Skip to main content

Traveling with a Disability

This time of year, many eagerly anticipate time spent with family, delicious food, and beautiful decorations. But these wonderful things frequently require travel, which can be immensely complicated for those living with disabilities.

If you or someone you love lives with a disability and has upcoming travel plans, the very best thing you can do is plan ahead. Remember that if you are traveling internationally, the country you are visiting may not be required to comply with the protections you are used to under the Americans with Disabilities Act. While that does not mean you will encounter problems traveling abroad, you should call ahead to the companies in charge of your transportation and lodging to see what accommodations can be made.

To the extent possible, try to plan your days around your normal routine.  If, for example, you have more energy in the morning, plan most of your activities in the morning hours. If you regularly nap in the afternoon, do your best not to schedule anything for when you would normally rest. Take your own stamina into account and try not to put so much on your itinerary that you become overwhelmed or unnecessarily exhausted.

Consider using a travel agency or company to plan your trip. Your travel representative can make calls on your behalf to make sure your hotels are disability-accessible, as well as your excursions and modes of transportation. They can save you time, money, and needless frustration by anticipating hassles and roadblocks ahead of your trip.

If you pay for travel insurance, make sure it includes medical coverage. Those services should include medical evacuation in case of an emergency, which is frequently cost-prohibitive if not covered. You can check with the United States Department of State for their list of recommended medical providers.

You can also enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which is a free service that allows you to share your trip information with the United States Embassy or Consulate at your travel destination. It will be easy to notify you of any emergencies, and you can also notify them of any physical limitations you have.

If your travel plans include flying, call the airline to arrange accommodations ahead of time, especially if you will need a wheelchair or extra time boarding. Give yourself at least two hours at the airport for domestic flights and three for international flights. If you are traveling with your own wheelchair, remove anything that could fall off or get lost while it’s in storage during your flight. Request an aisle seat close to the bathroom if possible.

Lastly, anticipate everything you can before you leave. Pack enough prescription medication to last a few more days than your trip, carry information regarding any medical conditions you have and complications you may experience, and include any extra supplies you might need, like hearing aid batteries and diabetes test strips that may not be available at your destination.