If you love to travel, we are here to help you get away on a fantastic adventure! Disabled holidaying is on the rise, and there are now more resources available to ensure you have the trip of a lifetime and explore the world without restrictions. In our helpful guide, we will explore everything you need to know about travelling with a disability.
Discounted Travel & Attractions
One of the first steps when organising a disabled holiday should be to determine what discounts you may be eligible for. In order to be receive a disabled ticket or discount at attractions and holiday services, you will normally require an ID card (such as a disability card). If you are travelling to a destination where English isn’t the local language, we recommend also bringing a translation.
As well as possible discounts for yourself, you can also normally receive discounted (or even free) tickets for your carer. This can help drastically reduce the cost of your travel, and is typically a sign of a disability-friendly attraction or service provider.
If you are a wheelchair user, it can be a good idea to pre-check with attractions whether you need to pre-book your space, as there are sometimes limited walking space and restrictions are applied, such as Madame Tussauds.
Most holiday transport and attraction providers will have an ‘accessibility’ page on their website, on which you will be able to find out more information, such as accessible wheelchairs, access restrictions, available discounts, etc.
As well as the discounts you may be eligible to receive as a result of your disability, you may also be able to make further savings with the use of discount codes and deals. As you might have guessed from our name, we can help you with all of your holiday promo codes and deals!
Most travel providers should accommodate less mobile and disabled holidaymakers, but you may need to make some arrangements before you begin your trip. It is always a great idea to speak to your accommodation, transport and other travel suppliers before you book to check what services they can provide.
Assistance provided will vary depending on your geographic location, your disability and the type of travelling you are undertaking, but below are some of the common services provided for different transport.
Planes: You should inform your airline of your disability at least 48 hours before departure, if you require assistance.
- Help is available when moving through an airport, including to accessible toilets, if needed.
- At European airports, you are entitled to check in 2 items of mobility equipment free of charge.
- Wheelchairs are not permitted inside the cabin, but can be checked into the hold. Assistance to the plane will be provided.
- A travel companion is required if you are not self reliant (eg. require assistance feeding, breathing, using the toilet, etc.).
- Assistances dogs are permitted on flights, but you should follow the rules on travelling with a pet into different locations.
If you are travelling with a powered mobility aid, such as an electric wheelchair, inform your travel operator or airline, as there may be restrictions on certain types of batteries.
Trains: Rules vary in different countries, so you should always check with your train provider.
- If you are disabled, you can normally save on the cost of rail.
- Most trains should provide space for wheelchairs.
- In the UK, wheelchairs users have legal rights to travel by train (known as the Disabled People’s Protection Policy).
Buses & Coaches: If you need help to get on and off a coach, you should ask for this when you book your ticket.
- You may be eligible for free travel on buses.
- Bus and coach drivers should provide reasonable assistance to disabled people, however this does not mean physically lifting passengers or mobility equipment.
Taxis: When ordering, tell the company of any requirements you have.
- Taxis vary considerably from country to country, and city to city, but there should be accessible taxis available.
- You may need to order a special taxi for your needs, in which case it is a good idea to find local providers before your trip.
- Assistance dogs are allowed in taxis, unless the driver has a medical exception.
- When booking a taxi, inform them of your requirements to ensure a suitable taxi is sent.
Ships: To ensure a smooth sail, inform the cruise or ferry company of your requirements.
- In many cases, your carer may be able to travel for free. Ask at the time of booking.
- Inform the cruise line or ferry company 48 hours before departure if you require assistance getting on or off.
- Assistance is available on services throughout Europe, as well as much of the world.
Benefits of Disabled Travel
Travel is the ultimate luxury for the mind, body and soul. It’s the only thing you can buy that truly makes you richer as a person. It is an investment that will stay with you for the rest of your life and even positively influence those around you who hear your travel tales. For those with disabilities the desire to travel can be both extremely exciting and frightening at the same time. The restrictions, however, can seem too large and the stress of overcoming them too much to bear. Instead of giving in to the fear of travelling with a disability, take a moment to consider these 5 life-changing benefits:
Travel challenges you
Going out of your comfort zone is never easy. But then again, nothing in life that’s easily achievable is quite as rewarding as taking the hard, road less travelled. Conquering fear and facing it head on will give you enjoyable lasting memories. Life has no boundaries, only those that are set by your own mind.
