Traveling with a prosthetic can be a daunting experience, especially for the novice traveler. However, a little preparation and some knowledge can make the experience of getting to your vacation destination easier and less stressful.
For those who are traveling by air this vacation season, be aware that TSA has increased their security screening procedures. It is recommended that the amputee passenger arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before departure to accommodate for additional screening should it be deemed necessary. Keep in mind that TSA procedures vary by airport, but below is a list of general expectations when going through the security process.
1. Many airports, including BWI, utilize full body scanners. Being cleared through the use of this device deems additional screening, including the pat down, unnecessary.
2. If the airport does not have a full body scanner, the amputee traveler can expect a pat down and swab screening. The pat down has become more thorough in the past few months which has caused both anxiety and embarrassment for some travelers. The agent may take a piece of cloth and rub both the prosthetic and your hands for explosive residue.
3. Some airports utilize a castscope machine. This low radiation device takes an image inside the prosthetic socket (along with typical casts and braces). It is not unusual for the agent to take up to 6 images, and the process may add up to 20 minutes to your screening time.
Packing an appropriate carry-on bag can eliminate a lot of stress and potential obstacles for the amputee traveler. It is recommended that the following items be included in the carry-on bag:
1. additional socks of various ply (keep in mind that changes in altitude can cause the volume fluctuations)
2. prescription medications and over the counter pain medication
3. lotion (be sure to keep the bottle within the size restrictions allowed by TSA)
4. hand sanitizer to facilitate donning your prosthesis (again, be sure to keep the bottle small and within the one ounce limits)
5. shrinker sock
6. battery charging mechanism (for bionic prosthetics)
7. handicapped parking hang tag (so that it can utilized while at you destination)
Packing some simple amenities can make staying away from home more comfortable and accessible. You might want to consider bringing a suction cup grab bar and folding shower stool. Although most hotels provide a shower chair upon request, the requests are honored on a first come/ first serve basis and there is often no guarantee that one will be available when you check in. Being prepared with an additional liner and sleeve (if appropriate) will help stave off a panic should something malfunction while on vacation.
Taking some extra time to prepare can help thwart a vacation catastrophe. Should your prosthetic break while you are out of the area, please give us a call. We will do our best to talk you through a repair (utilizing Skype if access is available). If repairs cannot be made we will do our best to refer you to a facility that can help!