Tips to travel with elderly.

1. Feel headache for the cobbled stone path?  Tourist areas like France's Chateau De Versailles does allow cars with disabled passengers (such as on wheelchair) to drive to the palace entrance. Provide either governmental and/or visual proof of disability at the gate when requested.  In my case, my mother doesn't have governmental proof and they requested for seeing the passenger and the presence of a wheelchair inside the car.  It is free to park inside the palace compound.  Also, it is free admission for both the carer of disabled visitor and the disabled visitor.

2.  Long queue?  To accommodate the need of the disabled, most tourist areas allow disabled visitors to by-pass the queue.  We did so both in Chateau de Versailles in France and Duomo Cathedral in Milan.

3.  Most of the economical downtown hotels/apartments in Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam do not provide disabled facility. Make sure you check before booking.  The long narrow steep stairs in these old buildings can be troublesome for those with knee troubles.  The same applies for restaurants in these downtown areas.  In this trip, we had a rental car and hence we stayed outskirts and took bus/train into the city. 

4. Wheelchair.  The weight of a wheelchair could affect the physical comfort of the trip.  If possible, get a lightweight and foldable wheelchair for easier lifting in and out of the car.  The lightweight wheelchair will not take much space in the trunk.

5. Unlike America, the buses in most European cities can kneel but are not equipped with automatic ramp for wheelchair accessibility.  That is another reason to use lightweight wheelchair.

6.  Metro.  If possible, avoid using metro/underground in these cities, especially during rush hours.  The care giver can become an easy target for the pickpocket.  (That happened to me four years ago in Paris).  

7.  Metro stations.  Most metro stations in Paris don't have lift.  Surprisingly that the metro stations in Milan city are rather disabled friendly.    They provide either the wheelchair ramp or lift to ascend and descend between floors.

7.  Bus.  Use bus if possible.  The driver will wait until you are all settled before driving.  The metro will not. The downside is that their schedules can vary and not as reliable.  Bus passengers can do sightseeing as well while sitting in the bus to get to the next destination. The views can be as beautiful along as the way as the destination itself. 

8.  Like language barrier, don't let your physical disability deter you from seeing the world.  That is my earnest desire for any people who wish to travel. Period.

9. If you rent a car, please note that most gas stations are closed on Sundays; some even on Saturdays.  Be sure you make arrangement to tank up the car if you plan on long road trip over the weekend.


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