There are so many opportunities to explore the world as a disabled individual, yet many wheelchair and mobility scooter users never go on their dream holiday because the idea of planning it seems too daunting a task. We’ve put together 8 valuable tips to help you successfully plan your disabled holiday and make that dream getaway a reality.
1/ Make a checklist of anything you’ll need to take with you – including medication
Unfortunately, last-minute packing is not an option when it comes to planning a disabled holiday; you could risk leaving something important behind if you throw things together at the last second. Ultimately, your mobility and safety is the number one priority, so write a checklist of everything that you need for your trip and allow yourself plenty of time to pack up your suitcase.
Particularly important and helpful to note:
- Mobility equipment – wheelchair/mobility scooter, commode, walking sticks, extra support pillows, etc. You can often find portable versions of these items which are a great investment for both holidays and trips to visit friends and family. You cannot be charged extra by an airline for transporting your medical equipment.
- Medication – always bring extra medication and spread these across your luggage in case one of your bags goes missing or is delayed reaching you.
- Clothing – it’s a great idea to plan out your outfits for each day so that you don’t pack extra items unnecessarily. Whilst it’s good to have options, keeping your suitcase as light as possible will make things that little bit easier during those periods on your journey when there is no one to assist you.
- Repair kit – having a backup plan never goes amiss and bringing a repair kit will give you peace of mind in case something happens to your scooter or wheelchair tyres.
Some equipment may be too heavy or impractical to bring with you, in which case you should research whether there are local mobility equipment hire companies near to where you are holidaying.
2/ Purchase specialised travel insurance for your disabled holiday
No one should ever travel without insurance; it’s simply not worth the risk if you have an accident and have to have emergency medical treatment, especially if you are travelling abroad. Without adequate insurance, you could likely have to cover the costs yourself and foreign medical treatment can be very expensive, running into the thousands in places such as the US.
As a wheelchair or mobility scooter, it’s definitely worthwhile looking at a specialist provider who can offer insurance specifically for disabled travellers with pre-existing medical conditions. Many of these companies can offer more premiums across thousands of conditions, including rarer and more obscure conditions.
Always check the terms and conditions of your policy carefully for any exemptions to your cover – don’t just skim read! You’ll want a policy which covers all eventualities and any activities that you have planned for your trip. You also want to make sure that you’ll be covered for any damage to your equipment, although this may actually already fall under your home insurance policy, so don’t forget to check this too.
Bonus tip – before travelling, take pictures from all angles of your equipment as this will help to support your claim if your scooter or wheelchair is damaged during transit
Always remember to shop around online and get quotes from different providers to ensure that you are getting the best deal for your money. Some examples of companies who provide specialist disabled travel insurance include:
3/ Talk to your aviation, coach, or train company about your requirements
As a disabled passenger, there are numerous ways that you can receive special assistance at airports, train stations, and coach stations. Unless you communicate your needs with your aviation, coach, or train company, they won’t know how they can help you on your day of travel. Quite simply, if you don’t ask, you don’t get!
Each authority has their own individual policy on what services they can offer to disabled passengers; therefore, it’s best to speak with your operator to confirm how they can assist you and make the travelling aspect of your disabled holiday smooth and stress-free.
National Express has a dedicated Assisted Travel Team who is on hand to support you with your assistance needs. You’ll need to get in touch at least 36 hours in advance to discuss your specific requirements; however, the contact centre is also available 24 hours a day if you have any general assistance issues. You can contact the Assisted Travel Team via email and phone as well as on Textphone.
National Express has its own Code of Practice in order to provide a positive experience for disabled travellers, full details of which can be found on their website. The Code of Practice specifies both what National Express can and cannot do for disabled travellers, therefore, you’ll know exactly where you stand when it comes to assistance with your coach journey.
Examples of what National Express can offer include:
- Assistance with loading and unloading luggage (up to 20kg)
- A dedicated passenger lift at the front of the coach if you require step-free access
- Specialised wheelchair accessible coaches with flat floors and larger entrances
Coach companies often accept both wheelchairs and mobility scooters as long as they meet certain weight and dimension criteria – this is because they will most likely be stored in the luggage hold of the vehicle. Once again, you will need to get in touch 36 hours prior to your journey and provide details of the make, model, and size of your wheelchair or scooter so that the team can ensure that your aid is compatible with the coach.
