The Comprehensive Guide to Travelling with a Disability – A Disabled Travel Guide

December 17, 2015

With so much more of the world being accessible than ever before, having a disability shouldn’t stop you from travelling to these far flung and exotic places. Our comprehensive disabled travel guide will make sure you have all the information you need to make your next holiday your best.

Whether you’re looking to travel long haul to Asia or for a quick break in Devon, this guide will provide you with all the information you’ll need when planning your next adventure.

In this guide we’ll outline several key things that you should think about when travelling with your disability as well as a few tips on the best places to visit if you have a disability.

From those who require a wheelchair or mobility scooter, those who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia, or parents travelling with a disabled child, we’ve got you covered.

First and foremost you’ve got to plan your journey. Whether this is simply making sure your hotel has good disability access or something more thorough such as planning a route and following it using Google Street View.

As the saying goes, “Proper preparation prevents poor performance” and this saying is equally true when booking your next trip away.

You can use the options below to navigate through the guide.

Packing

First and foremost, as well as probably the most important section, you’ve got to know what to pack.

Some initial questions to ask yourself are as follows:

    • How long are you going for?
    • What will the temperature be like?
    • Do you need any medication?
    • Do you need any specialist equipment?
    • What's your luggage allowance?

Once you’ve asked yourselves these questions you can begin to plan what you’ll need for your trip.

Firstly, make a list of all the things you’ll need. Making this list is really important as it allows you to methodically go through it and double or even triple check that you’ve not forgotten your tooth brush.

When packing you also have to think about what the weather will be like when you’re there. If you’re lucky enough to be going somewhere warm then make sure to pack plenty of sun cream and a hat.

We also recommend that you take your own large reusable water bottle; this will allow you to refill it as the holiday goes on (but first make sure you can drink the tap water!).

If the weather will be slightly colder then make sure to take plenty of layers as well as a waterproof jacket or coat. A good pair of warm shoes is also a good idea and no one likes having freezing cold feet.

Next, packing the right medication in the correct amount is extremely important. The last thing you want to do is have to go to a foreign chemist and trying to explain your prescription.

Although many countries nowadays have fantastic pharmacies and will most likely have your medicine in stock, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you have to visit a chemist or pharmacist whilst abroad then make sure to learn the names of your medicines as well as what they do, this will help greatly in the case of emergency.

Another great thing to create is a short travelling letter. This would be kept on your person at all times and simply outlines your conditions as well as the medications you take. A small number of airlines may also require you to fill out a simple Medical Information Form (MEDIF); these can be found on their websites.

Travel insurance is also extremely important and can protect from any nasty costs in case you require any medical treatment whilst away. You can use this great tool to get a quote on your travel insurance or have a look at a guide and make your own informed decision.

Finally, think about whether you will need any specialist equipment and if that equipment can simply fit in your suit case or if it needs to be transported separately. Either way, it’s best to always get in touch with your airline to see what their regulations are regarding this equipment.

If you have a mobility scooter then you may have to remove the battery and have it placed in a special container, again get in touch with your airline so all the necessary arrangements can be made.

Transport

Getting to and from you airport is always a task, no matter what your disability is, so the best thing to do is plan, plan, and plan. Firstly make sure you arrange transport to and from any airports you will be arriving at and make sure that the vehicle will be large enough to fit all your stuff in.

Nothing is worse than having to wait for a larger second taxi when on your way to the airport. Not only will this add to your stress levels but could potentially cause you to not get your equipment on board in time or even worse, miss your flight. To find out the best taxi service for you, we recommend that you get in touch with your local council and ask for their advice on the best disabled taxi service.

Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time once at the airport. We recommend that you arrive at the airport at least 3 hours in advance, this will give you plenty of time to get a wheelchair on board (if required) and to store the battery of you mobility scooter. Also make sure you know your rights as a disabled air traveller as it’s very important to know all of the things you’re entitled to when travelling.

These steps will ensure that you get your holiday off to a fantastic and stress free (as possible!) start.

Accommodation

Firstly and most importantly, when booking your hotel have a look at how disability friendly it is. Accessibility solutions such as ramps and lifts may be necessary and are usually provided in most hotels, although it’s always best to check before just assuming. You can of course go through a regular travel agent or through a specialised disabled travel agent.

