination. We reserved an accessible van through Mobility Works (https://wheelersvanrentals.com/), and we really hit the jackpot! We arranged for the van to be waiting for us upon arrival, and the woman who met us gave us the rundown on the vehicle, and then we were off! Jilly literally let out a sigh of relief and began to giggle once we left the airport.
We brought secondary seating for the beach. Jilly traveled and sat in her wheelchair most of the time, however we also decided to bring her jogger for the beach. It collapsed down fairly well, and we put it in an inexpensive travel bag to check with our luggage. It probably isn’t in any shape to use again, but since it was cheap it was worth the one-time use! https://www.amazon.com/J-L-Childress-Standard-Double-Strollers/dp/B003554H9M/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=jogger+travel+bag&qid=1638925923&rdc=1&sr=8-3. Consider your travel destination when thinking about what your child will need for seating.
Traveling with Jilly was stressful and hard at times. However, the overall experience far outweighed the struggle. Having Jilly together with all 22 members of our whole family on vacation was very special. We felt like we accomplished something pretty amazing. If you have some help and plan well ahead of time, I say go for holiday travel!