Accessible Adventures: Traveling With Special Needs

There is a world of travel possibilities for people with special needs! Where do you want to go? What do you want to experience? With a bit of careful planning and the asking some important questions, individuals with disabilities can find accessible travel options for many exciting destinations worldwide.

If vacation or business travel has been a daunting idea to you or to your family, be encouraged that there many places to explore where special needs can be easily accommodated with your comfort and convenience in mind.

You Have Places to Go & Things to Do

Family Vacations – Travel options abound for families with special needs children. Ranging from amusement and theme parks designed for a number of disabilities or camps that offer programs and accommodations for a broad spectrum of special needs, there are exciting possibilities for making fun family memories! Vacations to Disney World, National Parks, museums, and the like can also be accessible for those with disabilities through the utilization of things like travel wheelchairs, access guides, and travel agents that specialize in travel with disabilities.

Travel Planning for Special Needs – there are a number of companies that specialize in creating group tours, cruises, and individual wheelchair travel options. These companies develop itineraries and travel arrangements that facilitate special needs accessibility. Their travel agents assist in making arrangements and providing the appropriate resources to make your experience an enjoyable and memorable one.

Travel Resources for Special Needs

Travel Agencies & Tour Groups – A number of travel agencies and tour groups that specialize in travel arrangements for people with disabilities have developed over the years. Theses agencies and groups provide assistance in planning and executing vacations for people with a broad range of special needs.

Travel Companions – Whether you require assistance from a companion to manage daily activities or simply want someone to travel with, there are companies that can offer these services. Be sure to search for companions from reputable companies or with credible references.

Accessibility Guides – There are a number of publications, websites, & blogs available to assist with your travel planning. These guides outline destinations, accommodations, transportation, and other resources for traveling with disabilities.

Travel Wheelchairs – The right travel chair can make any trip less stressful and much more comfortable. There are travel wheelchairs that are especially designed for making travel feasible and safe. Look for chairs that are comfortable and durable, but also lightweight, compact or collapsible, and easy to maneuver.

Online Resources:

Disability Travel and Recreation Resources

Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality

Travelconsumer

DisabledTravelers

Additional Travel Tips

Airplane Travel – Travel by airplane can be a bit intimidating for some travelers, especially if you must travel with a wheelchair or have mobility restrictions. Airlines are required to provide reasonable accommodation for individuals with special needs, but that does not mean you should leave your travel comfort in the airline’s hands. A little extra planning on your part can make for a much more enjoyable airport and flying experience.

  • Plan to arrive two to three hours prior to a domestic flight or up to four hours prior to an international flight to ensure enough time to get through security and make your way to the gate.
  • If you experience discomfort after sitting for extended periods of time, strongly consider selecting destinations where travel times are limited. You should also consider if limited mobility is an issue, restroom use on the plane may be difficult. Some airlines provide small chairs to transport guests to the restroom, but if this is not an option, it would be wise to limit your time in the air.
  • It may be a bit more expensive to secure non-stop flights for your trip, but limiting connections can reduce the stress of navigating multiple airports in a restricted time period.
  • Research the airline and plane ahead of time. Can the plane size accommodate a wheelchair in the cabin? Can you reserve an aisle seat?
  • Individuals in wheelchairs or scooters are subject to thorough searches at the security checkpoints. While it may be a bit uncomfortable and tedious, these searches are to ensure the safety of all passengers.
  • If you require medication or have mobility restrictions, it can be helpful to secure a letter from your doctor to make the transition through security a little easier.

Hotel Accommodations – While most commercial establishments are required to provide handicap accessibility, there are a few things to consider for ensuring a successful hotel stay during your travels. Make your hotel reservations over the phone if possible. If applicable, ask about whether the doors to the rooms are wide enough for a wheelchair and that the restrooms and showers in the room are handicap accessible. Be sure to get a confirmation number for your reservation. For convenience, it is often good to request a room on the ground floor or be sure to verify that an elevator is available.