Pre-trip pointers for an accessible holiday

Before you can enjoy your accessible holiday, you need to pick the appropriate accommodation. Here are a few pointers to help you narrow down the options to ensure you have the best holiday.

I am often contacted by readers asking for assistance with accessible travel, and the usual request is: “Please help me find accessible accommodation.” But there are endless options available out there, so here are some pointers to help you narrow down the search footprint.

When thinking about a holiday, you need to ask and answer the following questions:

What time of year do you want to travel?

Remember that peak holiday periods are usually around global holidays like Christmas and Easter, as well as local school holidays. Europe and America have long summer holidays from June to the end of August. These periods mean that airfares and accommodation costs are usually higher. So, if you are able to travel outside of these dates, you will reduce the overall cost of your trip.

It is not always possible for wheelchair users to travel in a sedan car. Make sure the necessary adapted vehicle is available when travelling.

Local or international?

Obviously, your choice will depend on budget and reason for travel. Should you decide to travel to an international destination, your passport must be valid for at least two months after your return date and you need at least two spare pages within the passport, as you may need to apply for visas. These can take time – so you need to start planning well in advance.

How many people (adults and children) are travelling?

Rooms are usually costed per room per night, however, this may only be for two adults, or two adults with one child. The other option is per person rates. Some establishments do not allow children to occupy a room on their own unless it is inter-leading. So, it is always good to check how many rooms will be required. Children under two and 12 usually get discounted rates, but age-related discounts may vary from establishment to establishment. Check the various rooms types that are available, as some places do offer family rooms.

What sort of budget do you have?

Your budget will determine what level of accommodation and what meal option you choose. It is always good to take as many meals included in the package as you can afford, as eating out can be expensive. However, if you are adventurous and happy to buy local, just take the minimum meals.

Make sure the accessible room at the hotel or guesthouse has the necessary accessories such as grab rails.

What type of accommodation suits your trip: hotel, B&B or self-catering?

Decide what suits your needs and budget. There are usually more accessible accommodation facilities in the more luxurious establishments, as they have to comply with international standards in order to get their ratings. However, more and more of the smaller and cheaper establishments are realising that they need to offer accessible facilities, because there is a large section of the population that will otherwise be excluded: the elderly, parents with children in prams and people with disabilities.

The self-catering option means taking your own food and drinks (as well as soap and towels in some cases). It is always good to check with the establishment if they offer a starter pack including tea, coffee and washing up liquid.

What sort of accessible facilities do you require?

If you need wheelchair access, you must include in your wish list access to the entrance of the building as well as access to the general areas, like the restaurant, and, of course, the rooms. For the rooms, you need to decide if you require one bed or two. In the bathroom, you need to decide if you need a roll-in shower or whether a bath will suffice. If you are travelling with a carer or children, an inter-leading room is a must.

What sort of transport is available?

If you are flying to your destination, you will need transfer from the airport to your hotel. Some hotels offer a shuttle service, but the vehicle may not be accessible to wheelchair users. Do your research; you may need to look into a sedan car option, which the hotel may offer, or a taxi service.

Look at accessible services to get around during your stay should you want to go sight-seeing. You may have to hire a car, which can be expensive.

What sort of equipment do you need for your daily comfort?

Many people with disabilities use various pieces of equipment in their daily lives to make their routine easier. When you’re travelling it may not be practical or possible to take this equipment with you. Look into the option of on-site hiring of equipment.

Whether you’re putting together your own trip or working with a travel professional, these are the basic items that need to be considered. The best piece of advice I can give is to look at the various options, and then check the website and contact the establishments directly to get specific answers to your needs. Of course, I’m always available for assistance wherever I can give it…

Happy travels!


Mandy Latimore is a consultant in the disability sector in the fields of travel and access. email: mandy@noveltravel.co.za

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