Holidaying with a disability can come with some challenges, but it shouldn’t stop you from exploring and seeing the sites, it might just take a little bit of extra planning to get you there.
Ideally, travelling with your two-wheeled wagon should be happy and hassle free. But anyone who’s ever gone long haul will know that travel tranquillity can quickly turn to madness and mayhem. Queues, delays and unknowledgeable ground staff can test anyone’s patience.
But before you call time-out on your grand plans, take pause. Our guide to disability travel will make holidaying as easy as 1-2-3!
With helpful hints from seasoned experts, you’ll score a truckload of travel insurance advice. Cruise your way through the planning process, learning which destinations will cater to those with mobility issues. Plus, we’ll outline top travel tips on how to book your accommodation, flight needs and general assistance.
So whether you’re planning an action-packed adventure, or a relaxed retreat, we’ve got you covered. Our guide gets you geared up and ready to go!
Travelling can be more testing for some, but don't let that put a downer on your destination dreams. New regulations have meant an increase in attractions, accommodation providers & transport services all having to accommodate to accessible tourism, so be ambitious with your holiday choice. Keep reading for our fun list of accessible holiday ideas.
You’ll have a roaring time when you roam with rhinos and amble with African lions on a magical safari. GoAfrica Safaris specialises in trips to Kenya and Tanzania for people with limited mobility. Tourists can travel in adapted vehicles with hoists. The company also gives advice on which lodges and tented camps to choose. Grrrrr!
cruise the seas
Want to wake up at sea and discover a new destination? These days cruise companies are catering more and more for people with disabilities. Many ships, especially newer ones, are accessible throughout and have adapted cabins at all grades. An excellent choice for those with mobility problems, ships ahoy!
Discover the heart of Australia and make magical memories in the red center. All restaurants, hotels and shops at Ayers Rock Resort are adapted for wheelchairs. And the base walking tracks at Uluru are accessible too. You could even explore by motorized three wheeled bike if you're able to transfer from a wheelchair to the trike :)
Fancy sipping rum punch cocktails in the sunshine? Us too. Virgin Holidays offers plenty of accessible accommodation options plus free use of special beach wheelchairs in selected hotels in Antigua, Barbados and St Lucia. Did you say Pina Colada?
Want to get in with the hussle & bustle of the big smoke? A trip to the blighty will give you your fix of culture, ciaos (and questionable climate). Plenty of attractions are fully accessible in London; from the science museum (recognized in 2010 as one of the UK’s best accessible visitor attractions), the Tate Modern (which has touch tours, audio guides and a sign language multimedia guide) the Tower of London (although some parts have difficult stairs) and the London eye (wheelchair number limits apply).
With its endless soft sandy beaches, exotic cuisine and more cultural quirks than you can shake a stick at, it’s no wonder more than 800,000 Australians are drawn there each year! Why not book yourself into Villa G at Ellora, a group of 11 villas with no steps and a large pool with hoists for guests with limited mobility. Ellora can also arrange diving and snorkelling for people with disabilities and a three-night accessible safari in East Java and scuba diving in east Bali. Balinese Bliss!
Holiday in Hawaii for the ultimate tropical paradise. Access Aloha Travel specialises in organising trips for people with disabilities. Non-profit organisation AccesSurf helps people enjoy the water with tandem surfboards. Hanuma Bay Honolulu even loans out beach wheelchairs for free. Aloha!
We know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, however Disney World and Disney Land are A-mazing when it comes to accommodating for their guests with special needs. Oh go on, you know you want to rub shoulders with Mickey and friends. “Hey! there, Hi! there, Ho! There. You're as welcome as can be.
Extra cover available
Total cover available
Additional premium cost
|Insure & Go|
|No Worries Insurance||$5,000||$10,000 pp, $20,000 trip||$27.30/$1,000|
|Simply Travel Insurance||$5,000||$5,000||$40/$1,000|
|Travel Insurance Direct||$4,000||$10,000||$40/$1,000|
|Travel Insurance Saver|
If travel insurance doesn’t provide enough protection, you could also look at insuring your valuables under your home and contents policy. Before doing so, check that you are able to travel with the insured items and that they would be covered when you’re away from home.
