Travelling and holidays
Now pandemic restrictions have eased, it is a great time to start thinking about broadening your horizons, whether you are thinking of going a few miles or many thousands. Below, you can find the information you shared with us during Managing Sight Loss sessions to help you on your way. If you have more tips or suggestions, please do get in touch and we will share them with other blind and partially sighted people.
Book with reputable firms
It might cost you a little more but buying holidays as part of a package can give you certain protections, as can using credit cards. There are providers of specialist holidays like TravelEyes and Seable. Unfortunately, at time of writing Seable holidays are currently postponed due to COVID.
If you are going on holiday, make sure you check the Association of British Travel Agents’ advice on staying safe on holiday. Be sure to investigate travel insurance, even for weekend breaks in the UK – it can bring great piece of mind.
Your mobile phone
For many blind and partially sighted people, the smartphone is a thousand tools in one. So, check that you’re going to be able to access data if you go abroad. You can do this by ringing your provider or popping into a mobile phone shop. Check best rates post Brexit. You will need data to use apps such as Be My Eyes or navigation programmes. A battery pack can recharge your phone up to three times – bear this in mind if you have a long journey and want to listen to books or podcasts. Make sure you remember all the relevant leads and chargers and that you may need a different plug.
Book special assistance in advance for flights
When you book your trip or holiday, ask your travel agent about the kinds of assistance available to you. Try and find out what assistance different travel or aeroplane operators offer, and what might be available to you at your destination. If you are a guide dog owner, seek advice and information from Guide Dogs before travelling abroad for the first time.
Assistance with National Express coach travel
National Express have an excellent travel assistance scheme. For full details click here or call 03717 81 81 81 (call centre open 9am-5pm)
National rail assistance
You can book assistance with National Rail: you will be met at your departure station, supported with changes and at your destination station. Click for full information or call 0800 0223720. If you are a smart phone user, you might like to try the National Assistance app. Some degrees of assistance may be possible by just turning up at a staffed mainline station, though this is not guaranteed.
TFL Turn up and Go
Simply turn up at any staffed station in the Transport for London network area and identify yourself as needing assistance and you will be assisted with your journey across the network.
Identifying your luggage
Choosing a brightly coloured bag, tying bright ribbons to the handle of wrapping coloured bands may be enough to identify it as it travels round a luggage belt at an airport or is mixed into a crowed coach boot. You might prefer to make a tactile label. Audible clues could take the shape of key finder, simply press the remote control in your pocket to start the fob ringing. Find out more about key fobs in this link. The Apple Air Tag has some very cool location features if you have the latest Apple iPhone. You can use your iPhone to find your bag in a busy airport, or equally at home for more.
Packing the necessities
If you are going to be away from home for any length of time it can be prudent to take a spare cane and tips with you. It is also easier to use a rucksack or pulled trolley whilst using a cane.
Most countries and vendors now accept plastic methods of payment or Apple and Google pay. You can also get pre-paid currency cards. Take a look at this article from Which that explores the benefits, costs and comparisons of various prepaid currency cards.
Credit cards always have an extra layer of protection so are a good choice for when purchasing expensive items or booking hotels and flights. It is always a good idea best to purchase currency in advance – it is expensive at airports; the Post Office is a good option. Paying with notes might be simpler than identifying change. You may be able to order one or two note denominations to make them simpler to identify. Apps such as Google lookout, Envision and Seeing AI are all able to identify notes although it would be best to identify cash in a safe quiet location rather than a shop. The Be My Eyes app will also assist in identifying money through the use of a volunteer.
Using a separate purse or wallet can prevent the muddling of English and foreign currency. Once a note has been identified it can be folded a certain way to make it simple to use in a shop. For example, you may fold a 10 euro note into a square whilst a 20 might become a triangle
If possible, research the town, place, or accommodation you are to visit. Find out what the access is like, whether it is likely to be well-lit at night, has fully sealed roads and pavements. Are there crossing points. Will you have to walk up steps to gain entry? What are the public transport links like?
In general, the Disabled Person’s rail card provides the most significant discount however it is always advisable to check as group tickets or other savings may be available on your journey. Significant savings can be made by buying tickets in advance and splitting journeys
Bus and travel concessions
If you live in London and are blind or partially sighted, you will be entitled to a Freedom Pass allowing you to travel for free on trains and buses in the London area during off peak hours. Applications need to be made to your local borough. You may also be entitled to Taxi Card and Dial A Ride service. Eligibility criteria may vary from borough to borough. Outside of London local authorities may offer free bus travel or in Scotland and Wales combinations of rail and bus concessions. Scottish and Welsh bus concession card may not be valid in England and vice versa so check your bus pass rules before travelling outside of England.
Applying for passports
The below information is drawn from www.gov.uk where you can find all the information required to complete a passport application. You can apply via the telephone by calling 0300 222 0000
The guidance booklet to help with your passport application is available in different formats. Call the Passport Advice Line if you would like it in:
- audio tape
- large-print format
Apply by phone
You can apply by phone if you’re blind or partially sighted. Someone will fill the form in for you using the information you provide. It will be posted to you to check, sign, and return with the relevant documents, payment, and photos.
Braille passport stickers
HMPO can attach a braille sticker to your new passport that says the word ‘passport’ with your name and passport expiry date. Choose this option when you apply.
To get a sticker for your current passport, call the Passport Adviceline.
Now enjoy a well-earned break!
Want more resources? Try these:
Life hacks: using cash
Need some tips to make you feel more confident using cash when out and about? Check out the Managing Sight Loss life hacks: using cash.
Life hacks: medication
Struggling to manage your medication? Check out this page for some life hacks focussing on medication.
Want to try online shopping or banking but don't know where to start? Check out this page for tips and advice.