You gain self-confidence
Travelling to a foreign country despite your disability will give you a new sense of pride and confidence. Talking to locals and telling them how far you’ve travelled will earn you instant respect. When you come back home you will be braver and daily challenges will seem far less difficult.
You learn to trust yourself
The fear and challenge of travelling is all part of the experience that will later turn into self-trust. The main reward is the new perspective on life you will have and the self belief that you can get through experiences despite your disability. Interestingly the mental aspect of travel is the most rewarding, despite the physical exertion required to get from place to place on your holiday.
It gives you happiness
Seeing the world behind a tv screen or book is like reading only one-page. Actually going there and seeing it with your own eyes, smelling the scent of the flowers and feeling the sun on your face is like reading the whole book. Planning a trip with a disability is no easy task, but therein lies the most rewarding aspect. The true happiness comes from the journey and not the destination. Years later you will look back with amazement that you were able to do it all.
It is an investment
Travelling is an investment in your own happiness, well-being and perspective on life. No matter how much time passes, that memory remains and you’re better for it. Even those around you can benefit from your memories and stories for years to come. A disability can make your life seem difficult but when you see how other people around the world live, it gives you perspective, appreciation and understanding. Chances are you will come home feeling very fortunate.
Time to prepare for your holiday
So it’s no secret that the charm of the UK and much of Europe lies in its historic sites and architecture. Therein lies the problem of the past, where those with disabilities were shunned and hidden from society. Today with tourism taking full priority and new anti-discrimination laws being passed, it is the disabled travellers who are being fully catered for at historic sites, museums and just about all major attractions. Next to join the accessibility bandwagon were restaurants and hotels who now offer everything that one with a disability could possibly need.
Now that you are ready to book your trip, we have arranged the most important tips into 3 sections to help you to plan your holiday:
1. Before you travel
Read everything you can about traveling with a disability
The more you read, the more you will be prepared mentally and physically for your journey. Reading a wide variety of disabled travel books, internet sites and blogs, watching youtube videos and even contacting a travel agent with experience helping disabled travellers plan a trip will help. These sources of information will give you tips for things you may have forgotten about or never even considered. Being well informed means less surprises along the way and more time spent doing what you’re there for: relaxing and having the time of your life!
Plan ahead of time
The more you research your trip, the more doors will be open to you. For example many people may be scared to travel to Prague with all its cobbled streets or to Venice with all the canals and bridges. We won’t lie, these are some challenging obstacles but there are always ways around it and alternative routes to follow. Your holiday doesn’t need to be a hassle, if you do your research. New resources, such as Google Street View and Maps can help you plot an appropriate path to all the best sightseeing areas. When it comes to restaurants and hotels there are plenty of booking websites that offer reviews from travellers and information about how much they cater to disabled travellers.
Book hotels far in advance
Apart from securing a great deal by booking early, the other reason is to ensure the room you book is disabled accessible. Depending on the size of the hotel they may only offer a small number of rooms for travellers with disabilities so it is important to book early. We recommend booking at least 6 months in advance.
Carefully plan your route
If you know what you’re up against before you arrive at your destination then your trip is going to be all about enjoying the experience instead of stressing about the small things. The reality is that most destinations will have a mix of highly accessible attractions and those with cobbled streets and endless flights of stairs. Don’t let this deter you, there is always another route. Most attractions will list this information on their website, or you can contact them directly. Alternatively, Google Maps and Street View will help you find the paths that suit you, but we recommend printing out the route on paper incase you don’t have internet, or downloading an offline area on the map to access later. Don’t forget to research the neighbourhood your hotel is located within so you know where to eat, how easy the sidewalks will be to walk/roll on and how far from trains or buses you’ll be. Staying in a part of the town that suits your needs is just as crucial as getting an accessible hotel.
