How to Travel With a Disability

Three Methods:Disabled Travel PlanningDisabled TransportationDisabled Travel Tips

The rise in elderly and disabled population has also increased the number of disabled travelers. This has encouraged travel providers to provide more disability accommodations. The non-profit Open Doors organization estimated that disabled travelers spend approximately $15 billion on travel each year. The United States, the United Kingdom and many other countries provide disability access by law, while other countries do not enforce disability standards. If you plan to travel and you have a disability, it is important to research your destination, travel with all medical devices and medications and ask for assistance ahead of time. This article will tell you how to travel with a disability.

Method 1
Disabled Travel Planning

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    Ask a companion to join you on your trip. If you are planning extensive international travel, beware that some airlines do not allow some disabled passengers to travel without a companion. Disabled rights vary from country to country, so a companion can help you navigate new environments and help you in case of emergencies.
    • Consider hiring a travel nurse to accompany you on your trip, if you have serious medical concerns. You can find travel nurse networks online.
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    Book your travel arrangements by phone or in person with a travel agent. In order to receive disabled accommodations and access, you must disclose your disability at least 48 hours ahead of time. Internet or email booking does not always include an option to disclose your disability.
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    Research possible destinations ahead of time. Checkout books from the library, such as Lonely Planet travel guides, to get an idea of how accessible the area is. Sites like and give advice on the best destinations for disabled travelers.
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    Think of a succinct and thorough description of your disability and the accommodations you require. Many travel providers are extremely busy, so you need to communicate what you need quickly and clearly. Carry a letter with you in case it needs to be translated and ask your companion to memorize and practice how to request disabled accommodations.
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    Visit your doctor before you travel. The doctor will be able to tell you if there are any unforeseen travel or medication risks. Request all the medication you require, plus a few days extra in case of delays.
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    Carry emergency and doctor numbers with you at all times. Give a copy to all travel companions, so that they know who to contact in case of emergencies.
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    Consider booking a trip with a travel company that caters to disabled people.,,, and are specialty tour websites. You can choose a tour that is already set up to cater to your disability.

Method 2
Disabled Transportation

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    Invest in long-haul flights without too many layovers. Boarding a flight can be uncomfortable for many people with disabilities. Regaining access to a wheelchair can also take considerable time, so ensure you have long layovers, if you book them.
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    Prepare for airline travel according to Travel Security Administration (TSA) guidelines. Although these guidelines may differ in countries outside of North America, there are some concessions made for disabled passengers. The following are preparations you can make before or at the gate:
    • Keep a card or letter with you if you have any metal implements or prosthesis. You can request these cards from your surgeon after you have surgery. It is a good idea to keep it with you when traveling, in case you go through metal detectors during sightseeing as well as in the airport.
    • Keep all prescription and over-the-counter medication with you in your carry-on baggage. Keep all medications in their original packaging.
    • Declare all medically necessary liquid medications to the TSA officer. If they are over 3.4 oz., they should not be carried in a quart-sized plastic bag with other small liquids. If they are required to take essential medication, water and juice may be declared and carried through security after going through an additional screening process.
    • Make sure all frozen medications are frozen solid as you go through the security line. Slushy or liquid medications are subject to additional screening and limitations.
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    Call the airline ahead of time to request a seat that will work for your disability and transfer assistance. Choose an aisle seat or a seat near the bathroom, if you need one. Always avoid sitting in an emergency exit row, since this seat requires that you be prepared to assist other passengers.
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    Book airport transfers ahead of time. You will need to order a taxi or mini-bus with disability access.
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    Arrive at the airport, bus depot or train depot well in advance. Make sure you arrive at least 2 hours ahead of time for all international travel.
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    Ask flight attendants to store your assistive devices before takeoff. Press the call button should you need them during flight. Ask that the attendant helps you to get access to your devices after the other passengers have disembarked.

Method 3
Disabled Travel Tips

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    Pack lightly. Prioritize what you need on your trip. Medications, assistive devices, money and specialized clothing and tools are first priority, while clothing that can be picked up in another state or country should be lower on the priority list.
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    Schedule a day to relax upon arrival at your destination. Jet lag or travel-caused exhaustion can trigger dizziness, balance issues, nausea and tiredness. Attempt to get on the time schedule of the place you are visiting, but allow yourself to rest until meal or bedtime.
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    Carry copies of health insurance, passports, credit cards and important papers. Make sure to keep them on you at all times. This information can help you if you experience theft or emergency.
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    Bring an emergency repair kit for wheelchairs and other assistive devices. Wheelchairs have many moving parts and they can break down fairly easily. Bring your manual or read up on how to repair the chair before you leave.
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    Book an independent tour guide, in order to set your own sightseeing pace. Many sightseeing tours require that you walk quickly and for long periods of time. Call tour operators ahead of time to see if they can offer a disabled-friendly tour or audio tour with a slower pace.
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    Ask for assistance whenever you need it. It falls on the disabled traveler and their companion to be their own advocate. Try to visualize situations that may arise, in advance, so that you can determine how you will handle them.

Things You'll Need

  • Passport/ID
  • Doctor's appointment
  • Doctor's letter
  • Prescriptions
  • Companion
  • Travel agent
  • Phone
  • Disabled travel provider
  • Airport transfers
  • Emergency repair kit
  • Rest
  • Copies of important travel documents
  • Independent tour guide

Article Info

Categories: Disability Issues | Travel Tips