It’s summer vacation season and we’re looking out for readers with updated tips on disabilities travel. Read on to learn about how you, your loved ones and travel companions can enjoy a safe, accessible and worry-free vacation.
1. Choose your destination carefully
Disabilities travel has become a major industry and the internet is full of resources that can educate you about the best travel destinations for individuals with disabilities. For example, places like Disney World, Dollywood and Morgan’s Wonderland are renowned for their accessible rides, attractions, shows, parking lots, restrooms and disability services.
If traveling with a companion or family member with autism, be aware that some resorts and destinations are autism certified. The autism certified designation means that at least 80% of the organization’s staff members have received training in serving the needs of guests on the autism spectrum.
Some cities are also friendlier to individuals with disabilities than others. According to Lonely Planet, San Diego, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Barcelona, Spain are among the destinations most accessible to people with disabilities.
2. Consider using a travel agent
These days, many travel agents specialize in disability tourism. If you can afford any extra costs associated with using an agent, you will save a great deal of time, energy and anxiety by passing on some of the work and planning to someone who is an expert in the field. Some examples include Wheel the World, Travelable, and Travel for All.
3. Contact travel providers before you go
Don’t trust that your needs will be fulfilled just because the website or brochure says that they will. Florida Panhandle’s Comprehensive Guide to Traveling with Disabilities recommends contacting your airline, train or bus company before your travel date to make sure that vehicles are equipped with “assistive devices like wheelchairs and oxygen; facilities accommodations like accessible bathrooms, lifts, and bulkhead seats; services like pre-boarding and baggage assistance; and accessible communication systems like through a TTY or video remote interpreting (VRI).” Likewise, reach out to your hotel, Airbnb host, or bed-and-breakfast to ensure that you have been booked in an accessible room equipped with the accommodations you need to be comfortable.
4. Know the rules about service animals
If you are traveling outside of the United States, be sure to research the laws about service animals. You can find information you need at Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). In the United States, federal and local laws permit you to keep service animal in your hotel or rental without charging an extra fee. But if a service animal causes damage to the property, you may be liable for the costs of repair.
5. Take advantage of discounts
Some sites may offer discounts to disabled travelers. Amtrak, the National Park Service, Hop On/Hop Off bus tours and many museums are among these. If you’re unsure, it never hurts to ask.
6. Be aware of medical resources near your destination
This advice is particularly important for travelers who are medically fragile. Before you travel, make sure that you know the locations of hospitals, pharmacies and clinics in the vicinity of your hotel or destination. Also, find out what your insurance company will cover if you travel outside of your state or country. Consider purchasing travel insurance in case illness interferes with your travel plans.
7. Bon Voyage!
Traveling with a disability takes more planning, but with the necessary foresight, the experience is well worth it. And, once you learn the ropes, it gets easier. That paves the way for more fun, adventure and relaxation. And that’s what vacationing is all about right?