Have you or a loved one put dreams of travel on hold due to mobility issues? Would you still love to get out and see the world? These days, there is no need to let a physical handicap hold you back. The travel industry has become much more accommodating to disabled travelers, implementing additional services to serve their needs. All you need is some time for proper planning.
Ed Hewitt from IndependentTraveler.com has offered some tips to get you started:
- Call ahead: Service providers are required by law to accommodate travelers with special needs. Be sure to call the provider 24-48 hours before your arrival to confirm the services you require, and be as specific as possible when detailing your needs.
- Inform your doctor: Run your travel plans by your doctor. They can be a useful resource for medications that may make your travels much more tolerable. Be sure to take a doctor’s note with you, entailing your condition, medications, potential complications and other necessary information. Also, keep the doctor’s phone number with you in case of an emergency situation.
- Bring extra medication: Many experts advise that you travel with two complete packages of essential medication in case of emergency. Store all medications and other necessary medical supplies in your carry-on bag.
- Research medical availability near your destinations. Your doctor, health care provider, insurance company or local embassy can provide the names and contact numbers of physicians near your destinations. For more information, see Health Care Abroad.
- Carry medical alert information. Be sure to carry these items in an easily-accessible place, such as in your wallet, on a necklace, or close to your identification.
- Consider using a specialist travel agent. Some agents provide stellar niche services, such as working with sight- or hearing-impaired travelers. Since the needs of these travelers are unique, it helps to find someone with a high level of expertise. Check the agent search feature at TravelSense.org to find qualified travel agents across the U.S.
- Transportation. Plan for land transportation after flights. If you have a wheelchair, make arrangements in advance to have an accessible vehicle pick you up outside the terminal.
- Bring spare parts and tools. Wheelchairs can take tremendous abuse while traveling; assemble a small kit of spare parts and tools for emergency repairs. You may also be required to dismantle a wheelchair for certain flights or activities; make sure you and your travel companions know how to do this.
- Know your rights. Before going through airport security, be aware of the TSA’s rules for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division has a comprehensive guide to the rights of air travelers with disabilities.
Other Useful Websites and Resources:
- Accessible Journeys: Tour operator for slow walkers, wheelchair travelers and their companions
- Accomable: A guide to accessible lodging around the world
- Barrier-FreeCruising.com: Tips and resources for disabled cruise travelers
- CruiseCritic.com: Info on cruising with a disability
- DisabledTravelers.com: Comprehensive listing of accessible travel specialists around the world
- Disabled Traveler’s Guide to the World: Travel tips and destination guides for disabled travelers
- Emerging Horizons: An online quarterly newsletter providing a wide range of information for mobility-impaired travelers
- Gimp on the Go: Destination guides, travel tips, photo gallery and resources for disabled travelers
- TravelGuides.org: A wealth of tour operators, travel agents, hotels, attractions and more that cater to disabled travelers
- Travel on the Level: Tips and destination recommendations for travelers looking for less strenuous walking and fewer stairs
- World on Wheelz: Agency specializing in accessible getaways for wheelchair travelers, slow walkers and seniors with special needs
What experience do you have traveling with disabilities? How did you manage the obstacles that arose? What advice would you give to other travelers? Share your insights with the community!