How do I arrange for travel for myself or a companion, who has challenges with walking, endurance, and/or breathing? This is a question I worked to problem-solve twice in the past year. I learned about a great solution – renting a portable, lightweight mobility scooter. I can honestly tell that it’s surprising how affordable portable mobility scooters can be through medical equipment companies. As I’ll explain later, there are a few key differences between travel and mobility scooters, and the options available to consumers today are extensive and empowering.

Portable travel scooters availability has exploded in the past few years. When I worked in San Francisco doing home health occupational therapy, just 3 years ago, it was difficult to find portable mobility equipment that you could rent on a short-term basis. Now, there are articles in Forbes, and USA Today, amongst others, that rank the “best portable mobility scooters of 2023.” Even Avis Car Rental partners with Scootaround to allow portable mobility scooter rentals for travelers.

As an occupational therapist (OT), I was so excited to learn as much as I could about mobility rentalopportunities after my Grandmother used a portable travel scooter to come visit me. At 101 years-old, she flew from Seattle to San Francisco to come visit me, but mostly to meet her first great grandchild (my son). Her friend, “entrusted personal assistant” and caregiver, accompanied Grandma. This personal assistant also happens to accompany a lot of other older adults in my Grandma’s retirement community that like to travel, and she specializes in European travel to places that have horrible uneven cobblestone streets and beautiful, but treacherous ancient architecture. Prior to my Grandma’s trip, she called a durable medical equipment company south of Seattle, near the airport. She rented a model that folds up small enough to fit into the trunk of a car, and that weighed just under 40lbs.

I had worked as a home health OT in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and the East Bay area for several years prior to this visit. I remember working with clients years back who could have benefitted from having this type of mobility equipment readily available on a short-term rental basis. For clients that needed to get around in difficult areas of San Francisco (due to hills or uneven terrain), I spent countless hours going to free medical equipment stores and scouring resources online. If only there had been an easy to access equipment rental system available for my clients years ago! My interest in providing equipment that allows people to meet their goals eventually resulted in me pursuing my Assistive Technology Applications Certification Program (ATACP). Now, as an Assistive Technology Specialist (ATS) and OT, I am more passionate than ever about relaying information that can help people be more mobile despite physical or environmental challenges.

The more I researched, the more I was excited about the many options I learned about. Mobility scooters and travel scooters are considered different in the medical equipment world. Full-sized mobility scooters typically don’t fold up, aren’t portable, and are bulkier. Full-sized mobility scooters often come with three or four wheels. Travel scooters typically don’t have as robust of a suspension system as full-sized mobility scooters, but there are exceptions. Most travel scooters have three wheels, and smaller seats that are less padded. The basic rule for travel scooters is that they are compact and lightweight, however, this can also mean that you feel every tiny bump when riding around on them. This can make you feel unsteady and unstable as a rider, so it’s worth thinking about terrain and your core strength and balance tolerance when riding. Although most mobility scooters have better suspension systems, there are several travel scooters that have impressive suspension systems. I know caregivers and adults who have traveled to Europe that swear by upgrading the suspension system on their travel scooter to tackle cobblestone streets.

When it comes to choosing a travel scooter that meets your needs, there are several factors you should consider. First and foremost, think about your specific mobility challenges and what features would be most beneficial to you. Are you primarily looking for a scooter that is lightweight and easily portable, or do you require one with a longer battery life for extended use? Assessing your needs will help you narrow down your options.

Next, consider the weight capacity of the travel scooter. It’s crucial to choose a scooter that can safely support your weight. Most travel scooters have weight capacities ranging from 250 to 350 pounds, so be sure to check the specifications before making a decision.

Another important factor to consider is the scooter’s range. How far do you anticipate traveling on a single charge? This will vary depending on the scooter model and battery capacity. If you plan on taking longer trips or need to use the scooter throughout the day, opting for a model with a longer range is advisable.

Maneuverability is also key when choosing a travel scooter. Look for scooters with a tight turning radius and good stability, especially if you’ll be using it in crowded areas or narrow spaces. Another factor to consider for those traveling to more mountainous terrains is the maximum incline rating for scooters. Last but not least, consider the scooter’s size and whether it will fit comfortably in your living space or vehicle.

Some of the most popular travel scooters online are listed below as a basis for comparison of popular models to give you a small sample of what’s available out there.

The Pride Mobility Go-Go Ultra X has great reviews. This scooter is known for its excellent maneuverability and compact size, making it ideal for navigating tight spaces. It also boasts a long battery life, allowing you to travel for up to 8 miles on a single charge.

Another popular option is the Drive Medical Scout Compact Travel Power Scooter. This scooter offers a comfortable and smooth ride, with a weight capacity of up to 300 pounds. It also has a convenient quick-connect battery pack, so you can easily disassemble and transport it wherever you go.

For those who value versatility in position, there is the eWheels EW-18 Stand-N-Ride Mobility Scooter. This scooter allows you to sit or stand while riding, giving you the freedom to switch positions whenever you need. It also has a top speed of 15 mph for those looking to get somewhere fast.

The options listed above are just some of the most popular I found when researching online. As I mentioned, you can rent these scooters through a medical equipment company, or you could purchase them on your own. Daily rental rates can range from $20 – $60 a day, and purchasing can vary widely, from $700 on up. Travel scooters come in a range of prices, so determine what you’re willing to spend and look for models that fall within your budget whether renting for the short term or buying for the long term.

When my grandmother came down to visit, her caregiver ensured that the scooter would fit into the trunk of her car. Portability was a major factor in her decision. I later learned from this caregiver that she consistently tries to rent Toyota Corollas because of their ample trunk space. This might be something to consider if you are renting a travel scooter and a car for your trip. Another important factor for my Grandmother was that she wanted to go for a walk in the redwoods, so suspension and stability were also important factors for her to consider. Visiting the redwoods has been a long-standing bucket list wish of hers that she had initially planned to do in the summer of 2020. As many of you know, and experienced, travel just wasn’t happening then. However, 3 years later, Grandma was finally able to reconnect with these beautiful trees that she so fondly remembers playing amidst during her summers visiting the Russian River. Unbeknownst to us, the park that we visited had experienced significant trail damage during the heavy rains we experienced in California in January 2023. Many of the trails were closed, and the ranger was a bit skeptical that we would be able to make it very far on their most accessible trail.

I was pleasantly astounded at how well Grandma’s scooter did despite some big potholes, roots, and rocks in the path that we took. Grandma was able to make this bucket list item happen thanks to her scooter, and she cruised the entire mile hike.

I have to say, taking a stroll in the redwoods with my 101-year-old Grandma and my 1 year old son was pretty magical. It’s a memory I will always cherish, and one that I wouldn’t have thought possible even 7 years ago.

The travel scooter allowed my Grandma to reclaim her independence and freedom on this trip. These scooters can be a game changer for individuals who face limitations in their ability to travel due to physical disabilities or impairments. One of the main reasons why travel scooters are essential for people with mobility challenges is their easy transportability. Unlike traditional scooters or wheelchairs, travel scooters are specifically designed to be easily disassembled and packed into the trunk of a car or stored in an airplane’s overhead compartment. If you, or someone you know is interested in traveling and exploring, but feels that their mobility, strength, and/or endurance is a barrier, I highly encourage you to consider and research how a travel or mobility scooter could expand your opportunities and independence.

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