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Tips for Traveling with Special Needs

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Due to the increasing number of individuals with disabilities, many cities have made strides to improve accessibility. But taking advantage of these accommodations still requires planning and care, especially if one or more family members are traveling with a disability.

Plan Ahead

You’ll need to plan every aspect of your trip. Find out what kind of accessibility the airport provides if you plan to fly, for both your departure and arrival. Arrange your transportation from the airport to the hotel in advance. Be sure to reserve a hotel in advance that can best accommodate your needs, and arrange any required transportation. Find out the accessibility options at each restaurant, attraction, and outdoor area that you intend to visit by calling ahead or checking their website. These include wheelchair accessible entrances and handicap parking, if you plan to drive.

Also learn about the terrain – choose level, well-maintained walkways over rough ones with steep hills. Plan the best route during each leg of your itinerary. Remember that any hotel, attraction, or service that provides accessible options may need time to arrange it, so give them plenty of notice. Also call again about 24 to 48 hours before you arrive so you can avoid any bumps in the road.

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Book in Advance

Once you find the perfect hotel that can accommodate your needs, make sure to book early. You don’t want to make do with a room you’re not comfortable in, or another hotel you’re not happy with, just because you didn’t book early enough. The same goes for car rentals; reserve a wheelchair conversion van as far in advance as possible.

Always Prepare a Contingency Plan

Plans seldom go perfectly according to our plans, so make sure to have alternatives in place and plan for contingencies. Carry spare parts for the wheelchair in case it breaks down. If the accessible area of an attraction is closed, can you use the regular entrance?  You may be able to avoid extra costs by choosing free or low cost activities as alternatives in the event your preferred choice is not available, preferably those that don’t require an advance reservation.

Make Use of Available Resources

There are many resources that can help individuals with special needs prepare for an enjoyable trip. These include the U.S. Department of State, which provides general information, and Mobility International USA, which has useful articles on traveling with a wheelchair.

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There are also travel agencies that specialize in travelers with special needs. Some specialize in a specific type of disability or impairment. They can help plan your trip and provide useful information. Resources such as The Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality, and TravelSense.org can recommend travel agencies.

Enjoy Your Trip

Planning every part of your trip can feel overwhelming, but it will save you valuable time once you’re on your way. Now that everything has been planned all there is left to do is to relax and enjoy your trip.

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