Accessible Travel: How To Plan It.

Accessible Travel: How To Plan It.

Where to Find Accessibility Information About Your Travel Destination

In the march toward accessibility, travel is the latest frontier.  Today, more destinations than ever before are becoming wheelchair-friendly.  In fact, the United Nations has prioritized the development of accessible infrastructure to open more destinations to travelers with disabilities each and every year.

There are even Travel guides specifically created to address accessibility needs, from world attractions and sights, to airports, hotels, public transportation, wheelchair taxis (with ramps), sidewalks, footpaths, curb ramps, disability assistance and more.  It’s called Accessible Tourism, and it’s an ongoing endeavor designed to ensure that tourist destinations, products and services are accessible to all people, regardless of any physical limitations, disabilities or age.

From publicly and privately owned tourist locations, the world has never been more accessible.    So, to get started on planning your trip, you can find accessibility information about virtually any travel destination, both domestic and international, through the following resources:

  • American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA),
  • Accessible Europe,
  • The Guided Tour,
  • Flying Wheels Travel,
  • Accessible Journeys,
  • Road Scholar,
  • The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability,
  • The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality,

These guides, among many others available out there, will help get you started planning your next wheelchair accessible vacation.

What Wheelchair-Bound Seniors Should Look for in Hotel Accommodations

For wheelchair-bound seniors who are traveling, booking hotels is always one of the most challenging hurdles when it comes to planning.  In addition to other key factors that must be taken into consideration, like location, price and amenities, you have to do a bit more research, and look beyond the basic information that’s presented online for guidance.

It’s absolutely essential to take the extra time and consideration to seek out appropriate accommodations that suit your unique needs.  For instance, if you’re traveling with an electric wheelchair, you’ll need to make sure that there are places available to recharge your chair.  And, beyond your physical needs, you’ll want to make sure that you’re dealing with staff who are conscious of your needs. Every detail needs to be considered in order to make your stay as comfortable as possible.

Often, it’s not enough to just book a hotel based off of what’s seen online.  Hotels that are listed as “accessible” could virtually be interpreted to mean just about anything.  So, when booking a hotel, be diligent in seeking out the information that you need, specific to your needs.  The steps you should take to determine whether or not accommodations are in fact wheelchair appropriate include:

  • Browsing options and reviews online
  • Calling the hotel
  • Asking hotels and hotel managers specific questions about accessibility
  • Asking for photos of the room

By taking the time to do your due diligence, you’ll be able to find a hotel that will not only meet your accessibility needs, but hopefully exceed them.

Cost-Saving Tips for Hotel and Transportation Booking

When it comes to travel, it’s easy to overspend and completely throw your budget out the window.  And, we understand.  You’re looking to take a break from reality, so money’s the last thing you’re worrying about.  But, what happens when you get home, and your pockets are a little lighter than expected?

It may seem like a hassle now, but consider the alternative – coming home empty handed or worse, in debt.  Remember, the point is to return from your travels with less stress, not more.  So, take a little time up front to carefully plan your trip, and trust us, it will pay off in the long run and save you money.

It’s all about being flexible.  From travel dates, to lodging, to transportation bookings, do your research before setting strict boundaries so that you may discover the most cost-effective amenities, locations, fees, etc. to help you stay within your budget.  Here are the basic guidelines to finding and sticking to cost-saving bookings:

  • Be flexible
  • Stick to your budget
  • Look for deals and coupons
  • Choose your destination wisely (i.e. is it easy and affordable to get around?)
  • Look into bundling options
  • Find out what amenities are and aren’t included in your hotel
  • Book your hotel and transportation by calling directly

The more time you spend doing research before booking travel, the more cost-savings you’ll come to find for a more enjoyable, stress-free adventure.

Questions to Ask Tourist Attraction Staff Before You Buy Your Ticket

When it comes to booking tours and attractions during your travels, those with mobility disabilities must do a good bit of up-front research before heading to a destination to ensure that their specific needs can and will be met.  And, this means asking a lot of specific questions.

It may take several phone calls to find the right tours or attractions that will work both for you and with you.  Yes, there will be places that aren’t willing to take the time to answer your questions or be specific, but don’t get discouraged.  Move on to the next attraction or tour because there are many, many out there that are willing to work with you and are happy to do so.

So, if you’re not sure where to start, here are a few questions you’ll want to ask and get answers to before you embark on your vacation:

Indoor Tours

  • Is the entryway of the building accessible? Is the rest of the structure accessible?
  • Is there an elevator? Will the elevator fit my mobility equipment?
  • Is the bathroom big enough to fit my mobility equipment? Are there bars in the bathroom?  Which way do the bathroom doors open?

Moving Tours

  • Are the pathways smooth enough for my mobility equipment?
  • Will the cab, car, bus, boat, etc. be able to fit my mobility equipment?
  • Do the train or subway stops have elevator access?
  • How wide and steep are the access ramps?

It may be tedious, time-consuming work to get your questions answered, but it will pay off in the end when your tour is finally booked.

