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Newbie Handicapped Traveller Needs Advice

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Hello all :-)

I recently found this great site and hope there are those that can offer some help. I've made the decision to take my "trip of a lifetime" in 2013. My initial plans are to spend a week in England/Scotland/Ireland, 2 weeks on a River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest (or the reverse depending on what country I start in), a week in Italy, and a week in Greece. Yes, this is a whirlwind trip but I need to pack in as much as possible since I'll never be able to visit Europe again. I'm 58 and mobility challenged. I can only walk a short distance (a couple of city blocks, max) using a cane or crutches so I need to travel with my full-size mobility scooter. I want to take this trip before I am no longer able to walk at all. Unfortunately I will be travelling alone since none of my friends can afford to come close to the $40,000 I am budgeting for this trip. A big chunk of that is going toward first-class airfare between the U.S. and Europe. First or maybe business class is a necessity since I would need to be able to keep my legs elevated and/or lay down during the trans-Atlantic portions of my trip. Flying between various spots in Europe I may be able to fly coach if there is enough legroom as I'm 6'3" and cannot keep my legs in a cramped position. Additionally, I have not been aboard an aircraft of any type in almost 20 years. Even back then I nearly always flew first class for the extra legroom. I do know for sure that I will need to fly between Italy and Athens since Greek borders have been closed to international trains. However, my overall choice to travel between various points would be by train. Given the above I have many questions.

-I know it will be difficult to travel with the scooter and my travel agent will do everything she can to make arrangements but can anyone give me any tips or hints on how best to accomplish this? Do most trains have a spot that can carry a scooter?

-Can anyone suggest the best time of the year to make this trip? I'd like to avoid the height of the tourist season but would like warm, comfortable weather, hopefully little rain and definately no snow.

-In each of the countries I have listed are there suggestions for what areas are a "must" to see that have easy access, i.e. no stairs/steps? I want to spend as little time as possible in the major cities with the exception of Athens. I'm an accomplished amateur photographer and love to photograph people, landscapes and senic spots more than museums. I want to be able to meet the locals, go where they go, eat what they eat, etc.

-Because of my disabilities I'm thinking of hiring a car with a driver guide in many areas. In Athens "George the famous taxi driver" has been highly recommended by Matt Barrett (www.greektravel.com). Although more expensive than a group/guided tour it may suit my needs better. Any suggestions or pro's and con's? At this point in the planning stage I am very willing to consider all suggestions including handicapped group tours.

-I do not want to carry large amounts of cash. Would credit cards, debit cards, traveller's checks, a combination of those, or is something else the best way to go?

-I already know I will be purchasing some bulky and expensive souvenirs and gifts for friends such as a cuckoo clock from Germany. Is it best to try to carry those purchases with me or can I ship them from a store? Suggestions?

-If I were to learn the basics of one language (other than English, lol) through a program such as Rosetta Stone, what language might give me the most bang for my buck?

-If doing all the above I can come in under my budgeted amount I'm considering adding a cruise on a sailing vessel that will stop in ports in Italy, Turkey, Greece and some of the Greek Islands such as Mykonos. Has anyone been on one of these such as offered at http://starclippers.com/index.php ? Would you suggest that for someone who has mobility issues? I shouldn't have any issues walking on the ship unless the seas are rough but would again have to have my scooter transported from the ship to the dock so I could get around while in port.

-I need to travel with quite a few prescription medications including two narcotics, methadone and morphine tablets, for pain. Will I run into any issues carrying these. I'm assuming I will need to keep them in the original bottles but am concerned because of the large quantities that will be needed for the length of trip I'm planning. Quantities will quite literally be hundreds as I am prescribed between 9 and 12 per day each.

-Am I crazy for wanting to do all this in 5 or 6 weeks? Probably, but it will be my one and only chance to do this. OR.....should I just bury my head in the sand and give up since the planning and travel are going to be difficult? I've never been outside of the U.S. and Canada so any kind of info would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance for any who reply to my post.

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