For safety reasons, most coach companies will only accept mobility scooters with dry cell/gel batteries. Another common stipulation is that your mobility scooter must weigh no more than 20kg and be of a modular structure, i.e. break down separate parts. You will also need a companion with you to help disassemble and then reassemble your scooter.
Bonus tip – If you frequently travel by coach, why not consider investing in a Disabled Coachcard? You can get a third off your travel throughout the year with no peak or off-peak restrictions. Full terms and conditions can be found on the National Express website.
National Rail has made things easier for disabled passengers by creating a centralised online forum where you can book assistance for your journey. Simply complete an assisted travel form at least 24 hours ahead of your journey and you’re done. You can also contact your train company directly and they will organise assistance for the duration of your journey.
Assisted rail travel services can include:
- Helping you to plan your journey
- Reserving seats and wheelchair spaces on trains
- Getting help on and off the train, either via a ramp or with the support of an attendee
- Assistance with luggage
- Advising what fare discounts are available to you
- Confirming if your route has accessible toilets
Many train companies are able to accommodate wheelchairs (both manual and powered) on their routes and will also have dedicated wheelchair spaces which you can reserve in advance of your journey. Things get a little trickier when it comes to mobility scooters; larger models often exceed the maximum space restrictions of a carriage, which is why operators usually stipulate that your scooter needs to be able to fold down and must be stored away as luggage. Always liaise with your train operator to check whether you can bring your scooter on the train with you.
Bonus tip – If you frequently travel by train, why not consider investing in a Disabled Persons Railcard? It costs £20 for the year and gives you a third off the price of Standard and First Class Anytime, Off-Peak and Advance train fares for both you and a friend. Full terms and conditions can be found on the Disabled Persons Railcard website.
Airports are hectic places at the best of times and can be especially overwhelming if you are headed off on a disabled holiday. Getting to the airport early is an absolute must and you should always give yourself that little bit of extra time for logistics, e.g. locating accessible toilets, finding your gate and working out how long it takes to get to the plane. We recommend keeping drinks and snacks to hand in case your flight is delayed or your gate is positioned far away from any dining options. It’s also a great idea to look at upgrading to a lounge if you want that bit of extra calm and comfort whilst waiting to board.
As always, each airport has different facilities and assistance options available for disabled travellers so don’t hesitate to consult with your airline at least 48 hours in advance regarding what they can do for you. Sky Scanner has put together a handy list of airline and travel agent contact details on their website.
Some things to keep in mind when speaking with your aviation authority:
- Does the aircraft has seats with extra leg room
- Can you adjust the seat to a comfortable position, e.g. adjustable armrests
- Are there adequate toilet facilities for disabled passengers
- Is there a pre-boarding policy for disabled flyers
Your airline will require information on the model, make, weight, and dimensions of your mobility scooter or (electric) wheelchair, as well as details about its battery. Ensure that you provide these at least 24 hours prior to travelling as the airline needs to make sure that your travelling aid can be brought onto the plane. As medical devices, airlines are obliged to take your scooter or wheelchair onboard and so do not count them as part of your baggage allowance. For safety reasons, most airlines will only accept scooters with lithium ion or dry cell/gel batteries.
Bonus tip – if you are planning on going abroad for your disabled holiday, don’t forget to check whether there are adapted vehicles to transfer you from the airport to your hotel. Adapted cars are a great alternative if these aren’t available you are able to drive; however, it’s important to fully research local driving laws along with insurance and licence requirements. Consult with the car hire company for additional support.
4/ Invest in a mobility scooter designed to make travelling easier
As we’ve seen so far, a lot of work goes into planning a disabled holiday. Ensuring that your mobility scooter can travel with you is especially important – but what if we told you that you can skip all of the worry about adhering to the size and weight restrictions of your travel operator?
The Travelite is a portable mobility scooter which folds down into a compact size in just 20 seconds. Collapsing the Travelite is super easy thanks to the handy remote control, folding and unfolding the scooter at the touch of a button. It also comes with a carry handle so that you can lift it in and out of the car boot with ease.
