various travel photos boat, car, airplane, tropical location, suitcase.

People travel for many reasons such as work, to visit family or friends, or for vacation.  If you are a person with a disability, or mobility challenges however, this may mean you have a lot more to think about! However, that doesn’t mean travel is out of the question for you. Here are some tips and suggestions to make sure your trip goes smoothly and provides you with the ideal vacation experience you are hoping for! – Research Your Destination Before You Go: Most of the time, websites will not provide sufficient information about accessibility. Call the hotel, or place you will be going to directly, and ask about the specific features you may need (refrigerator*, roll in shower, fully ADA accessible room). This is also an opportunity to ask about any tourist attractions or other venues you may want to visit while you are there. Concierges are usually well informed about what is in the area and can help you figure out how to make the best use of your time. – Communicate Your Needs Early On- Often you cannot request or assess accessibility through the online booking features. Some websites are better than others, but it is best to go directly through the hotel or airline website instead of sites that may save you a few bucks. This way you are able to speak to an actual person and explain your specific needs. It is also a good idea to call the hotel, or place you will be staying the day before you leave, to confirm that your room is available, with everything you need. – Remember Your Health- No matter what way you are traveling, make sure you have everything you need with you to manage your health needs. Bring medications in your carry on, and make sure you have enough (maybe some extra) for your entire trip. It is a good idea to carry current versions of your insurance cards with you, as well as a summary documenting your health condition, allergies, and doctors (A good template for this is: Portable Medical Summary Template) You should also research what hospitals are nearby to where you are staying, and put the address in your phone. It never hurts to be prepared, just in case of an emergency! Depending on your health condition or disability, you may want to take your needs into consideration when booking your travel, and deciding on the length of your trip. It may not be in your best interest to book a flight that leaves at 6 a.m. or has many connections that would require you to get quickly from one gate to another. Think about what times of day you feel your best, and what would work for you. You may also want to request seats that will be best for you to stay comfortable during the flight, whether this is an aisle seat, or something near the front. Most airline staff will help to accommodate this to the best of their ability. – Air Travel- If traveling by air, it is very important to arrive at the airport early, as you may need additional time to go trough security. To feel more comfortable, it is also helpful to understand what the security process will be like before you travel. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a great resource about this: information for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. Airlines that have shown to be especially helpful for people with disabilities are: Southwest, Jet Blue, and US Airways, but all airlines must respect you and support requests for accommodations. – Know Your Equipment- When traveling, it is very important that you are the expert on any mobility equipment or devices you will have. You should know what type of battery it has, how much it weighs, and how to take it apart and put it back together (if possible). These are the types of questions you will be asked when you check in at the airport or train station. If you are unsure, most common models have the user manual online that you can download. When you leave your device to be stores, be sure to keep any loose or small pieces with you, such as backpacks, cushions, or keys that could get separated and lost. – Transportation- Be sure to think about how you will get around, once you arrive at your destination. Many airports have places where you can request an accessible shuttle to your hotel, for much less than a traditional cab service. You can also ask about the best way to get around during your trip- if the public transportation system is accessible, or for the phone numbers of cab companies have accessible vehicles. Depending on where you are traveling to, you can even book your shuttle ahead of time through different websites, such as supershuttle. This will assure you have a ride set once you arrive. – Over pack! When traveling, there is no such thing as being too prepared! It is a good idea to bring more clothes, and medical supplies than you think you will need. You never know what may happen with the weather or travel plans, and you don’t want to be caught without things you need to be safe and healthy. You may also want to bring one day’s worth of clothes and toiletries in your carry-on if traveling by air, just in case your flight is canceled or delayed. There is definitely a lot to think about when you want to take a trip and have a disability, but with the right planning and preparation, you can have the same great vacation as everyone else. Become confident in knowing your needs, and speaking up for them, and you are on the path to travel success!

*If you do require a refrigerator, be sure to tell the staff it is for medical supplies- some hotels have a daily fee for this, and specifying the medical necessity could waive that expense.

Disclaimer: This blog is written regarding people with physical disabilities, however the theme of planning and preparation is important for people with all types of disabilities to keep in mind!

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