Its all well and good booking a fantastic hotel but if it’s surrounded by massive hills and treacherous terrains then it will be far from ideal for you. Therefore it is extremely important to use Google’s Street View and just have a quick look around the surrounding area. This will give you a good idea of the area as well as any shops that are nearby and could be handy for any groceries you might want to get.

Another good idea is to make sure you book a hotel room that is on the ground floor. This will make travelling to and from your room much easier and will remove the hassle of having to potentially get up flights of stairs.

You may also be able to check the facilities available in the hotel rooms. Facilities such as hand bars, lower wardrobe hangers and easy access showers for example.

Even better would be to ask the hotel if they have a specialised disabled room that you could book. This would have all of the fittings that you require to make your stay as easy and enjoyable as possible.

If you’re travelling to a specific place then an access guide may outline the services and areas that are best suited for someone with your disability. You may also choose to look for a hotel with specialised wheelchair facilities; these can be found in many destinations around the world.

Plan Your Route

Every night before you go to bed, you should have a solid plan of what you want to see and accomplish the next day. This will allow you to plan a route through the place you’re staying or visiting therefore taking into account any obstacles you’ll come across during your exploration. This route planning can be easily achieved using Google Street View.

We recommend that you take note of any potential obstacle. This could include cobbled streets, large sets of steps, steep hills, rocky or mountainous terrain to name a few. Once you've noted down any obstacles you can then take steps to combat them and come up with a solution to them.

Making sure you don’t overdo it is also massively important. You’re there to explore the place you’re visiting not lie around in the hotel all day because you’re too tired. Make sure when planning a route that you include regular breaks and places to stop, this will give you time to catch your breath and get some well needed fluids on board.

You can also do some research into some of the sights you might want to see. We’d recommend that you visit the websites of the attractions you wish to see as often they have the disabled access information on there. If this doesn’t bring back any results a quick Google search of your attraction name and “disabled access” will do the trick.

Activities

Another integral part of any holiday is the activities that you’re going to be taking part in. Some of the more outgoing amongst you may want to have a go at the variety of snow activities available or scuba diving in Sharm El Sheikh or even sky diving in California.

There are plenty of options for families with children too. Many water parks are more than happy to accommodate to children with disabilities. My favourite is the Water World water park in Ayia Napa, Cyprus.

There are also a number of excellent activities that can be done right on your doorstep here in the UK. With so many disabled activity centres up and down the country there’s sure to be one near you.

There are numerous fantastic activities that you can take up, including the ones previously mentioned. To add to that list you can take part in Kayaking, archery and hand gliding, as well as a whole host of others.

What to Do in an Emergency

Unfortunately certain situations may arise when you may be forced to call the authorities or have to take a trip to the local hospital. It’s important to always remain calm in these situations and try to keep a level head.

Once you reach your destination or before you even arrive, you should work out where your nearest chemist and hospital are. This way there’s no confusion about where you can receive medical attention or pick up your prescription from. You can use a simple hospital finder to locate your nearest medical practitioner and receive the medical attention that’s needed.

It may also be beneficial to learn so basic phrases in the native language of the country that you’re visiting. This can be particularly helpful when pointing out to a doctor which part of your body may be in pain as well as describing how your medicines help you.

It’s also a good idea to learn the emergency number for the area you are in. For example, in the US it is 911, in Europe 112 and in the UK 999. This will again save time when trying to ring the emergency services.

20 Disability Friendly Cities

This chapter contains some of the best places for disabled access across the globe. Click on the guide button below each city to have a look at a travel guide for that place!

Have a look at some of the places you’d like to visit and tell us where you’d like to visit via all of our social media.

Adelaide, Australia

Based on the beautiful beaches of Southern Australia, Adelaide is South Australia’s capital city and rightly so. Home to a world renowned arts scene as well as a whole host of sporting venues such as the Oval and the AAMI Stadium, there’ll be plenty to do down under.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Known for its intricate canal system and artistic past, Amsterdam is the perfect weekend getaway. With cyclists taking priority and the Netherlands being one of the flattest countries in the world, you’ll have no issues getting around this fantastic city.