Available in eye-catching copper, red, and purple, this stylish little scooter has a total weight – including its batteries – of just 20kg which perfectly complies with the Coach Luggage Policy allowance. You can take the Travelite on planes, trains, coaches, and cruise ships, making it the ideal companion for disabled holidays both abroad and in the UK. Pro Rider Mobility is proud to offer scooters such as the Travelite at highly competitive prices so head on over to our website to see more.
5/ Research accessible accommodation and attractions – and book your room early!
Hotels across the world are embracing the need for more disabled-friendly facilities and accessible rooms, however, demand is high and accessible rooms tend to sell out very quickly. You can either browse the hotel website to see what facilities are available or call/email them directly and specify that you want a specific room.
Similarly for local attractions, you can either visit the website or speak with a local tourist office to determine whether it’s worthwhile visiting if you are a wheelchair or mobility scooter user. Ideally, the attraction will be within close proximity to your hotel or there will be accessible taxis available to drive you there if based further away.
Look out for hotels and attractions which have:
- Access ramps
- Handrails and grab bars
- Rooms with roll-in showers
- Handicap parking
- Wider doorways
- Raised toilets
The National Accessible Scheme (NAS) from VisitEngland is a valuable resource if you are planning on holidaying in the UK. The NAS has a dedicated category for ‘mobility impaired and older people’ and assess properties and attractions on what facilities they have available for disabled guests, e.g. ramps and handrails. All of this information is then provided on an Access Statement for the hotel or attraction. A database of current NAS members and their rating is available on the Open Britain website.
6/ Use online resources to find the best places to stay and visit
Once you’ve finished browsing the hotels and attraction websites to see what they can offer you, the next step of the research process is to look at some reviews and recommendations from real-life customers. Now, it’s important to remember that experience is subjective and the needs of one disabled guest will be different to another, however, these personal testimonials are a great benchmark from which to work. You can also use this step to see what people have to say about other facilities such as airport lounges.
Places you can find reviews and ratings online include:
- The review section of the hotel or attraction website (though be wary that they may only choose to display the best comments and ratings)
- Third party review websites such as Trip Advisor
- Specialised forums for disabled travellers – you can find plenty of these online, including these forums on Lonely Planet and FlyerTalk
There are also lots of websites dedicated to assisting disabled travellers by offering advice and support, including:
- The Good Access Guide – offers a list of disabled friendly accommodation across the UK
- Able Magazine – disability lifestyle magazine
- Tourism for All (TFA) – national charity dedicated to accessible tourism and travel
- The foreign travel for disabled people section of the gov.uk website
Finally, don’t forget to check out tourist websites for your destination country or city. Some of these sites have dedicated sections for disabled visitors, including these examples from Norway and Amsterdam.
7/ Use travel agents and tour operators who specialise in disabled holidays
If the idea of planning your own trip is too overwhelming or you want the benefit of expert advice and resources, why not consider using a tour operator which specialises in organising holidays for disabled travellers?
Dealing with a specialist company can take the burden off of your shoulders and give you the reassurance that all of your particular needs and requirements will be catered for. Some of these companies have even been set up by and/or are run by disabled individuals, showing you that they understand all of the little things that can make a big difference to your holiday experience. Keep in mind, however, that this kind of service comes at a premium and may not necessarily fit your budget.
Some examples of disabled holiday tour operators are:
- Enable Holidays
- Limitless Travel
- Altogether Travel
- Accessible Travel
- Disabled Holidays
- Virgin Holidays Special Assistance Team
8/ Dream big and holiday even bigger
There’s a whole world of exciting holiday opportunities awaiting you. From thrilling African safaris to relaxing beach holidays in the Caribbean and jaw-dropping excursions to the Great Wall of China, your disabled holiday can take you all over the globe. With so many customised trips and disabled-friendly destinations out there the only limit is your imagination.
Here’s just a taster of the exciting trips that you could be taking:
- African safaris with Epic Enabled
- Scuba diving in Bali with Bali International Diving Professionals (BIDP)
- Trekking through the Amazon with Huasquila Amazon Lodge
- Sun, sea, and sand relaxation with On the Beach
Have fun on your trip!
We hope that this guide has given you some useful tips on planning a disabled holiday and given you a thirst to start exploring. For more information on taking your scooter on holiday or to order the Travelite compact mobility scooter, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the friendly and knowledgeable Pro Rider Mobility team.