Traveling with a special needs’ family member may, at times, be difficult, but vacations are an important bonding time that provides a lifetime of memories for the whole family. The biggest obstacle in traveling is
Traveling with a special needs’ family member may, at times, be difficult, but vacations are an important bonding time that provides a lifetime of memories for the whole family. The biggest obstacle in traveling is venturing out of your comfort zone from both the equipment and resources you use in your day-to-day life. Your vacation will need a lot more planning and the simple things many travelers take for granted as readily available to them such as transportation issues or accessibility, a special needs family cannot afford to be unprepared for. A disability should not stop you from travelling, but a chance to try different travel options. The three key challenges to travel with a disability are – transport, toilets and accommodation. We will provide you with travel tips and advice that will assist you on your next travel adventure.
Don’t get hung up on how accessible a place is, focus on all the activities you can do!
Planning Your Adventure
When you are travelling with a disability or travelling with someone with a disability, the most important thing for a smooth vacation is correct planning. Don’t go overboard and plan your holiday down to the last minute, but all your accommodation and transport should be booked before you leave home.
You should research the accessibility of your transport and accommodation options, and for the activities you are planning. Ask questions about access to buildings, the number of steps, how wide are the doorways and lifts and is there easy access from the car park. And for your accommodation, off course ask whether there are disabled toilets and showers, and if there is enough space in your room for a wheelchair.
When contacting places, you need to be specific about your own limitations, so that different options can be put in place to cater for you. The best place to get information is from other travelers who have done it before. Otherwise you should try local tourist information centers.
Make sure you pack all essential and necessary medications and bring with you any necessary prescriptions. Also make sure you pack extras of any medical or personal equipment that you might require.
Choosing the Right Transport
One of the biggest difficulties when travelling with a limitation is choosing the right transport and especially getting on and off public transport. Once you have planned your itinerary, you need to research your options between locations or cities. The best way to find accessible transport is to talk to “customer relations” or the person in charge of ‘specific needs customers. They will be able to provide exact information on the transport options.
Catching a plane can be a daunting experience! When you book your ticket, let the airline know your limitations and specific consideration should be provided. Be sure to check with your airline to make sure it has accessible toilets before booking a long-haul flight.
Many people with a disability will forget figuring out the best transport all together and will take a cruise holiday – either a river cruise or a large cruise liner. This way all your luggage will stay in the one place, you don’t need to find an accessible restaurant or toilet, and many of the activities are brought to you.
Other good options are:
Hiring a camper van that is wheelchair accessible
Take a train holiday in Western Europe – most trains are ideal with easy access and accessible toilets.
Finding an Accessible Toilet
Research is essential to finding accessible toilets. Many toilets say that they are accessible, when they are clearly are not. Don’t find out the hard way! Asking at the tourist information centers for up to date information.
Places to look for an accessible toilet is at museums or art galleries, fast food restaurants or at modern train stations. Some travelers will plan what activities they do or attractions they see each day by where they can find an accessible toilet.
What is The Best Accommodation?
It will be hard to find the perfect accommodation when you’re travelling, except if you are willing to pay for it. Research is essential before you go to find a place that is accessible.
A good hotel will have accessible car parks that have easy access to the hotel. They will normally have a lift and even a porter service. Most will have a restaurant or food service on-site for easy access. Make sure you tell your accommodation when you are booking about your limitations, what equipment you might have and what assistance you may require.
A good idea is to stay in accommodation in a central location. It will be easier to visit local attractions and these attractions will be close-by. You might even be able to do day trips away from the city. This way you avoid the need to move all your luggage again.
Other Great Tips and Advice
If you are in a wheelchair and have someone to push you, take a manual chair. It will take up less space than an electric chair and it doesn’t require recharging.
Allow your family or carers to have a holiday too. Let them do activities that they choose. This way they will want to travel with you again and it might give everyone some needed time apart.
Have your wheelchair cleaned and serviced before you leave. Make sure you have checked the batteries and all moving parts are in working order. Also, research who you could contact if you have a major breakdown on the road.
If you have an electric wheelchair, take spare travel adapters so that you don’t get caught out.
The most important tips and advice is for you and your family / carer to enjoy your holiday. Enjoy each day and its new adventures, new sights, new culture and the new things to be learnt.