While planning a vacation is an incredibly exciting yet complicated undertaking, traveling on wheels is exponentially more challenging.
You must ensure that once you arrive, you’ll not only be able to use the bed, bathroom, and shower, but that you’ll also be able to enjoy your experience. Whether you’re a foodie eager to dive into the local restaurant scene, an adventurer ready for exploration off the beaten path, or a history buff keen to immerse yourself in local lore, you need assurances that your trip will be all you’d hoped for and more.
Do-it-yourself vacation planning is extremely time consuming. First, you need to find a suitable home base, whether it’s a hotel, vacation home, or Airbnb. If you’re lucky, you’ll find safe housing in your desired locale with access to the places you want to visit, but you’ll still be taking a gamble on true accessibility. Even if you stick with chain hotels, you may not be guaranteed an accessible room. Once you arrive, you may find that the accessible rooms are in the worst locations.
Wake Me Up from this Nightmare
Alan, who recently returned from self-booked a trip to Cancun, Mexico, shared his nightmarish experience.
“I was by myself and the handicapped room was not even close to being accessible,” he said.
“I couldn’t get close to the toilet except to empty my urinal and the entrance to the shower was about two feet wide. There was no way to get me or my shower chair in.”
When he complained, the hotel told him that they were trying to find an accessible room in another hotel, but he’d had enough.
“After two days of barely eating, they said they could not find me a room,” he said. “I told them they had to book me a flight home.”
Avoid horrible travel experiences like this one and consider booking with a #AccessibleTravel provider via our PUSHLiving network.
Imagine how Alan’s experience would have been different if a disability travel professional who knew what “wheelchair accessible” meant had booked a tried and true property. Matching amenities – like a roll-in shower vs. a shower bench vs. a shower chair – to the traveler ensures a worry-free stay. Having someone who can arrange for the proper height bed, a portable lift, a wheelchair access vehicle, a refrigerator for medications, or food for a special diet can mean the difference between a miserable trip and a dream vacation.
Dicey DIY Excursions
DIY can become even more dicey when it comes to excursions. You can Google to your heart’s desire and try to piece together all the possibilities, map them out, and create an itinerary. But it isn’t easy. I’ve spent up to two solid weeks creating detailed spreadsheets and Google maps to ensure a trip’s success, but not everyone has this kind of time or know-how.
Even then, as the saying goes, the best-laid plans can go awry. My FreeWheel broke in my luggage and I couldn’t deal with the tortuous bumpy walkways through a resort. (Luckily, I was able to repair it locally.) I’ve encountered bathroom toilets sans bars that were so low I couldn’t get back up. I’ve explored cities, having no idea where the bathrooms were located or if they were accessible.
I literally almost died in Paris due to heat stroke (as I do not regulate temperature like the other travelers due to my level of spinal cord injury) when I discovered there were no air-conditioned restaurants in the historic district. (Thanks to a helpful local, we learned that the gay adult bookstore had AC, and I certainly took advantage.) Even so, I was fortunate to have a strong male and teenager with me on most trips, so I could overcome obstacles that would be barriers to others, like the steps up to the restaurants in Stockholm’s Old Town.
If being carried isn’t an option or if you’re going solo, a group tour with a professional accessible travel operator is the answer. Their mission is to accommodate and make your trip memorable for all the right reasons. They pre-examine hotels and design itineraries utilizing the locations, businesses, and restaurants that actually make the effort to welcome people with disabilities. Some tour providers even have trail riders that can get you places you would never have imagined – like the middle of an Amazon rain forest. They have access to the equipment you may need to make your trip more enjoyable, and can even be there to assist and deal with any unexpected issues along the way (like a broken wheelchair or flat tire).
According to a seasoned accessible travel operator who organizes accessible tours of Holland, many tour operators organize popular bicycle tours of Europe are extremely popular, but there weren’t any accessible tours for wheelchair travelers. “I knew there was an opportunity here,” he said. “So we planned one, tested the route, and organized every detail in advance.” They tested the tour with more than a dozen people in order to get feedback. “This will be a fantastic program and we are the first doing it!” she said.
#AccessibleTravel professionals can also deliver savings, as they have access to special deals with airlines, hotels, tours, and other activities and amenities. Besides, the value of a stress-free trip can’t be overstated. Traveling without a care in the world is what most of us envision for ourselves and our loved ones.
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