At the recent wheelchair tennis ITF World Team Cup held in South Africa (a first for South Africa and the African continent) over 300 international tennis players from 34 nations descended on our sunny shores. Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WTSA) saw it as an ideal opportunity to interview and assemble some travel trips from people in wheelchairs who spend a good part of the year travelling to the four corners of the world.

Travel Tips from Tennis Players

Name: Craig Fairall, Juniors Coach wheelchair tennis

County of residence: South Africa

Most memorable country visited: Switzerland

Most wheelchair friendly city: Barcelona, Spain and Nice (France)

Country to visit: The USA: it is a newer country, vs. European countries that are older and behind in instituting change for wheelies

Easies tairline to travel on: Air France

What are the essentials to pack: All your personal items such as medication, passports etc. These items should be on your person - never check these in. Also research the weather and pack appropriate clothing and don't forget a plastic poncho or raincoat especially for the unpredictable European weather. Since we don't walk don't take more than two pairs of shoes

What hurdles have you experienced:

Myworst experience was travelling to Mumbai, India, when the aeroplane had noaisle chair for me to get to my seat.As a disabled passenger I was told I should crawl down the aisle! The same airline had no ‘passengerassist unit’ available and I had to be carried off the plane in my chair by sixpeople

Most interesting experience travelling in a chair:

I went to the airport to fetch a friend who was the No1 wheelchair tennis player in the world at the time and as he came through customs the public went wild.There was singing, dancing and drums. Wow! A wheelchair tennis player with a fan base. Our warm fuzzy feeling was shattered when we realised Magic Johnston, the USA Basketball star was walking behind him!

Travel tips for others:

  • Choose countries that are wheelchair-friendly
  • Plan your trip meticulously and investigate the accessibility of hotels, public transport, taxis, etc.
  • Travel light, and to be able to carry your own bags- thiswill mean that you don't have to rely on other people while travelling which makes life so much easier

Most fun you have ever had in a foreign country:

Visiting the ancient cathedrals in Europe

"Choose your destination wisely - there is so much fun to be had"

How many countries have you visited: 14

Name: Paul Walker, assistant Coach for USA's wheelchair tennis team

County of residence: USA

Most memorable countries visited:

Turkey, Germany and Great Britain

Most wheelchair friendly city: Atlanta, USA as it is one of the most developed cities in terms of wheelchair accessibility

Most wheelchair friendly country to visit: The USA gets my vote. Since new legislation was passed public infrastructure was forced to introduce minimum standards for wheelchair accessibility, which has resulted in easy access for the disabled. Even the older buildings are required to upgrade to be disabled-friendly once they renovate

Easiest airline to travel on:

Delta-- they are great at looking after wheelies

What hurdles have you experienced: A luxury tent was recommended and once I arrived it was clear that I was not able to access it, despite the booking agent saying I would. Often accommodation and places of interest claim to be wheelchair-friendly but the ramps are so narrow and steep you are not able to use them. Another hurdle is outdoor sightseeing because chairs are not built for difficult terrain

Most interesting experience travelling in a chair:

Priort o my disability I used to run along the banks of the Rhine and then peel off into the vineyards. It was such a tranquil experience. After my accident I returned to re-experience it in a wheelchair and was not disappointed ... it was absolutely magical

Travel tips for others:

  • Make sure you get firsthand knowledge of the place you are visiting
  • Research every last detail
  • Get local input where possible

Most fun you have ever had in a foreign country in your chair:

Being carried down the boardwalk to the ocean and swimming in the Turkish med. It is something I will never forget

"Be adventurous even if it means you have to be a little uncomfortable"

How many countries have you visited: 20

"Half the fun of the travel is the aesthetic of lostness"~Ray Bradbury

Name: Sabine Ellerbrock, No. 9 on the international women's wheelchair tennis rankings

County of residence: Germany

Most memorable country visited: South Africa

Most wheelchair friendly city: Amsterdam

Most wheelchair friendly country to visit: The Netherlands. It has a lot of ramps in the cities and everything is very accessible

Easiest airline to travel on: Lufthansa,t he staff are really accommodating of people in wheelchairs

What are the essentials to take: A fun travel partner

What hurdles have you experienced: I've had to pay for luggage because I have beenover the limit because of my chair!

Most interesting experience travelling in a chair: Getting into a Land Rover to go on a safari

Tips for others:

  • Research
  • Research
  • Research

Most fun you have ever had in a foreign country in your chair:

Going on a safari

"If you are bold enough to travel it may lead to the experience of a life time"

How many countries have you visited: 23

Name: Satoshi Saida, No. 8 onthe international ranking, men's wheelchair tennis player

County of residence: Japan

Most memorable country visited: Australia

Most wheelchair friendly city: Sydney

Most wheelchair friendly country to visit: Australia

Easiest airline to travel on: JAL

What hurdles have you experienced:

I was travelling to Belgium to play a tournament and when I collected my chairfrom the airline I realised it was broken. It took a week to fix and I missed most of the event

Most interesting experience travelling in a chair:

Travelling through Italy was very interesting,all the history and culture blew me away and the best part was that itwas mostly wheelchair-friendly

Tips for others:

Take the step and have the guts to travel -you will never regret it

Most fun you have ever had in a foreign country in your chair: It is always fun to travel to foreign counties no matter which destination you have chosen

"Have fun on your travels"

How many countries have you visited: 30

Name: Bryan Barten, No. 12 on the international men's wheelchair tennis rankings

County of residence: USA

Most memorable country visited: Switzerland

Most wheelchair friendly City: San Diego

Most wheelchair friendly country to visit: USA

Easiest airline to travel on: South West Airlines. They require no aisle chairs which means you can roll your chair into the plane where you are seated in the front row

What hurdles have you experienced: It seems I am always trying to find a bathroom that is big enough for my chair. I found Japan notably difficult as everything is so small. Transportation can also be very difficult

Most interesting experience travelling in a chair: Having to wait around the airport while staff tried to locate my wheelchair

Tips for others:

  • Take all medication on board
  • Be nice to people when you have a problem because they are more likely to help you
  • Have all phone numbers and addresses of all your local contacts with you
  • Make sure your cell phone will work in the foreign country incase of emergencies

Most fun you have ever had in a foreign country in your chair: Riding a jetboat in Queenstown, New Zealand.It was a surreal experience riding up the mountain gorge being a footaway from the cave walls

Quote: If you want to go somewhere then follow the path- things always seem to work out with if you have a willing attitude.
"No journey carries us far enough unless - as wetravel into the world around us - it goes an equal distance into the worldwithin us"~ LillianSmith

Participation in International tennis tournamentsis made possible by the generous support and sponsorship offered by AirportsCompany South Africa, the official sponsor of the sport. Airports Company SouthAfrica has contributed no less than R14-million to date and has committed to acontinued investment in the sport as its flagship CSI project.

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