Barcelona, Spain

Another artistic city in the North East of Spain, Barcelona is home to some of the most iconic sites in Southern Europe. Although Spanish cities are not known for their accessibility, Barcelona has been making great strides to make its streets more welcoming to the disabled.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin remains a city of two halves and the ever present contrast between East and West in this modern city is fascinating. With many remnants of its difficult past still very much in tact, you’re sure to find many of the sites here equally as breathtaking as they are harrowing.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest in recent years has developed a reputation into a hotspot for travellers from all around the globe. With beautiful cobbled streets (if you can navigate them they’re well worth a visit) and a fantastic public transport system to boot, you’ll be able to get round this city with ease.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Home to Tivoli Gardens one of Europe’s oldest amusement parks, Copenhagen will certainly give you a brilliant cultural experience. Also home to the largest aquarium in Northern Europe, there’s definitely plenty going on in this cosmopolitan Scandinavian capital.

Denver,

USA

Denver features a brilliant mix of new and old with Larimer Square home to 19th century buildings really showing this. After being named the most disability friendly city in the USA, Denver really is a must visit for anyone looking for an easy to get round American city.

Helsinki, Finland

Although sometimes not thought as one of the most accessible cities in Europe. However recently, Helsinki has been making massive strides to try to make their city more accessible and this shows by its recently nomination for the Access City Award 2015.

Krakow, Poland

Known for its medieval history and grand buildings, best shown in the grand Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow is a great city and is relatively affordable. More recently, the Wieliczka Salt Mines has been adapted to allow for excellent wheelchair access.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

After being awarded the Green Capital of Europe 2016, Ljubljana’s stock is on the rise as more and more people choose to visit the Slovenian capital each year. Split by the Ljubljanica River, this city is home to a variety of museums and art galleries suited to anyone’s taste.

London, England

One of the oldest and most popular tourist destinations in the world with over 17.4 million visitors in 2014. Home to the most iconic sites in Europe, London is on the top of many travellers lists for places they want to go, and with so much history and culture you can see why.

Munich, Germany

With a typicallt efficient German transport system, nearly all forms of public transport in Munich are accessible for the disabled. This allows easy travel to attractions such as Marienplatz and the Nymphenburg Palace as well as to and from your accommodation.

Oslo,

Norway

Known for its expansive city wide green spaces, Oslo is home to the Viking Ship Museum which is home to boats that are over 1000 years old. In winter there are also many opportunities to partake in snow sports such as skiing, making Oslo a place for diverse opportunities.

Perth, Australia

With suburbs based on sandy beaches, Perth is a bustling metropolitan city on the Western Coast of Australia. Home to some fantastic attractions such as the Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Swan Valley and the Fremantle Prison, there’ll be plenty to do during your trip here.

Salt Lake City, USA

On the edge of the Great Salt Lake, this city is home to nearly 200,000 people and is thriving. In 2013 it was named as one of the best places to live in the USA and with some fantastic disability support in place, Salt Lake City would be a fantastic destination for any traveller.

Salzburg, Austria

After winning the Access City award 2012 Salzburg has continued to make their city accessible to everyone. With great attractions such as Hohensalzburg Castle, Mozart’s Birthplace and the setting for The Sound of Music there’s definitely plenty to do in this picturesque city

Seattle,

USA

Based in the Pacific Northwest and on the American-Canadian border, the “Emerald City” is not only home to Microsoft and Amazon but to the iconic Space Needle and the Pike Place Market. Filled with active business men and women, Seattle is lined with wide, flat side walks which are perfect for any one with mobility issues.

Stockholm, Sweden

The capital of Sweden and home to over 20% of the population, Stockholm is a very disabled friendly city with over 80 wheelchair accessible hotels in the area. With attractions like the ABBA museum and the multi coloured buildings of medieval Gamla Stan, we’re sure you’d enjoy a trip to Stockholm.

Vancouver, Canada

Often used as a cheaper option to filming in New York, productions such as Arrow, White Chicks and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem were all filmed here. Vancouver is a densely populated city and a lot of effort has gone into making it highly accessible. You’ll find ramps everywhere and lots of flat terrain to easily navigate.

Vienna, Switzerland

Vienna has an intellectual and artistic past rooted in the days of Beethoven and Erwin Schrodinger. Known for its giant imperial history and palaces, Vienna is a city packed with sights to see. These include the glorious St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Spanish Riding School and the extraordinary Belvedere Palace.