by Growing Needs | Nov 8, 2023 | Community, Lifestyle & Wellness, Resources, Wellness
If you are like me, who had done overseas travelling often when younger, and as age catches up, find that some of those once convenient options now seems like an uphill task, you can spare a few minutes reading on…
Gone are the days when I could climb The Great Wall on heels (was a total mistake), lugged my 2 x 31-inch luggage from Heathrow Express station to the boarding gates, and hand carried all my bags up the non-lift servicing apartments in Europe… Now, my only aim is to ensure I dedicate walking to absolutely necessary ones, like sightseeing, or maybe… shopping?
There are many (seriously, hundreds!!) of articles on the web introducing where to go and how to move around, but not many are providing information on HOW MUCH TIME is spent on getting from point A to point B and moving around within a building.
Thus, here I will be sharing with you some of the pointers I have gathered, to plan my remaining holidays around convenience, avoid potholes, and spend my time and efforts on enjoying my tours!
Let’s start our journey from HOME SWEET HOME. Many of us don’t realise that, sometimes, we spend too much time walking before we even start on our touring. We must, first, establish what will our focus be:
Cheapest way to see most things? Explore at leisure? Explore as many attractions within a short time?
If convenience and enjoying your holidays is the focus, then you are with me.
Airport – Aircraft – Airport mobility
While most of us may not require a wheelchair at normal times, going overseas can sometimes be tiring, thus if you are preparing to do mostly outdoor activities, or even expected to move long distance during your trip, you may want to consider bringing a collapsible wheelchair/walking aid etc. Alternatively, having sufficient time to take a stroll and break in between is just as good an option. Same goes should your travelling group be involving members who require mobility assistance.
When this happens, it is good to be well prepared for your trip, look out for challenges post to walking aid.
Travelling with own wheelchair
Most airlines with widebody aircraft do cater for passengers with wheelchair. While most legacy carriers/full-service airlines do not count your own manual or electric wheelchair or other assistive devices to your free baggage allowance, some other airlines may, especially on low cost carriers. Thus, please check with the airlines you are planning to book what their treatment for personal wheelchair storage.
Most airlines offer mobility services, some complimentary, others, with a fee. Check out on the respective airline website for information before your trip. Things to look out for:
Most airlines do not charge for mobility assistance if you are using your own wheelchair, however LCC typically charges if you are opting for wheelchair rental. They also usually require the passenger to have an assistant to wheel the passenger. Selected airlines, such as Singapore Airlines, Emirates do offer ground and onboard assistance, should you inform them more than 48 hours before departure. However, it will be good to reserve this service at the point of ticket reservation.
Bear in mind that should you request for mobility service, or bring your own wheelchair, once the airlines put this on record, it is likely that you will be excluded from seating at the emergency exit rows. A fully abled medium size person is required to be seated at these special rows, as they will need to assist in operating the emergency door disarming should an emergency occur. This means that, even if you may have opted to be seated at the emergency row/s, you will be reassigned once mobility assistance is required, pre-planned or not. This is more like a security requirement; thus, it is best not to book on one even if you love that extra leg room…
At the same time, you may want to check out the functionality of the airport of your destination, as some of the older airports (especially in Europe, Africa) still use step ladders (think those VIP waving moments of USAP coming out from Air Force One, but nope you will probably be grasping for your flying hair and struggling through the wobbly ladder), and during peak seasons, even the bigger airports use them if the airport runs out of aerobridge when your plane lands… Thus, should you be travelling during the peak seasons (Summer vacation, long weekends, Winter Vacations, between festivals), take extra note of that.
What you thought you will get
What you really get….
Some airlines are more accessible than others, some terminals too. If walking long distances is a concern, it will be advisable to check out the details of the airport of your destinations.
Many airports are accessible via public transport like subways/trains/metro (however you call it), connecting them between airport terminals and the main cities. However, do take note of the walking distance between the subway stations to check in counters. For the longest time, I tend to complain about the distance from Heathrow station to the check-in counters… a good 30 minutes of walking! This agony deepens when I have to push my 2 luggage up and down the slopes on the way, however gentle they seem. Not forgetting there is another long way from the check in counters to the final gates… So please give yourself ample time from train stations to the final gate…
Let me give some examples of the “journey” that you have to plan for some popular airports (base on destinations):
Seoul Incheon Airport (direct flights only)
Changi drop off – Terminal 1/3/4 – Incheon arrival – Terminal1/2 – transport to Seoul city
It’s probably the most convenient, you just need to prepare the walking distance from arrival hall to your transport choice, may it be a private taxi (the most expensive, approximately US$50-US$60 for one way), train, or limousine (aka 40 seater bus).
Typically, if you are flying SIA or Asiana, you will be landing in the extended part of terminal 1, Korean Air lands in Terminal 2.
Limousine – take note that both Seoul bus operators (Airport Limousine Korea and KAL Limousine) depart from Terminal 1, while the National Carrier: Korean Air, arrives at Terminal 2… So, make sure you allocate sufficient time for walking… Incheon Airport website shows travelling time before the terminals is about 15-18 mins, so it’s good to add another 25mins to the expected time.
