Accessible Travel, Special Needs Travel, Travel

March 15, 2023

It’s a Big, Wide, Accessible World. Let’s Go Explore!

Did you ever cancel a trip because of a bad knee or other mobility impairment? Have you avoided cruises and family events that require travel for fear you’ll need oxygen mid-trip? Today’s world is more accessible than ever, and for anyone with special requirements for traveling, a certified travel advisor can provide a world of information and the service you need to have the best trip possible. As a Certified Accessible Travel Advocate, one of my areas of focus is special needs and accessible travel.

It’s disappointing to be left behind or to have to leave a loved one behind because of a physical limitation or special travel need. Not having everyone around diminishes the fun for those who do make the trip, especially if the trip is a family event. Out-of-town weddings, family celebrations, reunions, and multi-generational trips are simply more fun and more memorable for everyone when every member of the family or group can participate.

Here are a few tips to ensure that when the next travel opportunity arises, you are ready to go.

Photo of a close-up of a gondola on water in Venice

Outline your travel needs

As your travel advisor, I take the time to evaluate the logistics of the trip in relation to your ability to keep pace. What modes of transportation will you be using? Airplane, motor coach, train, ship, transit vans for ground transfers? Leveraging all available information, I work to make sure we don’t miss anything so the right equipment is at the right place at the right time so all you have to do is enjoy the trip. 

I’ll manage your specific travel requirements. It’s all about what you need to feel comfortable out in the world. What types of special needs equipment do you depend on at home? What do you use or need (or wish you had!) when shopping, sightseeing locally, dining out or going to the movies, attending concerts, the theatre, street fairs, or sporting events at home?

Can you hear and see clearly without special auditory equipment or visual aids? How far can you walk without a rest break? Are stairs difficult? Can you get in and out of the tub or shower at home without handgrips or other assistance?

Travel for anyone, whether solo or in a group, can include challenges. This is no time for trying to “tough it out.” If a wheelchair, scooter, or portable oxygen will make your trip more accessible for you, then we’ll place that item on your list of requirements. Many people who do not use wheelchairs or walkers at home feel more comfortable using these mobility aides for tours and excursions. In fact, most wheelchair and scooter rentals are for individuals who only use such aides when traveling. It’s all about providing the right resources to allow everyone the opportunity to enjoy the trip.

Photo of three gondolas on water in Venice

Plan Ahead

I’ll be your point person to make sure everything goes smoothly. If you already own a scooter or portable oxygen, it’s essential to know the policy and procedures for bringing that equipment onboard all the transport vehicles included in your itinerary, from planes to taxis to ferry boats. Does that transport have a way to stow your scooter or wheelchair? Is oxygen allowed on board? Some airlines prohibit certain types of batteries, such as wet cell batteries, or oxygen cylinders. Airlines operate under strict rules, so there may be packing procedures to follow if they do allow the equipment. Keep in mind, most airlines need at least 48 hours’ notice to make special arrangements, and we’ll be prepared to fill out forms.

Cruise ships tend to be more lenient in allowing oxygen, but some disallow certain types of oxygen. All require that the oxygen be delivered to the ship and that you have enough for the entire voyage. Oxygen may never be brought aboard in your luggage. Requirements vary, so I collaborate with your cruise line for proper instructions. I’ll walk you through the relevant and required documentation and paperwork.

Whether you are headed for a cruise ship, hotel, or all-inclusive resort, I’ll double-check for wheelchair access at that venue plus any venues you will be visiting on the trip. Moreover, I’ll confirm that accessible hotel rooms, resort accommodations, or ship staterooms are available for your travel dates. The earlier you book, the better your chances of securing accommodations that meet your needs. For example, early booking increases your chances of securing a ground-floor hotel room or cruise stateroom near the elevator if these issues are important.

You can depend on me to check on your trip’s access to public rooms, restaurants, bars, toilets, the swimming pool, hot tub, beach area, and other relevant amenities that you may need. Are there TDD phone devices? How will you get in and out of the shower or bathtub? Are there flashing lights to accommodate hearing? Braille room numbers? Knowing in advance the scope of your needs gives me time to arrange advance rentals of any necessary equipment, scheduled to arrive when you do. Everything from scooters, lifts, ramps, TDD kits, and special mattresses, including special needs cribs, can be available for rental.

Will road travel or car excursions be part of the trip? Many car rental companies, such as Avis Access, have vehicles that are modified for drivers or passengers with mobility limitations. I’ll manage these details by checking ahead to make sure a suitable vehicle will be available for your travel dates. If you are hiring a car or van, I’ll make sure the company is aware of your needs.

When traveling with a limitation or disability, full travel insurance for medical coverage abroad and trip cancellation insurance are even more important and strongly advised. I’ll always confirm att the details with you and make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Photo of a group of boats on water in Venice

Ask the Right Questions

When making the final bookings, I’ll be sure you ask the right questions, even if the accommodations or cruise stateroom are categorized as “accessible.” Details matter, and I’ll be sure to confirm your needs by asking the right questions such as

  • Are doorways wide enough for the largest wheelchairs? Do the doors open outwards or into the room?
  • Are all the public areas of the hotel, resort, or ship accessible? Do you need to make special arrangements in the dining room to accommodate the wheelchair or scooter?
  • Will the bathroom facilities truly fit your need? Is the bathroom large enough for a wheelchair or scooter? Is there a roll-in shower? Grab-bars?
  • Are there facilities for companion/assistance animals?
  • Are there shopping and entertainment facilities close by if you are staying at a hotel or resort?
  • On shore excursions or tours, does the van have a lift and method for transporting wheelchairs and scooters?

With this seemingly overwhelming amount of details to consider, as your travel advisor I don’t take any detail for granted. I can manage all your trip details and arrangements for almost every situation.

The world can be wonderfully accessible, once you know what’s needed, what’s available, and how to find the necessary equipment. As your travel advisor and a mother of a child with autism, accessibility is important and personal to me. Knowing I have the experience, skills, and resources to make travel accessible to all provides a special level of comfort and satisfaction for my clients and for me.

My aim is to make travel genuinely accessible to everyone regardless of their ability, and I strive to learn the unique requirements of each and every one of my clients. Contact Scout & Bimble today to schedule a complimentary consultation!

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Yep, it’s another travel blog. Why? Because I am a detailed-obsessed travel agency owner who thinks travel blogs should be honest, insightful, and valuable whether you’re visiting a place for the very first time or exploring beyond your usual hometown favorites. To that end, I’ll do my best and would love to receive comments and suggestions from you along the way. 

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