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The ultimate guide to planning an accessible holiday

1st May 2019

Going on holiday abroad can be stressful as there is so much planning that goes into it, but it can be even more stressful for older adults with mobility problems or those who are wheelchair-bound.

Fortunately, there has been a surge in accessible travel meaning older people who rely on mobility aids like modern stair lifts or walking aids can go on holiday abroad without the stress and worry.

Travel firms based in the UK and across the rest of the world are allowing everyone to experience the joy of discovering new destinations.

Whilst it is so much easier to travel around the world than it used to be, travellers with mobility problems are still faced with certain problems and this guide takes a look at how you can plan an accessible holiday to ensure your getaway is as comfortable, convenient and relaxing as possible.

The top tips for planning your getaway

Don’t be afraid to ask for information

Travellers who have mobility issues should always ask for more information about their accommodation and other aspects of their trip.

According to Claire D'All, a blogger, YouTuber & disability campaigner who runs the travel blog A Journey In My Wheels, which details her explorations all over the world, you should not be afraid to ask questions.

She says: “I would say my best tip for planning a trip away is to not be afraid to ask for any information you need to know. If a business wants you to stay then they will try to provide as much information for you as possible. For example, I need to use a portable hoist for all transfers and need to know how much space there is under the bed to get it under so, I usually have to phone or try and email where I want to stay for them to measure it so that I can make sure the legs of the hoist fit. I haven’t been on holiday for a while, only city breaks to places I’m familiar with or are close to home but, I am hoping to go away soon, and I would definitely suggest looking into how to say certain phrases in the local language.

“I had to try and figure out in Spanish once how to say that ‘you are unable to lift my wheelchair’ because a bus driver kept trying to do it, which could have been dangerous. A great form of transport around a city is the hop on hop off tour buses, they are accessible for wheelchairs and a perfect way to get to all the popular tourist destinations.”

Justin Francis, CEO of Responsible Travel, also believes that you need to ask the question when it comes to planning your next vacation.

“In an ideal world, holiday companies would publish all accessibility details so it would be clear what they offer so you could make an informed choice. Unfortunately, it seems that at the moment they don’t because they’re terrified of getting it wrong and upsetting someone. In our experience, however, just because they haven’t published this information, it doesn’t mean that they can’t help or accommodate your needs. When we’ve spoken to our specialist holiday companies they can, and have, catered for a whole host of needs, from horse riding holidays in Catalonia to African safaris. So, we would recommend asking the question if it’s something you really want to do there will be someone out there who can help you plan it.

“We have done the work for you, screening our trips for accessibility so that you know exactly which trips would be good for you. You can see all our trips and our accessible travel guide here.”

Do your research and plan ahead

No matter whether you have mobility problems or not, it is vital that you plan ahead and do your research on the destination you are visiting or the accommodation you are staying in. This will help you when you arrive at your destination.

Paul Johnson, the editor of A Luxury Travel Blog adds: “Work out what you want from your trip and how feasible it will be. Explain your requirements very precisely and ahead of time, whether it be to an airline, a hotel, a tourist attraction or a transport service. There are also many online accessibility guides and grading schemes that will help with your planning.”

Researching the guidelines of the airport you will be departing from and the one you will be arriving at to find out how comprehensive their disabled facilities are is a good idea. It might be worth printing out a map of the airport so you know where to go when you arrive.

Carrie-Ann Lightley, who runs an award-winning accessible travel blog, agrees that it is really important for older adults with mobility issues to put in some extra planning.

“Accessible travel isn’t always easy; it does require a lot of extra planning and sometimes there are surprises along the way. For me, that makes the beach sunsets, the rooftop city views, and the countryside landscapes even more beautiful. To have overcome what feels like a million extra obstacles and be able to say ‘I got here!’ is an amazing feeling.

“When planning a trip, I work through my Wheelchair Accessible Travel Survival Guide. I do a lot of research, documenting everything. I take out insurance and make sure that my mobility equipment is protected. I try to allow time for delays in my travel plans, and most importantly, remember to enjoy the experience!”

Arrange your travel insurance

Organising your travel insurance is not one of the most exciting tasks when it comes to planning your holiday abroad, but it is one of the most important.

This is especially the case if you have limited mobility or another disability. It can be tempting to buy a standard travel insurance policy – or to not buy a policy at all – but should anything happen during the trip that requires you to have medical treatment, then you will have a hefty bill to pay.

Fortunately, with the rise of the internet and with more travellers suffering from mobility issues, it is easier than it ever has been to source and buy comprehensive cover.

Decide what activities you want to do

Whatever your perceived limits, you should not be afraid to get involved in any activities you want to do and shouldn’t let your disability plan your holiday for you.

There are now lots of disabled-friendly activities you can try, but there’s no reason why older travellers with mobility problems can’t push their boundaries. There are so many activities that many people don’t realise they can do.

Below we’ve listed some of the most ‘out there’ activities you can now do in destinations across the world.

Scuba diving

•Flying a plane


•Going on a hot air balloon

•Sky diving

Before you dive straight into one of the above activities it is recommended that you first take baby steps and build up to an activity like scuba diving or going abseiling.

