Tips and Tricks to Disability Travel

By Amanda Winstead

Living with a disability certainly doesn't make you immune to the travel bug and, when you get bit, you too can embark on globetrotting adventures! Of course, research and advance planning is key to ensure that your particular accessibility needs are met on your dream vacation.

1. Do Your Homework

do your homework. Reach out to airlines to discuss their accommodations and accessibility options. Contact hotels to discuss room accommodations, including the type and height of the bed, the layout and dimensions of the bathroom and the existence of any potential barriers to wheelchair access, such as high thresholds, narrow doors or landings.

2. Reserve Mobility and Transport Equipment

When you're traveling with a disability, it's imperative that you have ready access to the mobility and transport equipment you'll need to access at not only the hotel but also at the various attractions you want to visit.

Man with reserved mobility equipment in National Park

For this reason, reducing travel-related strain and injury by renting portable ramps, rolling suitcases and other mobility aids is a must. Portable ramps, for instance, can often be adjusted to accommodate rises of varying heights. They also typically fold away for easy carrying and storage.

In addition, rolling suitcases can make getting to and from your hotel a breeze. Not only will this prevent physical strain and potential injury in trying to tote heavy luggage, but if you are traveling solo and using a wheelchair, a rolling suitcase can leave your hands pretty much free to propel your chair. Just affix the strap to your chair or wrap it around your wrist and off you go!

3. Research Pet and Service Animal Policies

There are few things more comforting than holding a sleeping fur baby in your arms. Indeed, when you have a disability, the physical and emotional benefits of a pet can be profound. Pets have been shown to decrease blood pressure and heart rate, reduce anxiety and depression, and contribute to an overall sense of happiness and well-being.

And those benefits don't end when you leave home. In fact, bringing your pet along on your travels can be a great way to mitigate the inevitable frustrations and anxieties that come with traveling with a disability.

Man with service animal in Europe

For many people with disabilities, though, an animal companion is often more than just a pet. For many, that furry friend is also a service animal, meaning that they are highly trained to serve specific functions for their human. When you have a registered service animal, you have a lot more options in regard to where and how you travel with them.

In the United States, for instance, registered service animals are permitted in any public area under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), provided that the animal remains tethered, harnessed or collared at all times. In other countries, though, regulations on service animals may vary. That's why it's a good idea to do your research on service animals and international travel restrictions and accommodations.

4. Get Creative

It's entirely possible to design an entire vacation in which complete accessibility is the cornerstone of your travel experience.

Man in wheelchair photographing an Asian city

For instance, group tour packages designed specifically for travelers with disabilities and their families can be the perfect way to explore the world without having to worry about accessibility. All of the prep work will already have been done for you, leaving you and your companions with nothing to do but enjoy the journey. 

However, if you're looking for something a little more private and a little less scheduled, then why not take your accommodations with you? More and more travel and tourism companies, including recreational vehicle (RV) manufacturers, are recognizing the need for more accessible options.

Winnebago, for example, is working on new designs to accommodate travelers with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids. And while accessible RVs may not yet provide all the spacious amenities you might hope for, the advances that have already been made in accessibility mean that you now have more options than ever before to travel in style and with ease.

Living with a disability is formidable, but your disability does not have to deprive you of one of life's great joys: the opportunity to see the world with the people you love. With a bit of research and some advance planning, it's entirely possible to have a life filled with amazing travel adventures. The key is to reach out to the professionals for support when you need it, to take time to secure the necessary mobility aids and to do a little homework to ensure your four-legged friends can travel along with you! 


Pre-Register for Abilities Expo Today...It's Free!

Sign up for the Abilities Buzz

Stay in the know on disability news and info.