Although one’s desire to explore may be endless, a wheelchair’s electrical charge is not. Most wheelchairs only carry 8 to 12 miles of battery power — a painfully short distance when traveling to a new destination.

Ever since my wheelchair battery died on a Beijing sidewalk (an experience I don’t recommend), I’ve paid very close attention to the power indicator. With limited range, I use these three strategies to get the most out of a single charge.

Reduce weight — Check a bag at the airport; Leave non-essentials in the hotel room.

My Permobil F3 and Quantum Q6 Edge wheelchairs each weigh about 450 pounds… Add my body weight of just over 150 pounds, a backpack (or two) and a suitcase, and the total weight comes in at nearly 700 pounds!

Weight is the single greatest factor impacting the range of a power wheelchair. Shedding that extra weight is a necessity, particularly on travel days where I may be rolling 1, 2 or 3 miles at the airports, checking my wheelchair into very low temperature cargo holds, and arriving to a new destination that I’d still like to explore when I arrive.

This is one of the many reasons why I always check my luggage with the airline — carrying 30, 40 or 50 pounds of extra weight on a limited-range wheelchair just doesn’t make sense. Keep a small carry-on with medications, your wheelchair charger and anything you’ll need during flight, then check the rest.

When exploring a city, leave everything you won’t need in the hotel room. And tell your little brother or sister to stop hitching a ride on the back of your wheelchair! 😛

Use public transport or taxis whenever practical.

The museum you’re going to visit, or the restaurant you’d like to eat at is only a mile away. Rather than paying for a taxi or waiting on the city bus, you could roll the distance in under 20 minutes.

Don’t do it — That could be 10% of your maximum range for the day.

I love to explore cities on my own, wheeling up and down sidewalks, around corners and into interesting alleyways. That spontaneous movement leads to new discoveries, surprises and unforgettable memories. But it also takes battery power.

And so, whenever it is possible to traverse a distance using public transport or a taxi, you should do so. It saves battery power, which you can use to discover something else later in the day. A dead battery before lunchtime is a real drag.

When at rest, charge-up.

Stopped to grab a bite to eat or a cup of coffee? Plug in your wheelchair!

It’s something I’ve had to train myself to do, because it’s easy to overlook. But plugging in your chair whenever you have stopped to take a break can extend your adventure further into the day.

An hour’s charge during lunch could mean a power boost of 2 to 3 miles, depending on your wheelchair and battery type.

Every bar of battery life presents a new opportunity — conserve your charge and enjoy your vacation!

What steps do you take to ensure your wheelchair battery lasts for the entire day? Let us know in the comments below!

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