Updated 03 December 2020
No disability should get in the way of you enjoying some holiday time. If you generally receive ongoing care, whether in your own home or in a residential setting, you can still find the care you need to accompany you on your travels – whether in the UK or overseas.
Having a physical or learning disability is usually no obstacle to long-distance travel. Most trains, planes, ferries, coaches etc. usually have some reserved seats for people with mobility needs, so just contact the travel company in advance to make sure these are saved for you. Also tell them exactly what you find difficult and perhaps provide measurements of any large aids so they can accommodate you.
If you sometimes use your own oxygen supply, remember that you can’t take this on flights, so you will have to request a battery-powered one to use from the airline itself. You can also take medicines under 100ml through security in a clear plastic bag (like other liquids), but for anything larger you’ll need the correct documentation to approve it.
It’s also a good idea to contact travel terminals (e.g. airports and stations) in advance so they can tell you if you need to use a different entrance, or even arrange for a chaperone to meet you and take you through. If you book through a travel company, they will usually take care of all the arrangements for you.
Whatever condition you live with, your choice of holiday may not be as restricted as you might think. Holidays such as cruises usually have rooms, equipment and medical supplies to support people with disabilities, and there is a doctor on board to help if you get ill while you’re away, making them ideal if want to sightsee. If you’d prefer a beach holiday or a city break, you can focus on the hotels that have the best accessibility.
Most larger hotels have rooms designed for disabled people, typically situated on the ground floor with plenty of room to move around, grab handles, large wet-room style bathrooms and beds at wheelchair height. Some also provide hoists to help you get in and out of bed, and other equipment that will help make your stay more enjoyable
There are specialist agencies that can help you find the hotels that offer the arrangements most suited to your particular needs. And there’s no reason to rein in your ambitions, either – more active holidays such as safaris, skiing, sailing and even mountaineering are perfectly achievable if you have the right support in place. A holiday can be your chance to push your limits and discover you can do more than you thought.
A number of care providers and specialist travel companies can arrange live-in care for you while you’re away, even if you normally only have a carer a couple of times a day. They will travel with you, take care of anything you need, ensure you’ve got all the medicines you need and generally help the trip run smoothly. They can even help book your holiday. It’s important that you get on well with your carer because you will be together for a lot of the time, and most providers can help match you to someone whose personality is a good fit for your own.
If you’re going away with a family or friend who cares for you, it’s still a good idea to get some extra help along the way to give your carer some time off to relax. Some specialist holidays for disabled people will arrange this for you.
It’s important that you have adequate insurance to cover you while you’re away to make sure you can get access to any medical care you need, as well as for the typical setbacks like delays, cancellations and lost luggage, etc. You may need to get a specialist policy that includes your disability and medical needs because most companies won’t cover for pre-existing medical conditions, and you’ll usually have to do a medical screening to take out a policy. A financial adviser may be able to help you here. You may also need to get a note from your doctor to confirm that it is safe for you to travel.
Some charities will provide grants to help people with disabilities and their families go on holiday. You can apply directly to the charities to see if you can get these funds.
If you are cared for by someone close to you, they may be able to have some time away to recharge their batteries by getting respite care provided for you. To get this funding, they will need to arrange a carer’s assessment (not to be confused with a care needs assessment) through the local authority.