Planning Your Perfect Accessible Vacation

August 11, 2014 at 1:20 pm 2 comments

By Ed McEntee, ECNV Peer Mentor

Ed McEntee in Hawaii

Ed McEntee vacationing in Hawaii

Vacation time – for people with kids it usually happens between June and August, but really it could be any time. In either case, the prep work is the challenge. Here is what you need to know to plan your accessible vacation.

  1. Deciding On Your Destination. This should be an easy thing to do, but having a disability can make it more complicated. While many hotels say they are accessible, you have to do a little investigation before committing yourself. Some hotels call themselves “accessible” if you can get a wheelchair in the front door, but there may be steps inside the building. Likewise, there are hotels that identify themselves as accessible if they have grab bars in the bath, but do not have enough space for a wheelchair to fit through the door to access those assistive devices. You should always call the hotel and make sure they comply with your definition of accessible. I find that national chains are usually good with accessibility and can provide satisfaction. In the United States the American Automobile Association (AAA) has useful information about accessible travel. As a member, you can get access to mapping services and guide books that have valuable information (by state) for hotel accommodations and accessibility. They feature hotel addresses, phone numbers, and interesting tourist sites to visit. Go to www.aaa.com for membership information.
  2. Support Services. A person with physical disabilities might need Personal Assistant Care services, while a person with low vision might need magnified reading devices. Deaf persons might need access to devices that would help to interpret speech. To find support services you can do a computer search for a nearby Center for Independent Living (CIL), State Department of Rehabilitation Services, or service providers having national recognition.
  3. Traveling. Airplanes and trains are often the go-to modes of transportation for traveling long distances quickly. But sometimes driving can be the easiest way to travel, especially if you have a disability. Having your own accessible van can be very costly, so you may want to consider a rental. While this is not necessarily cheap ($1,000 -$1,300 weekly with unlimited mileage), it may be cheaper than plane tickets for two and you have fabulous mobility in and around your vacation area. One of the national companies providing great service and support is Wheelchair Getaways (www.wheelchairgetaways.com). For a fee, they will drop the vehicle off at an airport or any other destination you provide and pick it up at any place you decide. In my experience, the vans are clean, well-maintained, and accessible with an automatically-retracting ramp. Another wheelchair van rental company I have had success with is Mobility Works (www.mobilityworks.com). There are quite a few options, so do some research and find the company that works best for you.
  4. Accessible Cruises. My sole experience on a cruise ship was with Royal Caribbean, Adventure of the Seas (http://www.royalcaribbean.com). Each deck had at least two cabins accessible to people with physical disabilities. My cabin had a balcony (paid extra for that), a queen-sized bed, and a fully accessible bath with a fully accessible shower. I had no problems getting throughout the ship since it had been retrofitted with ramps and automatic door openers on every deck. The only place on the ship that was inaccessible was a chapel at the very top of the ship. However, not all things are perfect in paradise. Prior to sailing, I attempted to see if their tours around the islands were accessible. Unfortunately, their version of accessible was not quite fit for wheelchair users. I was quite disappointed, especially when I found that the ship was deserted during the day when everyone else went out on tours. There are many cruise lines with different accessibility features, so once again, it is important to do your research. Princess Cruises (www.princess.com) boasts an “award winning program” for accessibility on their website, and Celebrity Cruises (www.celebritycruises.com) also lists many accessibility features on their website. Always do your research and ask questions before you book!

Although challenges are inevitable, planning ahead can make traveling a whole lot easier. Once you’re relaxing by the pool or exploring a new city with your family, the extra planning becomes worth it.

 

ECNV’s blogs are the personal experiences of individual contributors and should not be seen as endorsing a specific brand. We encourage people to conduct their own research and use their best judgment.

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Entry filed under: travel.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. bill ward  |  August 11, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks Ed. You look Great. Enjoy.
    Bill

    Reply
  • 2. Hannah Manila  |  August 13, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Thank you for your insight, Ed! I wonder if you could also shed some light on your experiences with airline travel? Any hints and tidbits you could share?

    Reply

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