Traveling with a disability poses challenges, and more research and planning are required to ensure a safe trip. Unfortunately, not everywhere you go will be accessible to people with disabilities, so picking where you go and when can make all the difference in your trip experience.
There are great tour companies and travel agencies out there that specialize in helping travelers book accessible trips catered to their specific needs. But if you do go the DIY route, there are also resources available to help you research where to book.
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AbleThrive aggregates support resources to help people with disabilities. The site covers multiple topics related to living with a disability, including healthcare, parenting, employment, relationships and, of course, travel.
AccessibleGO is a full-service travel platform dedicated to helping people with disabilities make the most out of their travels. They offer articles written by community members who all have first-hand experience traveling with a disability.
You can use their booking tool to search for hotels and cruises that are accessible. You can also book trips through the website, but we recommend booking directly with a hotel or airline generally.
Similar to AccessibleGO, Handiscover allows you to book accessible accommodations. The site uses a unique classification system that lets you filter searches to your specific physical accessibility needs — from being able to walk up only a few flights of stairs to needing fully wheelchair accessible accommodations.
Handiscover also has community-contributed articles on the site to help you plan out your trip from start to finish.
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Related: What does accessible travel mean to you?
Tips for planning an accessible trip
The resources listed above all offer content created specifically to help people with disabilities — often with a focus on physical disabilities that impact mobility — plan out trips. But there are also some general tips everyone looking to book an accessible trip should keep in mind when mapping out a getaway.
Use a travel agent or tour company that specializes in accessible travel
Beginner travelers especially should consider taking advantage of tour operators and travel agents that cater to those with disabilities. They’ll not only have resources to help make sure your trip fits your specific needs, but you also might get special rates or offers when going through an agency.
Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
The STEP program is a free government service that notifies you of security updates from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate while you’re abroad. STEP also helps the U.S. embassy better provide assistance during an emergency while you’re out of the country.
This tip doesn’t only apply to people traveling with disabilities — anyone traveling abroad should sign up — but those who are traveling with physical disabilities can also add relevant information about any mobility limitations.
Call ahead to arrange special assistance
Whether it’s a hotel, a cruise or a flight, you should call ahead if you need special assistance. When you book, it’s a good idea to call and note if there are any physical limitations you’ll need help with — such as boarding a plane with a wheelchair. Also, call again 48 hours before your trip to confirm any assistance arranged at booking, and mention it again at the check-in counter.
Related: Air travel tips for wheelchair users
Research contingency plans before you go
Talk to your doctor before your trip to discuss any specific concerns, get any doctors’ notes required for travel and arrange for any medication refills you may need before you go (you’ll want to pack more than you need of any medication, and it should go in your carry-on bag for easy access).
Additionally, research the area where you’re traveling, and have contact information for doctors’ offices, pharmacies and hospitals in case of emergency.
It’s also not a bad idea to look into comprehensive travel insurance that includes medical coverage while you’re abroad.
Featured image by Chakarin Wattanamongkol/Getty Images.
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