Have a backup plan
Even on the most perfectly organised accessible vacation, something can and probably will go wrong but don’t let this deter you. If you plan for all the possibilities and remain flexible, then these bumps in the road will make for a good story instead of a trip-ruining problem. The best way to prepare is by writing down possible things that might go wrong and coming up with simple solutions to fix them. For example what can you do if the tyre on your wheelchair breaks? Bring a small repair and tool kit to complete basic fixes. Remember to keep your cool and embrace all issues with a smile and a sense of humour. After all you’re on holiday so enjoy it!
Planning to go on a guided tour?
Choosing a tour company that caters to those with disabilities will bring you on the smoothest, shortest tour routes. Make sure your guide has had formal training and is licensed (if required). Ask what routes they will take and whether there will be accessible bathrooms on the way. If the tour has other travellers ask whether the pace will be catered to only able-bodied members or will you have priority? The last thing you want is to feel guilty for slowing down a tour group so make sure you ask as many questions as necessary before booking.
Plan based on a budget
It’s important to avoid the stresses of money while you’re on vacation so plan now and you’ll have a more enjoyable time while you are on holiday. Make a daily spending limit and plan your activities around it based on priority of your most important sightseeing. Remember to build in some extra room for unexpected purchases so you’re not limiting yourself too much. Think about how often you will need to eat, what transport you will take and what sights or activities you would like to experience day-by-day. After you have a rough guide, do your best to stick to it but also remember to occasionally spoil yourself. This is a holiday remember!
Be specific and clear when describing a disability
Not all service providers know the medical or disability “lingo” or have experience with accessible travel. Give them as much information as possible and don’t downplay the severity of your disability. The more information you give them, the better they will be able to cater to your needs. If they promise you certain things it’s advisable that you get these promises in writing.
Don’t forget to tell your doctor exactly where you’re going and what you plan on doing. The doctor can often prescribe measures for dealing with long-haul flights, limited access to overseas medical facilities or prescription drugs and other issues with traveling. Be prepared for your doctor to question your ability to travel so be realistic with your expectations.
Consider using a specialist travel agent
Planning well in advance and approaching a wide variety of travel agents is very important. You need to look for agents with experience working with travellers of similar disability to yourself. No one disability is the same, so neither should the service and plan they provide to you. This is crucial as specialised travel agents and tour operators for the disabled are experienced and can save you stressing on your holiday. They can arrange for a wheelchair at the airport, wheelchair accessible hotel room, wheelchair rental, lift-equipped accessible van, handicap scooter or anything you require. The more information you give them the more they can cater to your specific needs.
Don’t leave anything to chance
Double-check everything that has been planned, whether you did it or the travel agent did, everyone makes mistakes. Call the airlines, hotels, bus or rail companies, equipment rental shops and even tour guides to confirm the dates and specific arrangements match your itinerary. The best time to fix mistakes is before you leave so take the time to go over all the fine details.
Arrive early at the airport
It’s always better to be early and get comfortable than to be rushing and possibly missing your flight. This will help reduce some of your pre-holiday stress you might be experiencing and help you feel relaxed. Although this seems like obvious information, many passengers still manage to arrive at the gate just before it closes. Planning to arrive at least two hours before a domestic flight, three hours before an international flight and slightly more if you’re traveling at a peak time will help make sure you never miss a flight.
Don’t forget about transportation to and from the airport
If you have a wheelchair, make sure you make prior arrangements to have an accessible vehicle pick you up at the destination to take you to your hotel. The last thing anyone needs at the end of a long journey is an issue with transportation to the hotel.
Travelling by air
For maximum comfort and accessibility during your flight we recommend reserving an aisle seat for easy access to the restrooms. If you’re unsure where would be best to sit then ask your travel agent who can recommend seats, as they vary from aircraft and airline. As soon as you board the aircraft you should advise the flight attendants of any medical problems you might experience during your flight. Take a mental note of the location of the closest restroom before getting seated as well as the nearest exit in the unlikely event of an emergency. Advise the flight attendant if you need assistance getting to the bathroom during the flight and remember ask them before landing if you will be disembarking first or last.
