There are a few things to consider when planning an accessible holiday. With this basic checklist, you’ll be sure to have the trip of your dreams.
With my daily work, I’m often contacted by people with disabilities asking for assistance with planning a holiday. Here is one of these requests and my response:
Good afternoon, Mandy
I trust this email will find you well.
I am a 28-year-old paraplegic from Durban who works in a corporate environment. The best way to escape the corporate life is by taking leave and going on holiday. Please assist me with a list of areas I can visit within or outside the country as a paraplegic while feeling well accommodated.
Thanks for getting in touch. Of course local is lekker, but accessible facilities that accommodate people with disabilities are not always available. So, when planning your holiday, there are a number of factors to consider to make sure you get the best value for your money and the most enjoyable experience possible.
The most important factor is budget. The amount of money you are willing to spend will determine how far you can travel and the mode of transport you will use.
The number of people travelling with you will also influence your choice when it comes to the mode of transport and accommodation. If you are accompanied by family or a carer, it might make sense to pick a hotel package that includes meals, or a self-catering unit with multiple bedrooms to accommodate everyone.
Once you’ve decided on the above two factors, you can start looking at the destinations you would like to visit. Do you want to relax at the beach or in the bush? Would you prefer to explore a city and do lots of sightseeing, or would you rather relax and recharge somewhere quiet and peaceful? Do you want be land-based or are you keen on a cruise? Once you’ve narrowed down the type of holiday you would like to have, you can narrow down your search to an area, city or holiday package that suits your needs.
Mode of travel
Next, decide on the ideal mode of travel. Often a flight and hired car are an easier option than driving to your destination, but it also limits the amount of equipment you can bring.
When booking flights, always contact the airline after making the reservation to confirm any assistance you might need to board and disembark the plane. You might have to supply information about your disability and the equipment you use. If you use a service dog, arrangements need to be made and confirmed before you arrive at the airport.
Please check your visa requirements well ahead of time and make timeous arrangements for any necessary travel medication, such as vaccinations or malaria-prevention treatment, as some of these might need to be administered a few weeks before departure.
Do research on wheelchair-friendly establishments and then visit their individual websites to make sure they cater for your specific needs.
If you like a venue, call it directly to confirm whether your exact requirements (such as twin beds, an inter-leading room or a roll-in shower) are indeed offered in the accessible room that is available. Ensure that you can move easily between your room and general areas like the restaurant and other facilities.
You might find suppliers offering equipment like portable hoists, commode wheelchairs and hospital beds for rent in major cities, but these are generally not available in smaller towns and out-of-the-way places. Again, do your homework before your trip to help you decide what to take along and what to hire on site.
Should you want to participate in any activities like game drives or tours, confirm whether they will be able to accommodate you before you make your reservation.
Travel insurance is always recommended – even for local travel – as holidays are usually quite expensive. If you need to cancel your trip for health reasons, for example, you’ll get at least some of your money back through your travel insurance.
Now that you have a good idea of the process, you’ll be able to make informed decisions to ensure your holiday is exactly what you have in mind. If you need assistance along the way, please don’t hesitate to contact me so that I can advise you.
Mandy Latimore is a consultant in the disability sector in the fields of travel and access. email: firstname.lastname@example.org