Accessible holidays have enjoyed a great surge in popularity in recent years, with the rapidly increasing number of disabled-friendly travel, accommodation and activity providers based in the UK and abroad now allowing almost everyone to experience the joy of discovering new destinations across the world.
It goes without saying, of course, that going on holiday when you are living with limited mobility is always going to present certain challenges, even if you can confidently overcome obstacles such as flying by purchasing one of our plane-ready folding mobility scooters. Nevertheless, taking just a few minutes to plan and research the accessibility aspects of your trip before setting off will ensure every day of your getaway is comfortable, convenient and, above all, relaxing. Here are our top three tips for enjoying a truly hassle-free holiday.
Check that your destination is accessible
These days, you can be reasonably confident that whatever area of the UK you choose to travel to, it will be well served with a range of hotels, holiday cottages, restaurants and local attractions that are fully accessible for users of wheelchairs and mobility scooters. However, if a ‘staycation’ is not what you have in mind, checking how disability-friendly your overseas destination of choice is likely to be of paramount importance.
Whether due to ancient architecture, outdated attitudes towards improving municipal accessibility, or a combination of both these factors, there are several cities across the globe that are major tourism hotspots but do not offer an adequate visitor experience for disabled holidaymakers. Just two of several examples we could discuss are the stunning Italian city of Venice which, although beautiful, is made extremely difficult to navigate thanks to its 400-plus stepped bridges, and Istanbul in Turkey, which has a woeful lack of accessible public transport and attractions.
By contrast, there are several far-flung corners of the world which you may not have expected to be at the cutting edge of disabled travel but have, in fact, taken great strides recently to make themselves as appealing as possible to spenders of the so-called ‘purple pound’. Discovering the world’s wildest animals on safari in Kenya, South Africa or Tanzania, for example, is now straightforward as a wheelchair user, whilst the Parque dos Sonhos outdoor activity centre near Sao Paulo in Brazil will even let you enjoy such high-octane activities as zip-lining and canopy tours.
Something that is also important to bear in mind is how straightforward getting to your destination will be in the first place, with many people often facing unexpected difficulties before their plane has even left the ground. You’ll find more information on this specific issue below.
Contact your airline before travelling
When we’re excited about going on holiday, the last thing most of us will want to think about is battling our way through the airport. Nevertheless, we all know that these hubs of activity can be stressful places, with security checks, crowds of people and the lengthy check-in process all contributing towards a far from relaxing experience – and, of course, this can be made even more difficult if you are unable to walk for long distances.
For this reason, it is a good idea to look up your departure airport before you leave home and, specifically, how comprehensive their disabled facilities are; you might also want to consider printing out a map of the airport so that you will know exactly where to go once you arrive, thus minimising the anxiety that can affect all of us – even those who are not mobility scooter users – when we are catching flights.
Even more vital is knowing that you will be treated well and be able to travel in comfort once you are in the air. Fortunately, we recently published an article that discusses in detail which are the best airlines for passengers with all manner of disabilities; you can read it by clicking here.
If the airline you are planning to travel with is not featured on our list, however, there’s no need to worry – it will just take a little digging on your carrier of choice’s website to find out what pre and in-flight facilities they offer. To be sure of what kind of journey is in store, look out for information such as whether staff will be on hand to assist you prior to boarding, whether you can expect an accessible toilet on-board and whether the on-flight stewards will be trained in British Sign Language.
Sort out your travel insurance
Whilst it may not be the most exciting of tasks, purchasing suitable travel insurance is something else which needs to be taken care of before you go on holiday, and this is especially the case if you are living with any condition or disability that limits your mobility.
We understand that the temptation may be to purchase a standard travel insurance policy – or to skip the whole process altogether – but you will very quickly start to regret this decision if anything should happen whilst you are away that means you may require medical attention. The reality is that you could end up with huge, possibly prohibitively expensive bills if the worst happens and you are suddenly faced with an uninsured stay in the hospital overseas.
The good news is that, with the rise of the internet and the ever-increasing number of disabled people living in the UK, it is now easier than ever to source and buy comprehensive and, crucially, affordable travel insurance, whatever your condition may be. Specialist companies such as Fish Insurance have been cropping up more and more in recent years, and many of their policies are well worth taking a look at.
The key point here is never to settle for second best: the most reputable disability-focused travel insurance companies will offer policies with no upper age limit, flexible single and multi-trip cover, a guarantee of emergency assistance and even replacement courtesy mobility equipment, along with several other benefits. Whatever your concern and whatever your level of mobility, there will be an insurance package available to suit your needs.