Avoid connecting flights
We recommend taking direct flights to avoid the stress and physically demanding changeovers between flights. If you can’t avoid it then it is advisable to allow 90 mins between domestic flights and 2 hours for international. The best idea is to insist on bringing your own wheelchair to the boarding gate so that it is checked onto the cargo hold last. This will ensure it is first to be offloaded at your destination and you can be on your way quicker.
Stuff to take
Everyone is different and no two disabilities are the same. We recommend you write down a list of your most important must have items that will be necessary for you to bring in your carry-on luggage. These things may include such items as: prescription medication, eyeglasses, sunglasses, DVT compression socks, neck pillows, pain medication, doctors notes and a list of important phone numbers. Its important to keep duplicates of anything you absolutely must have such as medicine, letters or eyeglasses.
Know your medications
Make a mental note of the names and dosages of all the medicine you take. In an emergency it’s vital you can tell medical staff what you take regularly so they don’t give you anything that could have an adverse affect on your body. Better yet, make a photocopy of the list of medications you take.
If you need to travel alone to your destination and require someone to be with you during the journey to assist you, then make sure you make arrangements with the travel agent. Medical associations can also assist in making this possible for you and they can even offer travelling nurses for those with serious disabilities.
Know your rights
Before making your way through airport security it makes sense to be knowledgeable about the local airport security rules for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has a comprehensive guide to the rights of air travelers with disabilities, also known as “special assistance”. Please follow the link for more information https://www.caa.co.uk/Passengers/PRM/Passengers-with-disabilities-and-reduced-mobility/
If you require oxygen or any other special medical equipment, call airlines and suppliers ahead of time. It’s important to not wait until the last minute so start calling them as soon as you know you’re going to be traveling or taking a trip. Remember to have your travel agent check with the airline a few days before your flight.
3. At your destination
Enjoy your trip!
Now that all the planning is finished it’s time to enjoy your trip. The historic cities, beaches, famous art and architecture, culture and unique cuisine all await you. Remember not to sweat the small stuff and focus on having a great time instead of making everything run like clockwork. Don’t be embarrassed or feel rushed by other people. It’s important that you take your time and be yourself.
Don’t over plan your itinerary
Remember it’s a vacation and not a marathon. You’re there to relax, eat well and take in the culture and scenery. When you arrive it’s best to get a good rest and plan small trips around your area so you get adjusted to the new environment. Once you feel acclimatised you can start to plan larger more demanding days out, but always remember to take frequent rests and drink plenty of water.
Take along your travel agent’s phone number
Remember to bring with you the contact numbers for the travel agencies that specialise in disabled travel at your destination. Incase you can’t reach your own agent then have a few backups. These travel agents are trained to solve problems that come up regarding your hotel, car or tours.
When traveling to another city, check out the local health & medical associations before you go
These organisations can be great resources of local knowledge and will be able to save you a lot of time and stress. They typically know what attractions, museums, restaurants and other local facilities are wheelchair accessible and where you can get oxygen, emergency supplies or medical help. They are a great go to source for help abroad.
If you plan to rent any special assistance or mobility equipment whilst on holiday, you should read reviews and compare prices online. If you are using a travel agent, they will often be able to make arrangements on your behalf. When you arrive at the rental depot, make sure to confirm all the details, read all contracts and do a thorough inspection of the equipment. Before you leave get a contact number incase something breaks down.
Have a daily checklist
Don’t leave anything to chance, and avoid forgetting what you need to bring each day. Just like when you planned what to bring onboard the aircraft, it’s also important to have a daily checklist of items to bring with you when you take day trips. Each day will be different so be flexible about what you need. Overall you want to bring enough, but not too much that you are weighed down. The worst case scenario is that you may need to return to the hotel to take extra items.
Bring extra medication
We recommend that you always bring with you two complete packages of vital medication in case of an emergency. Keep all medications and other important medical supplies in your carry-on bag and have a daily essentials bag with you for day trips at your destination.
