If you’re wondering how to get to, from, or around St. Louis, this page is for you! The first section covers airports and flying, the next section covers transportation while you’re in St. Louis, and the last section provides some information if you’re thinking of getting home by car.
Airports, Flying, & Transportation from the Airport
- LOOK FOR REFUNDABLE/CHANGE-ABLE FLIGHTS: Sometimes, people have to reschedule their surgery, particularly if they come down with a bad cold or the flu shortly before their SDR date. Just in case, it’s a good idea to strongly consider booking flights that you can easily cancel or change if needed. If you’re flying to St. Louis from within the United States, consider Southwest, because they typically allow passengers to cancel or change their flights for no added fee. If you’re flying with a different airline, you might consider paying extra to allow for changes and cancellations or booking travel insurance. (Note that travel insurance is *very* strongly encouraged for international patients for other reasons as well!) However, I’ve also heard of people who have been able to get flight cancellations or changes by contacting the airline and explaining that they couldn’t make the flight due to medical reasons. (This strategy seems to be especially effective when people can offer a doctor’s note to verify.)
- ASK FOR AIRPORT ASSISTANCE: Strongly consider booking help both before and after your SDR if you need it. Ideally, indicate that you need disability assistance when booking the ticket, or call ahead to the airline at least a day in advance. Many airlines also allow you to make this request retroactively; in the JetBlue app, for example, you can add the request to your boarding pass either during or after the booking of your ticket. Then, just mention again that you need disability assistance when you first check in at the airport. (Note that you may need to arrive early, especially if the airport is busy, to give them enough time to bring you a wheelchair and assistant.)
This airport assistance is helpful for so many reasons! First: You don’t have to worry about keeping your balance while you take off your shoes in the security line, because you can either opt for a pat-down or you can just take off your shoes standing up. Second: You don’t have to worry about falling or getting too tired as you rush to make it to your gate, which could be a long walk away. Third: Many people with CP have difficulty with spatial navigation (…and plenty of people without CP have this struggle too, especially in airports), but the airport employee who accompanies you can help you get to the right place! Keep in mind that if you can, it’s standard to tip the employee once they’ve gotten you to your gate.
- PREBOARD: For your safety and to minimize stress, I’d recommend preboarding (both ways if you need it, but definitely at least after SDR!). You can usually request this at check-in or at the check-in counter at your gate.
- BRING DISINFECTANT WIPES AND HAND SANITIZER: Airports and planes can be quite germy, and the last thing you want is to get sick before your SDR! Wipe down tray tables before using them and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as often as possible, especially before eating.
- PAIN MEDICATION: Especially if you’re a U.S. patient (i.e., flying home about a week or so after SDR), be sure to take your pain medication before heading to the airport, and keep those medications handy so you can take more as needed later. You may be at the airport for a while, which means many hours sitting up, and that can get uncomfortable early on.
- AIRPORT BENCHES: If you need to lie down and the seats are constructed to prevent that, try spreading out a coat or blanket on an airport bench.
- COMPRESSION SOCKS: Older adults with long flights have recommended these to reduce the risk of blood clots in their legs. If you can safely move around at all during the flight, this will help as well.
- TO GET FROM THE AIRPORT TO YOUR HOTEL, you’ll likely need to use Uber, Lyft, or hail a taxi. None of the hotels have an airport shuttle. The Uber and taxi pickup area is outside across from baggage claim.
- AVOID THE METRO LINK. It is notorious for being dangerous. Some families have used it and reported that it was fine, but be careful and consider if it’s worth the risk. It may be particularly unsafe at night.
Getting Around St. Louis
- UBER/LYFT: Many people (myself included!) have had great luck with Uber in St. Louis. You can download the Uber app to your phone to easily book and pay for rides. Lyft is another option. For safety, ask your driver to confirm your name before you get into the car.
- RENTAL CAR: Some families have used Alamo, Enterprise, Priceline, or Thrift, but these aren’t the only options. Many people don’t rent/hire a car at all, preferring just to use Uber and hotel shuttles to get around. If you do rent a car, you’ll have to reserve it in advance. Ask them whether they have a hospital rate discount, as some companies do. (See below for the handicap placard tip, if needed.) If you are traveling with small children, they need to be in a car seat; you can rent these from the car rental company, but it’ll likely be less expensive to order them online through Amazon or Walmart, or buy them at the local Target.
- HOTEL SHUTTLE: Some hotels have a shuttle that will only take you to and from the hospital. Others may have one that will take you places within a certain radius of the hotel. Some don’t have any shuttle at all. Also, some of the shuttles are on-demand and some operate on a set schedule. The Places to Stay page will give you some initial details about this.
- PARKING: You can get parking validation from the hospital reception, which will allow you to park for free at St. Louis Children’s Hospital or Barnes-Jewish Hospital. If needed, you can also get a temporary handicap placard. Your doctor can sign a form for you, and then you go to the city hall with the form and your passport and can get the placard immediately. This may be especially useful for international families who decide to rent a car.
Families who live within driving distance of St. Louis may choose to drive there and back. Bring lots of pillows to use for your back on the way home, and if the drive is very long, it may be a good idea to split up the journey into multiple days and book a hotel. If you’re returning home after PERCS, ice packs may be helpful.