Planning Accessible Travel Trips for People With Limited Mobility
You have reached your senior years and now have more time for vacations, but your limited mobility is a concern. With some advance planning and the tips we share here, you can leisurely travel most anywhere in the United States.
Consider your specific health needs.
Before you settle on a travel destination, think through your health challenges and needs. Do you need wheelchair accessibility or assistance with mobility? Do you use portable oxygen or other assistive equipment? Will you drive, fly or take a bus or train? Will you need an adaptive hotel room with ramps and a roll-in shower? Do you need to refrigerate any medication? What weather conditions are most favorable for you?
Plan ahead, book early.
If you have limited mobility, it is best to call travel companies to get details on special accommodations. Can you take your wheelchair or walker on the plane, train or bus? The AARP provides tips for physically challenged travelers and recommends talking through your travel needs with airlines and other vacation providers before you make reservations. Once you have booked your reservations with the necessary travel accommodations, be sure to call the travel provider 48 to 24 hours before your arrival to confirm the arrangements.
If you’re flying, consider upgrading to first class for more room on the airplane and to gain access to the airport lounge for the space and convenience it offers prior to boarding. Selecting an aisle seat will help if you need extra assistance and will make trips to the restroom easier. Be sure to ask about special equipment storage onboard and any additional fees. You may also need a doctor’s letter of approval for certain types of travel.
Allow extra time.
If you need to use an on-site wheelchair at the airport or travel terminal, reserve one when you make your travel reservations or ask in advance for an attendant to transport you. On your travel day, it may take several minutes for the wheelchair or attendant to reach you, so allow additional time in your schedule. Security checks may also take more time. For further details on security procedures, check with the Transportation Security Administration or call TSA Cares at 855-787-2227.
Research your accommodations.
Does your motel, hotel, cabin, vacation house, etc. have adequate wheelchair ramps and elevators to your floor and room? Talk directly to the on-site manager or staff of where you will stay about your mobility needs and whether the facility is fully equipped to make your stay safe and comfortable.
Check mobility access around your vacation site.
Visitor guides may not tell you the accessibility information you need to know. Instead, call the destination city’s transportation services you plan to use and the specific attractions, parks, museums and other vacation spots you plan to visit and ask about smooth sidewalks, curb ramps, building entrances, elevators and other mobility accommodations. The AARP, AAA, the Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (SATH) and WheelchairTravel.org may also prove to be helpful travel resources.
Wheelchair-Accessible U.S. Cities and Parks
A number of U.S. cities and parks are welcoming travel destinations for seniors and those who need special assistance. Some of these mobility-friendly vacation locations include:
- Atlanta, GA
- Baltimore, MD
- Boston, MA
- Chicago, IL
- Dallas, TX
- Denver, CO
- Las Vegas, NV
- Los Angeles, CA
- New Orleans, LA
- Philadelphia, PA
- San Francisco, CA
- Seattle, WA
The National Park Service offers a free, lifetime Access Pass to all U.S. citizens or permanent residents with a permanent disability. The pass grants complimentary admission to national parks, national wildlife refuges and many national forest lands. In addition, consider this list of top parks and trails for disabled access nationwide.
Vacation and Travel Discounts for Seniors
Amtrak, Greyhound and many airlines, hotels, car rental companies and restaurants offer travel discounts for seniors. For example, Alamo offers up to 25 percent off a rental car if seniors are AARP members. Also, check out these senior travel discounts and where to find them. In addition, the National Park Service provides a Senior Pass and the Access Pass to gain admission to the more than 2,000 federal recreation sites.
About the Author
An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.