Posted May 16, 2016
A Guide for Traveling With Limitations or a Disability
Do you or a travel partner wish to travel but have concerns due to certain limitations or a disability? Traveling with a disabled partner or having limitations yourself can raise certain questions. As airfare continues to be less expensive, this has opened up more countries becoming more affordable to those who have put off travel due to cost. Travel is becoming more readily available to everyone and everyone’s needs are different. The following guide will help those with limitations or certain disabilities to make a smooth transition while traveling and to have an enjoyable trip. Depending on the type of disability or limitations will dictate what type of planning will need to be done.
Here are 4 tips to consider before traveling:
Planning and preparation. First question: Where do you want to go and what do you plan to see? Now, if you are looking to check out Europe, remember Europe is OLD. There are cobble stone streets, buildings with no elevators, lots of steps to climb and tons of walking. Take this into consideration when making your travel choices. Once you have decided on where you want to go, and have booked your flight online, call the airlines and set up wheelchair assistance through-out your whole flight itinerary. This can be done online, but I like to call and talk to someone to verify my choices have been booked and to have any additional questions answered. If a medical emergency where to happen, where is the nearest hospital and doctor? Is travel insurance in place? Most medical plans in the US does not cover travel outside the United States. These are questions to have the answer to BEFORE boarding your plane to your destination. Whether flying international or within your own country, planning and preparation is key.
Airport/Airline. If wheelchair arrangements have been made before you arrive at the airport, the airline will have a wheelchair ready to take you or your travel companion to the gate of departure. There will be a wheelchair ready and available upon arrival to your destination or connecting flight. It will save a lot of time and stress by setting up the wheelchair in advance. Please remember to tip the person who is helping you. Whenever possible, check your suitcases all the way through for your journey minus a carry-on that contains any meds or important stuff, such as a passport, money and camera. NEVER check your medication bag. This is an important bag and should be with you at all times. Keep bottles with your prescription info on it. Just in case it is questioned while going through security or if needed to be refilled while on your trip. Always, get to the airport early. It will take extra time going through security with a wheelchair or someone who needs to move slightly slower than others. This will aid in keeping the stress level at a minimum. On a side note, if a traveler is vision impaired and needs to travel with his/her service animal, special arrangements need to be made in advance for the service animal. Airline: If you have any type of leg issues, say circulation or arthritis, set up your seating to have an aisle seat and travel via priority seating or first class on the airplane because there is more leg room and space in these areas. It will cost more but in the end the comfort level will be well worth the cost.
Hotels. First thing, book a hotel with an elevator. No one who has problems walking or who have bad knees wants to climb stairs. Book a hotel that is close to the areas of interest and restaurants. Call the hotel personally and talk to someone firsthand to get your needs met and questions answered. If needed, request a wheel chair/disabled compliant room. I’m talking about showers, doorways large enough for a wheelchair to go through and bottom floor if available. Is there a step free access into the room? When I was in Barcelona with my mom, there were 3 steps that led up into our room. Luckily for her (and I), it wasn’t an issue, but for someone else it could have been. Make sure you ask all of the questions before hand. Also, is the hotel on a bus line or metro line?
Tours. Pick your tours that are complaint with the needs of someone who has limitation’s or needs the assistance of a wheelchair. Are the vans/shuttles equipped for a wheelchair? Pick a tour that will accommodate a wheelchair or someone who has problems walking long distances. Call the tour company and get all of the information first hand if this is the tour for you. Find out if you are expected to stay up with the group or can you explore at your own pace? People who are disabled move a little slower, will this be ok? Get the ins and the outs of any tour you are interested in going on, so there will not be any surprises. Make sure your tour operator is a licensed professional with experience with disabled people. Everyone wants to have a good time it just takes a little more planning. If proper planning is done, everyone can travel and enjoy their vacation.
The bottom line is to make sure your travel plans are realistic. Don’t plan someone else’s trip, plan your own. A good starting point is to research your destination by reading reviews from other travelers. I like Trip Advisor for a starting point. It’s loaded with tons of great information. Also, when a hotel is selected, check out their reviews as well.
Also, check out my post on Tips for Travel Planning. It goes along with this post and digs a little deeper in planning a great trip. Check it out here: Tips for Planning A Great Vacation
The bottom line is to make your own adventure within your guidelines and limitations. This will ensure a great trip with little stress.