Carry medical alert information
Always bring with you information about your disability. Keep it in a place that a medical expert or anyone who assists you will find it easily. For example around your neck, wrist, inside your wallet, or close to your identification.
Take a doctor’s note and phone number
Bring with you a letter from your doctor that explains your condition or disability, and lists all the prescription medications you take and potential complications you may experience. It should also list your special needs and other relevant information, such as a 24/7 contact number for your doctor.
Make sure to take with you
Always bring your medical insurance cards, travel insurance details, driver’s license, passport, credit cards, travel agent’s phone, doctors notes and a list of medications you take. Remember to photocopy everything and leave a copy in your luggage, as well as carrying one with yourself.
Bring spare parts and tools
Wheelchairs and mobility equipment can take incredible abuse during your travels, so it makes sense that you prepare a small kit of spare parts and tools for emergency repairs. You also need to know how to disassemble your wheelchair for certain flights or activities so make sure you and your traveling partner get comfortable by practising beforehand.
We hope that this list has given you a broad starting point for planning, preparing and enjoying your upcoming holiday. Travel is an absolute must for all humans as it gives us a chance to experience other cultures, architecture, languages and cuisines. These experiences enrich our own lives and lead to improved mental state and well-being. It’s important to remember that everyone from able-bodied to disabled travellers have different needs and the best part of travel is that we can cater to these needs to create the perfect tailor-made trip. No two disabilities are alike, so neither should your holiday be the same as another person’s. Embrace your disability and start planning the trip of a lifetime!
Accessible & Disabled Travel Pages
Below are information pages for accessible travel and disabled holidays from some of the leading UK and international travel suppliers.
With the impressive fleet of new aircraft and numerous awards, Qatar Airways has quickly become one of the most popular international airlines. Qatar Airways make it easy to request additional assistance, which can be requested at least 48 hours before your departure in the Manage My Booking section online or on the phone on 0344 493 0787. If you haven’t yet booked your trip, check out our range of Qatar Airways discounts codes and deals.
British Airways has some impressive disability and mobility assistance pages, which include everything from the assistance that they can provide to ensure your trip is seamless, through to the legislation in the US and EU regulations. If the British Airways assitance page doesn’t answer your questions, you can also call for more support on 0344 493 0787.
Even though easyJet is a budget airline, and tickets prices start at under £30, they still provide a range of support services to help you enjoy a comfortable journey. Like with most airlines, it is essential you are prepared and let easyJet know of any special requirements at least 48 hours before your departure date. If you can’t find the answers you need on the easyJet website, give them a call on 0800 998 1130.
Ryanair is the largest airline in Europe, based on passengers carried each year, and it is a popular choice for British holidaymakers. With affordable airfares to a number of destinations, Ryanair can be a great choice for convenience and value. There is a Special Assistance Page, and also a various contact options to ask any further questions or request any special assistance you require.
For regional flights around the UK, Ryanair is a great choice. They fly to a range of destinations not regularly serviced by larger aircraft. They are also one of the UK’s most popular airlines. To request special assistance for your flight, you will need to download the ‘Special Assistance’ form available on the Passenger Assistance Page and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact flybe on 0207 308 0812.
Virgin Atlantic provide extensive information for all available special assistance customers can request prior to travelling. They pride themselves on giving every single customer a brilliant experience on board their flights. Virgin Atlantic have worked hard over the past years to further develop and improve the service they provide disabled and less mobile passengers.
Monarch provide flights, holidays and accommodation to a range of destinations around Europe and further afield. Based in Luton, they offer low-cost flights on a range of fantastic aircraft. You can find more information on the assistance available when travelling with Monarch Airlines on the Reduced Mobility and Special Assistance page.
DFDS are committed to making travel on their ships easy and comfortable for passengers with a disability, reduced mobility or special needs. On their Passengers with Reduced Mobility page you will find information about access, available services, help with booking and much more. If you haven’t yet booked, why not check out our DFDS offers page for discounts and deals to help reduce
P&O are one of the main ferry operators sailing holidaymakers and their vehicles across the English Channel to Mainland Europe. They have a useful Mobility & Disability page, which answers a range of common questions, and will help you prepare for your travel with P&O.