What You Need to Know About Air Travel with a Wheelchair

Traveling on an airplane with a wheelchair is a difficult process these days.  But, worry not.  Here’s what you need to know before you board your next flight:

  • Learn the law – Read the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). This is the law that covers access on all flights to and from the US, and it will tell you what accommodations, facilities and services are and aren’t required.
  • Request transport – Request an airport wheelchair. If you travel with your own wheelchair, let the reservation agent know what type of an assistive device you have.
  • Request a transfer-friendly seat – Request a seat with a flip-up armrest to make transfers easier.
  • Pre-plan security - If you can’t walk through the metal detector, tell the TSA agent, and you’ll be hand-wanded and given a manual pat-down. If you have any pre-trip questions or concerns, call the TSA Cares Hotline at (855) 787-2227 at least 72 in advance.
  • Arrive early - Aircrafts with more than 100 seats have a priority storage space aboard for one manual wheelchair which is available on a first-come basis.
  • Consider bathroom options - Most accessible airline lavatoriesare quite small, and you need to be able to walk a few steps to use them.  So, it’s a good idea to use the airport facilities before boarding.

Travel by nature requires planning and preparation, especially when you factor in a disability.  So, take the time to educate yourself on the ins and outs of air travel with a wheelchair to help make your next flight stress-free.

Know Your Rights: Basic Accessibility Laws Every Wheelchair-Bound Traveler Should Know

For wheelchair-bound travelers, air travel can be exceptionally stressful.  Fortunately, to ensure that people with disabilities would not be discriminated against, Congress passed the Air Carrier Access Act that states that all domestic and international flights to and from the US are required to provide certain free accommodations to people with disabilities in a way consistent with providing safe travel for all passengers.  Those basic rights include the following:

  • Accommodations required by law must be provided for free upon request.
  • You don’t need to pre-check with an airline unless traveling by stretcher, with an electronic wheelchair or other battery-powered device, or require a hook-up to flight oxygen.
  • Traveling with an attendant isn’t required unless it’s deemed that a person’s mobility impairment is so severe they’re unable to assist in their own evacuation from the aircraft.
  • Medical certificates aren’t requested unless the person is on a stretcher, needs medical oxygen during flight, or has a medical condition which gives the airline reasonable doubt that they can complete the flight safely.
  • Airlines may provide qualified escorts or allow an unticketed assistant to help a person with a disability through security.
  • Security screening for people with disabilities should be the same as other passengers unless they can’t stand for the scan or can’t stand without the use of a cane, crutch, walker, etc. Then alternate screening techniques will be implemented.
  • Properly trained staff must be available to help people with disabilities board and exit the plane.

Being prepared and knowing your basic rights before traveling can go a long way.

Planning Ahead for Medical Services in Your Destination City

When people go on vacation, they tend to focus on fun things like reserving hotels and tours.  Most of us don’t give much thought to questions like, ‘What happens if I need medical attention or assistance while traveling?’  But, it’s something that should be at the top of your to-do list before traveling, especially for those who are wheelchair-bound.

That’s why it’s important to not only take a health care inventory before you depart but to take the time to research medical services in your destination city before you depart.  Here are a few things that should be on your travel checklist to make sure you’re prepared:

  • Research local hospitals and medical centers around your travel destination so that you know where to go if you have an emergency or require special assistance.
  • Check your health insurance plan to see if they will cover your health needs if traveling out of state or abroad, and consider purchasing additional health insurance for your trip if your plan doesn’t cover your travel destination.
  • Talk to your doctor at least four weeks before your trip to ensure that you have a clean bill of health.
  • Pack your health insurance membership card. You can even download your card on your smartphone now.
  • Travel with a copy of your health profile.  It helps to have all pertinent information on-hand, including your name, age, birth date, allergies, vaccinations, primary care provider’s office phone number, as well as emergency contacts.

Plan ahead for medical services around your travel destination so that if the unexpected does happen, you’re not caught off-guard.

How to Find Non-Emergency Medical Transportation in Your Destination City

Non-emergency medical transportation services are usually able to help people in wheelchairs.  They’re special vehicles led by trained teams that are equipped to transport those who are not only wheelchair-bound but also those who may need a cane, walker or some other assistance to aid in mobility.

You can find these transportation services in every state as well as abroad.  Of course, each program and their individual transportation methods may vary from destination to destination.  That’s why it’s always a smart idea to do some research before you leave for your trip so that you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to safely and easily get around while traveling.

So, how do you go about finding these services in your destination city?  Here are a few ways to start your search:

  • Conduct an Internet search before you leave for your trip
  • Look for, and join online groups for persons with shared disabilities or accessibility difficulties that can provide insight
  • Search local Yellow Pages
  • Ask your doctor, care team or patient advocate for recommendations or help finding services local to your intended destination
  • Contact local medical care facilities for recommendations prior to your arrival
  • Of course if you are traveling to Houston, you can look at our rates here

A little preparation before you arrive can go a long way, making your travel experience all the more enjoyable and hassle-free.