What To Do When Your Wheelchair Breaks While Traveling

It can be an incredibly stressful time when your wheelchair breaks while you’re far from home. I know, this happened to me earlier this year while my husband and I were in Malta. For me it was a broken wheel, you’ll be able to see pictures of it further on in the post. I was determined not to let this impact my vacation or my relaxed attitude, but that was difficult at the time. I’ll admit, I panicked a little bit.

What was my biggest worry? Giving my wheelchair, my legs, over to a complete stranger in a strange country and not being given my wheelchair back. Instead, having them try to pass off some other, lesser quality one than mine off as mine and it becoming an ordeal. It was completely unwarranted and it turns out that the Maltese are just about the nicest people you will ever meet. Looking back I feel a little bit silly worrying so much, but at the time it made perfect sense, and if this happens to you then it will make sense to you as well.

So what should you do if your wheelchair breaks while you’re on vacation?


First, assess the damage. Is it something you can fix right there where you are with what you have in your hands? Most likely not, which is why we move on to the next thing you should do…


Find somewhere comfortable so you can gather information. You’re going to need your wheelchair repaired. If you’re in a town or a city you can either head back to your hotel, a local café, or anywhere you might get internet access, or failing internet access, a local. If you can’t walk then get a taxi that will come to you. Again, this may require the help of someone else who can go and get a taxi to come to you. When my wheel broke we were only about a five-minute walk from our hotel so I walked back to our room. At the time, though, we were on our way back from a concert so it was too late for anything to be done for my chair. Though we did ask the front desk anyway and when we got up the next morning they already knew that we would be coming to them for help again. The hotel called OK Medical in a nearby town and made sure they could help before they drove my husband and my wheelchair to the medical supply store. (Big shout out to OK Medical for being SO awesome!)

Before you go to the medical supply store take photos of your wheelchair. This should include photos of any damage, any paint that has chipped off, or anything you’ve done to customize your chair, and any stickers that happen to be on the chair too. Especially if they happen to be from the manufacturer. This way if there is some kind of mix up you have proof that your chair belongs to you as well as proof of the damage to your chair. This is mostly for your peace of mind, it’s incredibly unlikely that something will happen. But if it does, then you will be armed and prepared.


If repair work on your wheelchair is going to take a while then you should ask for a chair you can rent until your chair is ready to go again. It’ll most likely be a manual chair, but it will at least keep you going while you wait for yours.

Afterwards, be sure to keep receipts, and all documentation (including those photos you took!). This could come in handy while dealing with your insurance company. Be sure to inspect your chair before you leave the medical store after you get the chair back. Make sure that all the work they said they did on it was completed, make sure it is your chair, and make sure there isn’t any new damage.



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  • Sorry you had to deal with this while traveling, but now you can provide helpful tips to other people! These are good tips for any type of issues while traveling. Always take photos and keep documentation.

    • Shannon Doyle

      That was my thought exactly! Every bad thing is really just an opportunity for you to teach others.

  • Can’t even imagine how frustrating that can be! Do you have a standard insurance company for your wheelchair for travel?

    • Shannon Doyle

      My health insurance covers pretty much everything I need thankfully, VHI in Ireland.

  • Trevor thorpe

    This is the sort of issue that we hope doesn’t happen, but have to be prepared for! I’ve done a fair bit of bicycle touring and when having bike issues, it’s important to know how to ferret out the local bike shops and also to understand that many of them won’t be open when you want them to be. Not quite as challenging as a wheelchair breakdown, but I have found that having a system like the one you describe helps sort things out more quickly!

  • Danielle Ditzian

    This is such an interesting article, and such an unusual one to come across. Really glad resources like this are out there!

  • Very interesting post and they sound like really great tips. I can only imagine the hassle it must be when something like this happens on vacation.

  • I think it’s great you share tips like this – there needs to be more disability-centric travel friendly blogs, that is for sure! Right on!

  • Great tips – it’s something I wouldn’t have even thought of, so it’s good to hear from other who deal with wheelchair travel everyday.

  • Lisa

    Nice post! Things like this most of us don’t tend to think about. Great tips you shared for everyone will definitely pass along.

  • Clare Colley

    What a nightmare to happen when you are an holiday and so restricting. I guess you don’t think about these things happening, though my mum had a wheelchair when she was sick and my sister and I took her away and she had a puncture. Well we had no clue what to do, luckily my dad had brought my mum and was just playing golf down the road before driving home so he came back and arranged for it to be fixed for us. Just horrible when you get that freedom taken away from you, but glad the people in Malta managed to fix and it didn’t ruin your holiday 🙂

  • That must be a nightmare if this happens while you are away. You provided some great tips there though.

  • Not something the average traveler thinks about, including myself. Great tips for those traveling with a wheelchair and a breakdown occurs.

  • Nancy Pitman

    So glad you wrote this post. Now that my father in law is permanently in a wheelchair this comes in very handy. You just never know what can happen while traveling so now we will be prepared just in case.

  • Lindsay Mickles

    Very sorry this happened to you, but very relieved you were able to get such good care in Malta! Great advice and I’m really glad things worked out well for you!

  • Oh no what a drama! That must have been quite unnerving but glad everything was okay in the end! Good idea about taking photos – we always do that for anything important while travelling.

  • Elisa Subirats

    Handy info for those who need wheelchair. And glad that despite the initial panic you could manage the situation and told us about that