(Credit: Incheon Airport, https://www.airport.kr/ap_lp/en/svc/terinfo/termoving/termoving.do)
While they provide free shuttle, take note that this shuttle bus will bring you around the whole airport including cargo terminals. While a faster way is to take the Airport Railroad, it will cost you KRW800 per trip.
Seoul Metro – first train starts around 5.20 am and last train departs around 10.40pm, depending on which terminal you are boarding. Thus, if you are taking the late night arrival flight, this is unlikely a choice for you.. Cost is about KRW4000 or US$3 per ticket.
Limousine: The first bus starts around 5.30am and the last bus leaves around 10.40pm (again, depending on your boarding Terminal), so if your flight lands at 10pm or later, you will have to consider either a private car or taxi… Limousine tickets can be purchased online or at the counter at KRW15,000 or US$11.50 each.
Extra Perks: There is a luggage delivery service (hoo-ray!) you can opt to have your luggage picked up and delivered (both ways!) between Incheon airport and your hotel. The trade off is… it costs quite a lot… Klook offers it at US$27.45 per piece per way and you need to order from a start of 2 pieces.. this sets you off by US$54.90 onwards for one trip. Unless you really want to save time for a super short trip, to maximise time touring around, the cost of delivering 2 bags (assuming there are at least 2 of you travelling) + 2 train/limousine tickets (one way) totally US$60 – US$78 can get you a comfortable private car trip
However, for a private taxi ride, look out if there are services of “Black premium Cab”. They are truly premium, pricing about double or more, with the claim that “drivers of black cabs can speak English”, I fear not… Very few of the drivers can actually converse in English good enough for us to understand. It’s likely more efficient to invest in translation apps downloaded onto your phone with the money saved by taking a normal cab, if you do need to take the private taxi.
Heathrow Airport (direct flights only)
Changi drop off – Terminal 1/3 – Heathrow arrival – Terminal 2/3 – transport to London City
Just to illustrate how BIG can airport terminals go… Let’s use Heathrow:
Simply put, all international carriers fly into Heathrow Terminal 2/3/4, the Heathrow Express (connecting to London Tube) can be taken from Terminal 2 or 3, while British Airways (BA) only uses Terminal 5. This means, if you are planning to do a European connection via BA, you have to commute from T2/3 (where SQ, CX, and other Asian carriers use) to T5, via Airport Express (part of Heathrow Express)
(Credit: Heathrow Airport, maps.heathrow.com)
To add on your “excitement”, if you have booked your connecting flights separately (to save cost), you will need to pick up your bags, exit the terminals and proceed to the other terminals. Give yourself at least 40 mins to move around in airports like this. ALERT: DO NOT DO A CONNECTING FLIGHT THAT HAS <1.5 HOURS LAYOVER. Trust me, you will most likely (almost certainly I would like to add), not make it…
A real example of connecting between SIA and Air France (AF) – (credit: Heathrow Airport)
Main Reason: unlike Changi Airport, there is ONLY one terminal that comes with Scanners in Heathrow: Terminal 5. This means, if you are doing connecting flights from SQ to say, Air France, you will move from T2 to T5 for CT scans, then to T4 via the landside connection
If you decide to spend a few days in London before connecting to other EU countries, again, by taking the Tube, you will arrive into Terminal 2/3, you will have to take another Heathrow Express to connect to Terminal 4/5 (depending on the airlines you have booked). Nope, there aren’t any direct stations in Terminal 4/5.
You might then think, “Oh! In that case, I will choose other European Airports”. Well, you could, technically, but Heathrow is the World Busiest Airport, with the most connections, compared to other European Airports… Oh we have another “favourite” Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG) in Paris. I am sure many would love to stay over in Paris before onward to elsewhere. Word of Caution: If you choose CDG, I would highly recommend to do a stay over, instead of a direct connection, CDG has a reputation of losing luggage for connecting flights pre covid… With the tight labour force post covid, less than optimal operational level in almost all airports around the world, this is likely to worsen.
Thus, if you are travelling to Europe, and transiting, my recommendation will be:
Heathrow (London) Transit: set aside MINIMUM 2.5 hours transit time
Charles De Gaulle (Paris) Transit: STAY OVER
Zurich/Frankfurt (Switzerland/Germany) Transit: bring fruits or snacks down the plane if your transit is early hours, typical European Airports (other than Heathrow) do not start their immigration or service shops till 9am or so…
Once you start researching on time spent pre and post your holiday destinations, you will find it’s a good trade off, and make your journey a much more enjoyable one.
Growing Needs would like to thank Ms Jeslyn Ho, who spent more than 50% of her time shuttling between cities over the past 25 years, for contributing to the article and sharing tips on travel for seniors.
Growing Needs grew out of our own encounters with caring for our aging parents and reflecting on the Growing Needs that we ourselves would face as we advance in years. We hope to build a community that will learn, share and contribute towards caring for the growing needs of our loved ones.