Spinal Cord Injury Ontario

Voices Blog

Best Places to Go in Your Modified Vehicle

Marilyn in the desert in her wheelchair

I didn’t grow up as an explorer, but I like to travel now. I may have caught the bug a few years before my injury, when I backpacked with a friend through Europe. We had no real itinerary and journeyed wherever the spirit took us.

When I travel now, I have to do quite a bit more planning than I did for that trip. But the extra time and preparation required haven’t held me back. I’ve been to Paris, London, South Africa, Botswana, Japan, South Korea, Hawaii and Bonaire, as well as many Canadian and American destinations.

If you’re like me and you love to see the world, you can do it. A modified vehicle, a travel companion and an adventurous spirit can take you just about anywhere you want to go.

What are the best places to visit? Whatever destinations are at the top of your list! I promise, you can get there. As some inspiration, I’ll share one of my favourite trips to give you a sense of what’s possible.

I’m a big music fan, so a few years ago my husband Greg and I decided to attend Desert Trip, a six-day music festival in California. Performers included the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Neil Young and The Who. We planned to fly out and rent a car. But then….the road called out to us. So we packed up a modified van and drove for five weeks to California and back.


What does it take to embark on a road trip like this? Some courage, I suppose, but mainly a lot of planning. First, we made sure our van would work for my needs – we have a ramp, not a lift, but that’s okay because Greg is there to help. He also took out a passenger seat to make a space to tie down my wheelchair. These are fairly simple modifications. What you need may be different, but there are modified vehicles to suit you.

We also planned for where to stay and how much distance to travel on an average day. We always look for accessible hotels or call around to ask about features like roll-in showers. Also, Airbnb has accessible search criteria and there is a Facebook group called Accessible Travel Club.

When it comes to distance, you’ll need to make a realistic assessment of how many hours a day you can spend in a vehicle and how many stops you need. We budgeted six hours for about a three-hour trip – so, double the time. You may be slower or faster. With some practice, you’ll know your speed.

In addition to having the right vehicle, planning ahead and knowing your daily distance, my advice is to not expect to have all the comforts of home. You’ll be roughing it a bit and may need to improvise. Some days, there may not be bathrooms on the road or the hotel won’t be ideal.

Also, make the most of daylight hours. We changed my schedule to have all my treatments and showers at night. If you love the idea of road tripping, you’ll want to enjoy the landscape and scenic outlooks along the way.

It took a long time to get to California and back, but it was a trip we’ll never forget. The memories, the freedom and the joy last a lifetime. You may have shorter trips in mind – to visit friends, explore a national park or discover a new city. Your best place to go is where your heart takes you.

What should you pack for your road trip? A sense of adventure, a willingness to adapt to new situations, and your boundless curiosity! Those traits will take you down some wonderfully long and winding roads.

For more information on Vehicle Modification, join Cortree Disability Education Centre.

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