Cruises incorporate your transport, accommodation and entertainment activities, so it is vitally important that they can provide the services and assistance you need for your reduced mobility or disability. You can find out more about the services available with P&O Cruises on the Mobility & Disability Question and Answer pages.
Royal Caribbean Cruises
There is a wealth of information on the Royal Caribbean website detailing accessible cruise options. There are different tabs along the top menu, allowing you to find the most appropriate information for you, from disabilities to travelling with a guide dogs.
When you think of luxury all-inclusive package holidays, First Choice is often near the top of the list. With a range of fantastic destinations all around the world, First Choice will help take care of everything to ensure you just need to bring yourself and prepare to relax. They have a helpful Customer Welfare page, which will help you prepare for you holiday. If you haven’t already booked, check out our First Choice discount codes and deals.
Another popular choice for all-inclusive package holidays, Thomson have a few useful pages for disabled and reduced mobility travellers. Whilst not all of the information will be relevant, it is recommended that you read through the pages to ensure you are well prepared for your vacation. If you haven’t yet booked, check out our Thomson discount codes and deals.
Providing package holidays to suit a wide array of budgets and requirements, from family getaways to deluxe vacations, Thomas Cook are a popular choice for British Tourists. They also have a range of services to assist disabled and reduced mobility passengers. As well as information on their package holidays website, you can also find a special assistance page on the Thomas Cook Airlines website.
Jet2 have one of the most extensive Q&A special assistance pages around, which should be able to answer almost any questions you may have. They are a popular choice for affordable package holidays, and want to ensure disabled and reduced mobility passengers are well looked after. If you are travelling with Jet2 Holidays, it is always a good idea to have a read through to check what you may need to organise prior to travel.
Premier Inn has become a popular choice for many travellers, offering affordable and comfortable accommodation. With over 700 hotels throughout the UK, they are the leading hotel chain, and have a number of services and rooms designed to make travelling easy for disabled and less mobile holidaymakers. You can find out more on all the features available at many of their hotels on the Disabled Access page.
Disabled Holiday Travel Agents
Below are some of the best specialist disabled travel agents and service providers. They can provide inspiration and holiday ideas, as well as being experienced in providing amazing holidays for disabled and less mobile travellers.
Specialist travel agents based in the UK, providing all types of holidays for disabled customers. They also have a wealth of informative guides and FAQ’s on their website.
Phone: 0161 804 9898
Specialist accessible travel company in the UK providing holidays to some of the world’s most popular destinations. A great choice for holidays tailored to your needs and requirements.
Phone: 0871 222 4939
Wings on Wheels
Wings on Wheels develop and run small group tours for special needs and less mobile travellers, as well as their friends and family.
Phone: 01945 871111
Accessible Travel and Leisure
Accessible Travel and Leisure has provided holidays for disabled holidaymakers, wheelchair users and less-mobile travellers, and their family and friends, since the 1990s.
Phone: 01452 729 739
Other Amazing Disabled Holidays Resources
We have compiled some of our favourite disabled travel resources, which includes advice, rules and laws, and guides to ensure you have the best possible vacation.
Detailed and independently assessed access information for thousands of venues (shops, hotels, restaurants, stations, hospitals, etc.) across the UK and Ireland.
Phone: 01438 842 710
Visit Britain has a detailed and updated disabled travel guide, which highlights access, savings and facilities at a range of major attractions, as well as airport and public transport information.
Disabled Travel Advice
Disabled travel advice and guides written by experts. There are a large number of detailed articles to help you plan your holiday, or gain some inspiration.
Routes International has a thorough directory of useful organisations, hotels, travel agents and transport providers who provide specialist services for disabled customers.
Below are a few great resources for buying, renting and using travel mobility equipment.
Providers of a wide array of mobility equipment, including travel wheelchairs, scooters and much more.
Phone: 0800 1114 774
Mobility Giant have a large range of used mobility equipment for sale and hire, including scooters and powerchairs.
Phone: 0800 668 1170
Are there other resources you think we have included? Let us know!