Traveling the world is one of the most exciting ways to learn about other cultures and more about yourself. If you live with special needs or disabilities, there's no need for anything to hold you back from exploring all the world has to offer. From elevators in Rome's Colosseum to the tactile gallery in Paris' Louvre museum, there are ways to explore and appreciate the wonders of the world no matter your limitations. Here are some tips for accessible travel and some and some trip and travel insurance options to help you enjoy every second of your travels.
General Tips for Travelers with Disabilities
- Call ahead: As simple as it may seem, calling ahead to ask about accessibility options can help you plan for your excursions. Museums and popular tourist attractions will often have a member of staff on hand to help you get the most out of your visit. If you ask, you might even be able to get a special tour suited to your interests.
- Search for trailblazers: You're likely not the first person with your disability to travel to your destination. Connect with fellow travelers with disabilities online who have visited the places you want to experience, learn from their stories and don't be shy about asking them questions related to accessible travel.
- Create back-up plans: All travelers run into unexpected roadblocks. The best way to cope is to stay flexible and have alternate plans if your days don't go exactly as you expect. If lines are too long to comfortably wait, or the day is too hot for your planned excursions or accessibility accommodations aren't as robust as you'd hoped, have an alternative activity in mind.
- Know local emergency numbers: Look up the phone numbers for police, ambulance and fire departments in case you need these services while traveling.
- Protect yourself with travel insurance: Travel insurance plans which include coverage for pre-existing conditions can help cover you if you need medical assistance. Trip insurance plans which may include a waiver for pre-existing conditions can help cover you if you need assistance or if you are unable to access a planned (and prepaid) excursion.
- Get travel medical insurance with an emergency evacuation benefit if you plan to engage in more risky activities. With this coverage, if you require an airlift by plane or helicopter to the nearest hospital, you're protected both physically and financially.
Specific Tips for Wheelchair Users or Travelers with Limited Mobility
- Although many buildings are outfitted with ramps, elevators and wheelchair lifts, there are still places that can be difficult to explore. Talk to facility managers who might have other ways to explore difficult spaces.
- Call ahead to small hotels to ask about elevators or ground-floor rooms.
- Be aware that different countries have different regulations about physical accessibility. Don't be afraid to call ahead and ask very specific questions to make sure that your accommodations will work for you.
- If you move with a wheelchair or walker, measure the width of your device and ask about the width of hallways in older city buildings.
- If you can walk, but not for long distances, consider renting a wheelchair for large-scale spaces or museums so that you are not rushed by fatigue. Places like the Roman Forum or the Louvre are vast and have limited seating space for resting.
- Don’t count out the beach. Many countries have made many of their beaches wheelchair accessible. In fact, Greece recently made over 200 wheelchair-friendly beaches. It’s likely that more beaches worldwide will follow suit.