Las Vegas for Wheelies
by Bonnie Arthur 2002

Bonnie Arthur, who travels with a wheelchair, opted to travel solo from Detroit, Michigan to Las Vegas, Nevada. Come along as she shares the access and freedom of her fun-filled holiday

Las Vegas
lures me to its desert playground almost every year. I love the energy and pulse of the city, enjoy the eye-candy of the strip and get caught up in the excitement.  Maybe it's the smell of all that cash in the air.

Traveling using a wheelchair isn't complicated; it just requires a little more detail with planning than mainstream travel. If you "know before you go," you'll save time and the heartburn of disappointment. 

This year, by traveling buddies weren't available, so I went on an excellent solo adventure. Maybe it was a little daring, maybe a little crazy for a woman in a wheelchair to travel alone to (ohmygosh) a big city, but I love an adventure and I'm not often intimidated, so off I went. 

Plane and Simple: I booked with MLT Worryfree Vacations, a nice but no-frills charter company out of Detroit, who had the best price for packaged air and hotel accommodations. MLT staff didn't even flinch when I showed up unaccompanied, and they were knowledgeable about pre-boarding for non-ambulatory passengers like me. One small complaint I have: Will there EVER be a LOW counter at their airlines check-in for seated guests to do business? Think, able-bodied people, what it would be like to carry on a conversation and share paperwork with a counter that's higher than your head!  Deli-counter managers, are you listening?

Packing was condensed into one carry-on to eliminate needing extra help carrying luggage, and this also eliminated going to baggage claim, a big timesaver and hassle-reducer. For a few days' vacation, and a casual-dress city like Vegas, pack light.

I dealt with being strapped into the boarding chair and carted to my seat. I dealt with not using the restroom during the flight, unless I wanted to use the dreaded boarding chair again. I dealt with the anxiety of hoping my wheelchair, in the belly of the plane, was being treated nicely. All this to get to my destination.  It's always worth it in the end.

McCarran International Airport is the size of a small city. From the arrival gates to the Ground Transportation area of the terminal is a long way, but moving walkways speed up the journey. Once outside, choose your transportation company and ask the representative to request a lift-equipped bus. In 10 minutes or so, you'll be on your way to your hotel.  You can remain in your wheelchair on the buses, a nice perk. Some of the larger hotels have their own transportation service, but check first whether there are lifts on their shuttles. 

My knuckles are Dragging the Ground: Take your vitamins and dust off your work-out videos to train for marathon-wheeling and sight-seeing.  I racked up at least five miles a day casino hopping, and once inside a casino, I wheeled a few more miles looking around.  We're talking BIG casinos.  Here are some staggering facts: The new Aladdin resort/casino has 21 restaurants, 130 shops, 100,000 sq. feet of gaming space, 2,600 rooms, and sits on 34 acres. And that's just one of many casinos to see.  If you want to cut back on physical exercise, there are trolleys and buses that will take you door-to-door, or almost. Entrances to the casinos are still a few city blocks away from your drop-off point.  Taxis are the most direct, but only a few offer lift services, and must be pre-arranged.

Sights to Behold: If you're new to the desert, or just need a break from the lights and action, make sure to take a side-trip to Hoover Dam, Lake Mead or experience the quiet desert beauty of Red Rock Canyon about hour's drive. Most tour companies offer a free Laughlin day trip included with your reservation. The offer is good for any day during your stay, and if you plan to take advantage of this freebie, make arrangements at least two days in advance for a tour bus equipped with a lift to pick you up at your hotel.

Renting a car with hand-controls is an option, and also requires at least a 48- hour notice, so plan ahead if you want to drive on your own. I choose to let someone else handle the madness of the Vegas strip traffic, so I opt for the bus.

I Did it My Way: Solo travel is not for everyone, especially if you use a wheelchair, but if you're ready to go, and the timing is lousy for your travel partners, why stay home? Sure, there are disadvantages of being alone, and caution to use. Stay with the crowds. Don't wait for the bus late at night in desolate areas, and use all your common sense about personal safety. But for us control-freaks, we get to be the travel boss and call all the shots - when to eat, when to get out of the sun, what to see and when to stop gambling. Maybe having someone telling you when it's time to stop gambling isn't such a bad thing, after all.

I stayed at the Palace Station, off the strip. Access was fine, (standard wheelchair access), but off the strip so I had to take the Palace Station shuttle bus to the strip. The bus had a lift and ran every hour, so there was not a problem with transportation

Click here to share Bonnie's adventure to the Cook Islands.

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