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Accessible Vacation Tips

  • Published: 2008-12-29 (Revised/Updated 2011-08-26) : Cynthia Andrews.
  • Synopsis: Accessible vacation tips for wheelchair users and other medical challenges that make going on a vacation a challenge.

Main Document

Going on vacation is a great way to spend time together as a family. Unfortunately, some families are avoiding traveling altogether because they have accessibility concerns.

Wheelchairs, mental disabilities, and other medical challenges can make going on a vacation a challenge, but the good news is that travel is not impossible. With the right planning, any family, even ones dealing with disabilities, can have a great time together on vacation.

Before you start planning your vacation, take into account what your family enjoys in the comfort of your own home. Do you like fine dining and interesting foods? Are you interested in theater performances? Do you like music? Despite any limitations, all of these activities and more can be enjoyed while on vacation. So, do not feel the need to plan a "safe" vacation. Shoot for the stars and plan the trip you really want to take.

The first thing that you need to consider is transportation.

Your plans will be different depending on who in your family is disabled, since there are different challenges with children versus adults. As far as traveling goes, you may be able to drive to your destination, but do not be afraid to fly either. Let the airport know that you have a special needs flier, and be prepared to show up at the airport at least two hours before your flight. All forms of public transportation, though, must be able to accommodate special needs travelers, so you should be able to fly, or take the bus or train for that matter, wherever you want to go.

Good news - no matter where you want to go, you will likely be able to find proper accommodations. Most major hotel and motel chains have wheelchair accessible rooms, which are located on the first floor and have large walk-in showers with handicapped seating. Many hotels are also beginning to carry kits to help smaller individuals feel more comfortable staying a room built for a taller person, and all will accommodate seeing-eye dogs, even if they do not allow other pets. All you have to do is request a room that meets your needs, and if for some reason the first hotel you call cannot accommodate you, another hotel in the area will be able to help you. Remember, their special rooms may be limited, so make reservations as soon as you know your travel dates if you need a first-floor room or a room with a wheelchair-accessible shower.

What can you do while on vacation

The sky really is the limit. Make sure that you talk to your doctor or pediatrician before you travel to confirm that the activities you have planned are safe, regardless of any disability in your family. Sometimes, you may want to call ahead to make sure that you can get the help you need when you arrive. For example, if you are planning to go to a water park, they might be able to provide you with a waterproof wheelchair for the day. When you call ahead, you can be sure that your day will not be unnecessarily delayed trying to find the correct staff member to assist you.

Keep in mind that other people will be enjoying the same tourist attractions as you and your family. It is important to be considerate of others but also that others will be considerate of you. If you are worried about that, you may want to call the facility and arrange a special tour or event just for your family. Most places are more than happy to help you set up a really fun day, no matter what health problems your family is facing.

If this is your first trip as a family or your first time traveling and dealing with a disability, take some time to understand how your body is going to adjust to the vacation. The weather, flying, long days, and other aspects of a vacation have a toll on any family, but yours has specific challenges. Talk to a doctor before you leave and if you take daily medications, have enough with you so you do not run out. Find out what you can do if somehow the medicines get lost. Most importantly, be prepared for relaxing downtime. This is a vacation after all. At the end of the day, you should plan a lot of flexibility in your schedule so you can take breaks as needed.

Traveling as a family dealing with disabilities is not easy, but over the past decade it has become less challenging. There are many new additions and hotel accommodations available to make your family's stay more comfortable. If you are still wary of traveling together, at least take some time off for a "stay-cation" - a vacation at home where you enjoy some of the local sights. Vacations, no matter where you spend them, can really help you grow closer as a family, as well as provide happy memories and experiences which can last a lifetime

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