Another great tip is to consider making a list of all the things you want to see and do. You can then research these attractions to find out their accessibility to ensure your visit goes as smoothly as possible. This tactic will also help you avoid wasting precious holiday time as you are fully prepared with the information you need.

Pack your essentials

Packing light for people with disabilities can be very difficult as taking medical equipment and extra medication are some of the essential items you may need to ensure an accessible holiday.

If you need a wheelchair or an electric scooter to get around, for example, then you will need to consider taking a travel wheelchair battery charger and even a portable ramp should you be visiting places that aren’t mobility-friendly.

When packing for an accessible holiday it is advised to organise your suitcase before you travel. An article on The Mighty says: “Throwing a bunch of stuff in a suitcase the night before you leave is never a good idea for any traveller, but as disabled travellers, we risk forgetting things we need for safety and mobility. Pack essential safety items such as medications first and put them in a secure place where you’ll always have access to them, such as in a bag on your wheelchair.”

Here are some helpful packing tips you should take a look at:

•Consider making a packing list

•Roll or cube your clothes when packing

•Fill dead space (e.g. put socks and underwear in shoes)

•Leave some breathing room in your case for souvenirs

•Pack your towel last so it is on top

•Wear any heavy items

For those of you that are travelling on a plane, it is recommended that you put essentials and some spare clothing in your carry-on bag should your luggage get lost.

There is so much to consider when planning an accessible holiday, but here we round-up some of the things you should consider:

•Don’t be afraid to ask for information

•Do your research and plan ahead

•Arrange your travel insurance

•Decide what activities you want to do

•Pack your essentials

Accessible destinations

There are so many cities across the world that are home to amazing attractions and while cobbled streets and narrow alleyways are beautiful, they aren’t very friendly to visitors with mobility issues. However, in recent years there’s been a push to make cities as accessible as possible so you can enjoy them from every angle. Here are some of the most accessible cities you could add to your bucket list.


Claire D'All from A Journey In My Wheels says: “This means I don’t have to hire any equipment and my worries are at ease because I know that everything is suitable for my needs. I visited Barcelona during a Mediterranean cruise and loved it, was very accessible and is a popular city for wheelchair users. A cruise is a great way to briefly see if you would like to visit someplace in the future, however, for wheelchair users you have to check what the accessibility is like at each port because you sometimes have to transfer on to a smaller boat to get to shore.”

Carrie-Ann Lightley, the award-winning blogger and travel writer, says: “Barcelona is without a doubt the most accessible place I’ve travelled to. The city’s Olympic legacy means that accessibility just is a part of everyday life, and I had no issues at all accessing accommodation, transport, attractions, beaches, and places to eat and drink.”


A Luxury Travel Blog’s Paul Johnson highly recommends Berlin as an accessible destination abroad: “Berlin is a very mobility-friendly destination. Not only is it flat, but it is one of the most disability-friendly cities in Europe, setting the standard for others to follow. Key attractions such as The Reichstag building, Brandenburg Gate, Museum Island and the Berlin Wall are all wheelchair friendly, as are many other attractions, various key public transport routes and hundreds of hotels within the city. accessBerlin is a useful app that gives you top tips on navigating the city.”


Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and combines historic attractions with modern buildings. The city is sprawled across 14 islands and as a result, there are more than 50 bridges connecting the city.

The city and its attractions are very accessible as there is a subway that visitors with mobility issues can get on to travel to different parts of the capital. The subway is not like others around the world as it is full of art and is seen by many as the world’s longest art gallery.

There are also wheelchair-friendly taxis you can take to get around the city like TaxiKurir and there’s plenty of accessible attractions you can visit like Kungsträdgården, Djurgården, the ABBA Museum and the Vasa Museum. There is also a wheelchair accessible ferry you can go on-board and this gives you stunning views of the Old Town area of Stockholm known as Gamla Stan.


This iconic Australian city might be exciting, colourful and vibrant, but what makes it a great destination is the fact that it’s easy to get out and about and enjoy all of its attractions.

Sydney has great accessibility facilities throughout and the likes of the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Harbour Bridge can all be accessed by visitors with mobility problems.

Even the world-famous Bondi Beach is accessible as it boasts a beach wheelchair that visitors can borrow. There’s also a new Australian directory called Clickability that travellers can use which lists disability services available in the city.

New York

The Big Apple is another long-haul destination that is regarded as being very accessible. New York City’s five boroughs feature a wealth of exciting and accessible attractions, including arts, entertainment, dining, sports, museums and galleries.

The Big Apple Greeter even offers a scheme to inform holidaymakers with disabilities of the accessible travel options on offer in the city. A volunteer ‘Greeter’ will show you around their favourite section of the city and this has now been used by thousands of visitors since its launch in 1993.

Attractions like the Statue of Liberty, Madison Square Garden, the Rockefeller Center, Brooklyn Bridge and Times Square are all very accessible.

Take a look at some other related articles about accessible destinations here:

Great holidays for people with low mobility in 2019

Accessible Holidays for Older Adults

Interactive Map: Around the world in accessible attractions

Discover our range of stairlifts

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.