How to plan an accessible holiday for 2024

Whether it’s a trip abroad or a ‘staycation’, there are many ways to make a holiday accessible for your disability. Frances Ryan explores.

1. Consider the best way to travel

Airport staff are trained to help disabled passengers, including storing wheelchairs and providing transport to get you around and to your seat. If you find flying inaccessible, though, there are plenty of other options.

Travelling by train can allow you to reach city breaks, seaside resorts and parks across the UK and has the bonus of being environmentally conscious. You can even access many parts of Europe by only using trains, from the Baltic coast, Munich to Tuscany. It doesn’t have to break the bank. Eurostar, for example, provides a wheelchair space in standard premier or business class at the price of a standard ticket and that includes a seat at standard price for your personal assistant too.

A ferry to France – or further into Europe if you take your car and fancy a road trip – can be another accessible way to find the sun.

2. Be prepared

Think what extras you might need to take with you for a trip: from compression socks for the flight to an extension cord or plug adapter for running medical equipment.

If you’re going abroad, don’t forget travel insurance – it could save you thousands if you need medical care on holiday. Unfortunately, it can cost more to get cover if you have a disability or long-term health condition so do shop around for the best deal; a comparison website can be very helpful. Do also check if you need additional insurance to cover equipment like wheelchairs.

If you take regular medication, make sure you’ve ordered enough to make it through your holiday (who among us hasn’t run out mid-trip) and check you can take it into the country you’re visiting. Consider putting a spare dose in your hand luggage in case your luggage gets delayed.

A swimming pool lift so disabled people can access the pool

3. Booking the right room (and hotel)

Whether you need a hearing loop, a hoist or a wet room, booking a room that’s accessible for your disability can be the key to a great stay. As a wheelchair user, I often book an accessible room or a family room in a hotel in order to have sufficient space. I avoid boutique hotels (as stylish as they are) and stick to hotel chains as they tend to have bigger rooms and more streamlined access arrangements. I also contact the venue ahead of booking if I need specifics – such as how wide the doorways are – as websites often don’t have all the information. Remember to ask if other amenities are accessible too. No one likes to pay for a spa they can’t use.

Before booking, it’s also good to know your rights. For example, it’s illegal for any hospitality venue in the UK to turn away someone with a guide dog. Advocating for yourself can feel uncomfortable at first but you deserve the best experience. Try writing down your access needs in bullet points, alongside any legal requirements, and keep it handy in your travel bag. 

4. Take advantage of access on the go

Keep an eye out for access schemes on your travels. If your disability means you can’t walk long distances, try renting a mobility aid for the day. Many holiday resorts, cruise ships and large museums and galleries have wheelchairs or scooters that customers can use (sometimes for free).

Or look out for parking deals. Some things have changed post-Brexit but you can still use your UK Blue Badge when travelling in some EU countries, including Norway and Switzerland. 

5. Help to plan your trip

If you’re taking a UK city break and don’t know the area, there are ways to take the stress out of researching accessibility. AccessAble provides access information for venues across the UK, from cinemas, restaurants to shops. Just type in the postcode.

Euan’s Guide, meanwhile, provides reviews of attractions and venues. The website enables disabled people to leave reviews themselves so you can get first-hand lived experience.

To really take the hassle out of planning, you could hire a travel agent who specialises in disability friendly holidays.

6. Home away from home

If your health means you can’t physically travel or you can’t afford to go away this year, try the ultimate ‘staycation’ and have a break from the comfort of home. 

Carve out a few days of your calendar when you ignore all emails and life admin. Only eat your favourite foods or try an international cuisine. If it’s sunny, head to your local lido (squint and you’re in the Mediterranean). See what cultural events are available near you – many museums and art galleries are free – and if you can’t leave the house, see what theatre is currently streaming. Bonus: at the end of it all, you get to sleep in your own bed.

Further reading

Additional support at home

The Priority Services Register (PSR) is an important, free support service which is designed to support those who need a little extra help in the event of interruptions to their gas, water or electricity supply. If you or someone you know has extra communication, access or safety needs, signing up to the PSR will help ensure you or they can access the best possible services at all times, and feel safe and independent at home. 

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