Traveling can be stressful for individuals with disabilities or decreased mobility. Use these travel tips to ensure smooth sailing no matter the adventure.
According to Current Issues in Tourism1, travel and tourism is a way to achieve desirable ends of self-reliance, independence, and confidence. Despite this fact, disabled individuals often qualify as ‘constrained tourists’ or people who want to travel but are constrained from doing so.
The three main types of barrier constraining disabled tourists are environmental, interactive, and intrinsic, according to the Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research3. These barriers cause tourists with disabilities to use a different decision-making process while planning trips, lasting an average of 47.7 days.
1. Warn About Wheelchairs
Warning an airline ahead of time about a wheelchair, oxygen use, or other medically necessary equipment can cut down on difficulties upon arrival. Check with the airline about their oxygen policies to find out what type of oxygen your loved one can take on board. If your loved one requires the use of a wheelchair, you may be able to board the airplane separately to avoid the interference of other passengers. Medical equipment may also require different security checks which can often be expedited if advanced warning is given.
2. Handicapped Plate
If applicable, get a handicapped plate or placard for your car. During a road trip you never know where you are going to end up stopping for a meal, the night, or just to see the sights. Having a handicapped plate or placard can ensure everything is within comfortable walking distance for your loved one. It may take some time to receive the plate or placard, so be sure to look into this ahead of time. For more information on qualifying for and receiving a handicapped plate or placard, contact your local DMV.
3. Elevator/Stair Options
Ask about elevator and stair options at sights you will be visiting such as museums and landmarks to ensure your loved one can easily travel between floors. This can be an especially important step when traveling in foreign countries, as their building and travel norms may differ.
4. Request Room Location
When making your reservation at a hotel, request a room on the first floor so use of elevators or stairs is not necessary. Alternatively, request a room close to the elevator on higher floors so it is within manageable walking distance. If the hotel cannot fulfill this type of request, be sure to find out how far your loved one will have to walk or look into other accommodation options.
If you are flying, looking into transportation options ahead of time can ease stress upon reaching your destination. Some airports and hotels offer bus systems for certain sights while others will require you to call a cab. City buses and subway systems can also be viable options. If possible, book a hotel close to main attractions in order to reduce the amount of transportation necessary. Alternatively, book a hotel close to a metro station in large cities and get a pass for the duration of your trip. This will keep costs low while providing transportation to a wide range of places across the city at any time of day.
6. Extra Medication
Unexpected flight delays or cancellations can cause an extra night stay at your destination. During a road trip, you never know when a catchy billboard will lead you toward a lengthier adventure. Make sure your loved one packs extra medication for your trip to be prepared in case of a delay or extension.
7. Medication Reminders
While traveling, you can easily become so caught up in excitement that the day flies by. This is often a sign that you are enjoying your trip, but it can also mean missed doses for those with prescriptions. Set reminders on a cell phone or other mobile device to ensure your loved one is staying on schedule with their medications.
8. Oxygen Refill Stations
If your loved one requires portable oxygen, make sure you know where refills are available near your destination. The extra excitement and increased physical activity during a trip can increase the amount of oxygen your loved one requires and you often have a very limited supply while traveling. Knowing where the nearest oxygen distribution location is can save your loved one from landing in a scary situation.
9. Schedule for Comfort
According to Tourism Management2, disabled tourists are mostly interested in landscape and wildlife photography, along with learning more about nature in general. Especially popular sites include mountains, lakes, and streams. For those with moderate to severe disability, quiet and peaceful countryside destinations are most popular. No matter the destination, be sure not to overbook your trip so there is enough time to relax and enjoy. Leave yourself and your loved one plenty of time to get from one location to another. If possible, schedule tours of landmarks and museums across several days to allow time to rest in between.
10. Don’t Travel Alone
Because elderly and disabled individuals are often seen as easy targets to take advantage of, your loved one should not travel alone. Traveling in a group with family or friends can give strength in numbers and ward off would-be attackers. The journal of Tourism Management2 concluded that for many individuals, social motivations including being with family and visiting friends and relatives were factors in travel.
According to the Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research3, 56.4% of disabled travelers require the assistance of someone while traveling. Planning ahead and asking a family member or friend to join in travel can make the experience easier and more comfortable.
While planning a vacation can be a stressful and exciting time, following these tips can facilitate a safe and enjoyable trip for you and your loved one.
1Blichfeldt, B. S., & Nicolasien, J. (2011). Disabled travel: Not easy, but doable. Current Issues in Tourism, 14 (1), 79-102.
2Ray, N.M, & Ryder, M.E. (2003). “Ebilities” tourism: An exploratory discussion of the travel needs and motivations of the mobility-disabled. Tourism Management, 24, 57-72.
3Var, T., Yesiltas, M., Yayli, A., & Ozturk, Y. (2011). A study on the travel patterns of physically disabled people. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 16 (6), 599-618.