Disability Travel Tips

Traveling with Mobility in Mind

For many with mobility issues, the realities of vacation travel can often cause undue stress and anxiety. This is counter-productive to the purpose of most vacations, which is to relax, de-stress and to take a break from our normal routine.

Well, if you've weighed all the options and finally decided to take that trip you've been planning, congratulations! The hardest part is out of the way. It's now time to concentrate on the fun task of getting prepared for your trip.

Where to Begin?
With so many wonderful travel options to choose from, it's important to start with a list of important criteria. Get out your pencil and paper and jot down the absolute essentials that you will require from your destination. Keep in mind that you are the guest and have the power to be choosy about your lodgings. Here are some basic points to consider before you make your final choice:

  • Is your Resort/Hotel Fully Accessible? - Assuming this is an essential criterion, you will want to ask specific questions about your room, elevators and the accessibility of the available services. A good resort will be forthcoming about the services and amenities available to mobility challenged guests.

  • What is the Weather Situation? - Depending on the time of year, you may wish to arrange your travel dates based on the most suitable weather. For example, seasons in the tropics alternate between periods of torrential rain and dry spells. Unless your wheelchair is equipped with pontoons, the rainy season may not be the best time for a visit.

  • Have Your Paperwork in Order - If you're traveling overseas or to another country, inquire early about the various types of paperwork and documentation you will require. A valid passport is the only legal form of identification recognized around the world -- you will not be able to cross most international borders without a valid one. The process of receiving a passport is easy, but may take some time to complete -- start the process well in advance of your vacation. If you have a passport, but have not traveled for some time, ensure that is up-to-date before you make your trip.

  • Medications - If you require prescriptions for medication or oxygen, ensure that you bring it along on your trip. You may also wish to include prescription information in case medications are lost, or oxygen equipment becomes damaged or malfunctions.

  • Clams or Rubles? - Find out what kind of currency you will be requiring for your trip. Most major banks will convert your local funds to the desired amount of foreign currency -- some charge a fee. If your trip includes multiple countries, be sure that you have appropriate funding in place. Many people choose the simplest option -- travelers checks or credit cards. Keep in mind that while this method may simplify your cash situation, you will be restricted from purchasing goods and services from vendors who do not take payment this way. Also remember to research the costs of local items so that you can budget accordingly -- tips and taxes are usually welcomed and in some cases, required.

  • Accessible Vehicles - If you plan on renting an accessible vehicle, you should book well in advance. Many smaller car rental operations only offer a few vehicles for their mobility challenged guests - once the available vehicles have been rented out, you may be out of luck. Further, you should ask the rental company for information on the local road conditions, laws and other driving requirements.

  • Don't Drink the Water - If you're prone to stomach ailments when ingesting different water and foods, it is a good idea to inquire about the type of diseases common to the area you’ll be visiting. Many resorts offer bottled or filtered water for their guests and some claim to do all their cooking with the same water. If you are not fortunate enough to have this luxury, at the very least you'll be able to take precautions to prevent unnecessary exposure.

  • Keep One Eye Open - If you're particularly vigilant and like to monitor travel advisories and warnings, the US State Department will be happy to share the latest list of infectious diseases, venomous animals and unstable governments and economies. Although none of these things should be taken lightly, temper this with the fact we already live with many of the listed hazards on a daily basis. If you've been able to ward off hepatitis, Lyme disease or even poisonous snakes and spiders until now, you probably have the skills to do so in another land. To be safe, ensure that you purchase trip insurance with proper medical coverage.

  • Peak Travel Times - Be aware that the month, day and even the time you travel will have an effect on the cost and comfort of your trip. When traveling by air, peak times affect the cost of your ticket, the amount of people on the plane, and even the proposed flight schedule (planes may be on time or delayed). Typically, you will find lower airfares, less crowded planes and on-time schedules if you travel during off-peak times.

  • Party, Party, Party - Ask in advance about local holidays or festivals that are scheduled for the time you will be at your destination. During major street festivals, some cities close down parts of the street. Such closures can have an definite effect on your mobility. With the additional people in the streets, you may even find it hard to navigate from one location to another. On the other hand, if you're into wild crowds and street parties, then at least you'll know exactly when to book your trip.

Enjoy Yourself
With proper planning, your vacation getaway can offer the same comforts of your daily environment. Perform some research in advance and don't be shy to ask for advice from family, friends, travel agents and other sources. If your fortunate enough to find an exotic locale that has your mobility needs in mind, your vacation will be one to remember!