Fiona Gosden, the Disability Specialist at DisabledHolidays.com, has kindly sent us this very helpful guide to holidaying or travelling when you have a disability. Fiona herself uses a wheelchair and has travelled pretty extensively so she is able to offer this useful advice with first hand experience.
Fiona has previously contributed some very enjoyable travel blogs, which you will find by clicking on the link: http://www.douglasbaderfoundation.com/bill-news/last-proper-disabled-holiday-company (The link will open in a new tab.)
We’re very grateful to Fiona and others who contribute information that they feel will be of benefit to amputees and people living with other disabilities. We feel that the more helpful advice and information we can give on these pages – especially when through first-hand experience – the better, so do please follow suit and let us know of anything you think we should include on this website.
Please scroll to the bottom of the article for a link to a pdf version of the article, which you can print or save for your own reference.
Travelling Without Limits
I’m Fiona – I work as the Disability Specialist at DisabledHolidays.com. Like most people, holidays are always something I’m reminiscing about, planning or not wanting to return from! I’m always thinking about where to explore next.
I was diagnosed with a very rare bone condition when I was 7 months old which affects primarily my hands and left leg. My leg has been lengthened by an impressive 28cms. There remains a slight discrepancy so I use a crutch or an electric wheelchair to get around. When I’m not in hospital recovering from my surgery I like to make the most of the freedom by travelling. Having a holiday to look forward to diverts attention away from my health challenges. This is what motivated me to work in the field of accessible travel – removing barriers to make sure people can travel without limits and enjoy the same freedom that I have experienced.
Although accessibility is improving, I’m sure you’ll agree that there is always more that can be done to improve the quality of life for people with a disability. The best part of my job is making sure that customers know they can travel without limits.
Here are some of the mistakes and challenges I’ve experienced on holiday and some of my top accessible travel tips.
1. Booking before researching → when holiday searching it’s healthy to have the “travel without limits” attitude but be wise – a holiday is not a holiday if unexpected obstacles highlight your disability. If you’re anyone like me you might like the idea of spontaneous adventures but you do need to be prepare essentials!
It’s important to do the research and organise any adaptations you will need before you book. For example, you need to make sure that the area surrounding your accommodation is accessible – perhaps this might be staying near a beach with a boardwalk and accessible restaurants so you’re not confined to your accommodation. Don’t rule out visiting a country because you assume it’s not accessible because often you will be surprised. I’ve recently been reindeer sledding in Tromso whilst seeing the spectacular Northern Lights (is it possible to have a more awesome adventure than that?!) Navigating the wheelchair in the snow is something I would have previously ruled out but with the right adaptations in place, it was the best holiday ever!
2. Assuming an “accessible room” means it is actually accessible →I’m sure you have experienced turning up at a hotel to find the adaptations you were expecting are not to be seen. Arriving at your hotel to find your wheelchair does not fit through the door is not the best start to a relaxing break. These stressful experiences can affect your confidence with future travel plans so make sure you book with accessible travel specialists who offer guaranteed accessible accommodation.
3. Ruling out activity holidays → In the past I’ve found it easy to slip into the mindset of ‘that kind of holiday might not be suitable for me’. My advice would be to not give up on your dream holiday. If you want to experience the thrill of skiing, scuba diving or any kind of adventure, adventures can be made possible by adaptations that are tailored to your individual needs. I’ve recently been sit skiing which was incredible!
Searching for a holiday that is perfect for your wishes, with the adaptations you need at an affordable price can feel overwhelming. DisabledHolidays.com is the UK’s largest accessible travel agent offering a fantastic range of holidays in the UK and abroad. The specialists will book you GUARANTEED adapted accommodation, mobility equipment hire, airport and flight assistance and much more. They have the knowledge and expertise to find the holiday that is right for you.
Please click HERE for a link to a pdf version of this article. You can print it or save it for your own reference. The link will also appear as a permanent feature on our Useful Links Page under Travel & Holidays in the BILL section of the website.