Traveling By Air
Many people travel by air with their mobility scooters and generally you can do it worry free and very easily. In many cases it is possible to drive your mobility scooter through security and right up to the departure gate and check it on at the gate. In that case you can often watch any disassembly to make sure it is done properly. Also in most cases, your scooter will be returned to you at the gate when you depart the airplane.
Airlines should not charge you for the extra "checked luggage", that is, taking your mobility scooter should be free.
However, and this is a big however, it is possible that some airlines will insist that you leave your mobility scooter at the check-in counter and it is possible that your scooter might be handled like luggage.
If you are traveling in a small plane, your scooter may get disassembled. The airline personnel should reassemble your scooter back the way that you delivered it, but it may not be the case.
Just about every airline will have its policy concerning wheelchair posted on the website. Some mention scooters specifically and some do not. For example, Continental's website mentions "Powered Equipment / electric Carts and Wheelchairs". Carts presumably refers to mobility scooter. Delta's site specifically mentions scooters. If scooters are not specifically mentioned you should contact the airline to make sure that the wheelchair policy applies also to scooters, particularly if the airline is a non-US airline. Note that Lufthansa's website mentions that they limit the number of wheelchairs (and presumably scooters) allowed on a particular airplane.
Here is the policy for wheelchairs (and scooters if mentioned) for a few of the major airlines:
If you fly, there is less disconnection required by airlines with Gel batteries. As an example, see Delta Airlines' scooter battery policy. If your scooter batteries are marked as "sealed" or "gel-cell" Delta and many other airlines will not remove the battery from your scooter. They will simply disconnect the battery connectors. This means you will get your scooter back more quickly and more easily be on your way. AGM batteries should be handled the same way as AGM batteries are also non-spillable. But the airline personnel may not be aware of that, so Gel-Cell batteries are the most convenient to travel with.
If you have air-filled tires, you may want to bring along a hand pump and decrease the air pressure in your tires before the flight. Even though cargo holds are pressurized, there can be a decrease in pressure which could damage your tires.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has a guidelines called "Air Carrier Access rules" which give requirements for the way that airlines must treat disabled passengers and their disability equipment. This is a must read for every disabled passenger.
For example, one very important point is that if your assistive device (mobility scooter) is damaged during a domestic US flight " the criterion for calculating the compensation is the original purchase price of the device.", that is, the airline is liable for the repairs up to the original cost of the scooter. However, this is not the case for international flights, where the liability limits may be much less.
Therefore, check your scooter thoroughly when you receive it back from the airline. Look closely for damages, dents, and scratches. "Test Drive" your scooter in the airport to make sure it drives normally. If you find any problems, report it immediately to the airline and ask for a damage claim form, fill it in immediately and return it before leaving the airline. Show the damage to an airline employee and make sure that you get a name.
If you have any problems at all ask to speak to the Complaints Resolution Official (CRO). Every airline is required to have at LEAST one Complaints Resolution Official (CRO). While all airline personnel are supposed to be trained to work with passengers with disabilities, the CRO should especially understand the rules and in case there are any problem the CRO must provide you with a written reason for any problems, which you can then use to make a claim against the airline should it become necessary.
Traveling By Ship
Many (but not all) cruise lines will accommodate your mobility scooter on the ship. However, check to see if your scooter will actually fit on the ship. Some ships have narrow aisles and passageways. Otherwise, you may need to rent a scooter which will fit on-board. Also, find out where you will keep your scooter. Some cruise lines will require you to keep your scooter in your cabin and as many cabins are not very large you may find that the scooter will cause you to be quite cramped.
There are several companies which will rent you a scooter for your cruise and some can even deliver it all the way to your cabin. You can either arrange the scooter rental yourself or ask your travel agent to arrange it for you. Check to make sure that the rental company will be able to meet your ship and take the scooter back from you.
There are many reasons to leave your scooter at home and renting a mobility scooter.
* Less chance of getting your scooter damaged. Yes, the airline will be financially responsible for the damage, but you must make a claim and get the damage repaired. Imagine being without your scooter until you get the money and get the repairs done.
* If you are traveling outside of your country, you may have difficulty recharging your scooter. For example the USA has 110 volt electricity while much of the world has 220 volt electricity. Also, many countries have uniquely shaped wall plugs and even if you do not have problem with the electricity, your plug may not fit into the wall socket without an adapter.
* If you have a full-size 4 wheel scooter, you may find that it is just too big to maneuver on smaller streets, in hotels or ships. It may be easier to rent a smaller more maneuverable 3 wheel scooter for your trip.
On the other hand, if you are tall or large you may find it difficult to find a scooter for your purposes. For example, if traveling to Asia, you may find that the scooters there are built for much smaller people and you may feel more comfortable with a scooter of your own.