Alternativley Covertec.com.au or business-insurance.aon.com.au may be able to help with cover for particularly expensive apparatus.
Historically insurers were reluctant to provide cover to those with mental illnesses, however an increasing number of companies on the market are now offering varying degrees of cover. Cover will depend on a range of factors;
- Some companies will now offer cover by assessment for mental illnesses such as anxiety disorder, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and stress. Once these are assessed cover may be granted, which could cost you an additional premium.
Location Location Location
First things first, you need to decide on a destination that’s going to be brilliant and not a burden. When choosing your accommodation, pick a place that’s centrally located so you’re close to attractions, restaurants, shops. Booking a place that’s truly accessible should also be your number one priority. What may be deemed "accessible" at home may not be the same abroad. Make sure you understand the situation with toilets, ramps, steps, lifts, pool access thoroughly before you hand over your credit card.
Reasearch your route
Cobbled stone lanes, narrow streets and steep steps may be the makings of a fairytale, but not ideal for those on a set of wheels. Don’t let your chair hinder your holiday dreams, research your route so you don't suffer from destination disappointment. Know what you're getting into before you arrive so you can be prepared.
Flying can be trying whether you have a disability or not. Delays, gates that take an hour to get to, lost luggage, you name it. When booking flights, book an aisle seat near a toilet and inform staff of your needs when boarding. Arrive early at the airport to avoid the worst of the queues and to ensure you are not rushed and worried. When booking flights the airline will need to know the dimensions of your wheelchair and will want to know if it is manual or electric.
Travelling on wheels
Consider how frustrating it would be to try and fix a flat or in a foreign terrain. Make sure your two-wheeler is in good nick before it goes on its holidays. Most airlines won’t allow you to take an electric wheelchair in the cabin, so take everything out of the storage compartments before checking it in.
Assistance dogs are generally allowed to travel on the floor of the cabin on domestic flights. International flights may be trickier because of quarantine laws and airport rules in the country you're travelling to. You'll also need to consider the requirements when returning your prized pup back into Australia. Our guide to travelling with pets can help further.
Arrange your attractions
Check for disability discounts at major tourist attractions. In most of Europe, admission to attractions is free for people with disabilities while the carer pays a reduced price, or vice versa. Cha Ching! If you have a mobility parking badge, take it with you - the sign for people with disabilities is universal. Some attractions need to be booked and paid for in advance. In Australia, you can also get an free ticket to many attractions using a National Companion Card. Whoop whoop!
Ready your rental
Planning a road trip? Pre-book your wheelchair modified vehicle well in advance if you so need. Turning up to the airport without a ride could really put dampener on your holiday dreams. The key to successful holidays when you have mobility difficulties is planning and preparation!
Choose your tours
If you’ve decided to visit the Vatican, gander at the Grand Canyon or snorkel in the Barrier Reef, make sure that your tour operator knows your requirements before you finalise the booking. If you’re organising with an accessible tourism company, chances are they have it all covered already. If not, ask about access, ramps, steps, toilets, tour numbers and whether they regularly cater for those with disabilities.
Be methodical with your meds
Pack enough to cover the length of your entire trip, you wouldn’t want to be in the Mozambique and misplace your meds. Medications have different names throughout the globe, so know the actual drug you require, not just the brand. Different countries have varying guidelines on what is legal, (e.g. medicinal marijuana) so check this before you go booking an exotic escape and end up banged up abroad. Oh er!
Get travel insurance
Everyone who travels needs travel insurance whether they have disabilities or not. Accidents happen, and if you find yourself ill or injured in a foreign country, you could be faced with huge medical bills for treatment and hospitalisation. Trips also get cancelled for a variety of reasons and bags get lost or stolen every day, so travel insurance is simply a form of protection that ensures you won’t have to foot the entire bill yourself if the worst does happen.
Travelling by chair involves a little more consideration when packing. Necessary items go well beyond clothing and toiletries and can involve potentially fragile medical equipment and must-have medications.
Here's a short, snappy list to get you started...