Having mobility problems may pose challenges, but it doesn't have to stop you from traveling overseas or visiting the countries you've been longing to see.
If you prepare for the obstacles you may encounter, you can successfully visit many popular destinations, said Timothy Holtz, group travel coordinator for Minnesota-based Flying Wheels Travel.
"Don't give up on your dreams," Holtz says. "There is a whole world out there waiting for you to explore and there are ways to do it that are easy, comfortable, and exciting."
Mobility Outside the U.S.
One thing you'll need to keep in mind is that many countries are less welcoming to people with mobility problems than the U.S. Your goal should be to plan a trip that allows you to enjoy traveling without pushing yourself beyond your physical limitations. For example, when crossing roads you may not find the same curb cut wheelchair ramps that are common on U.S. street corners.
Some foreign hotels that are advertised as accessible to people with limited mobility may have stairs at their entrances that make them impractical for those with physical challenges.
Holtz notes some good news: the growing number of travelers with mobility problems in recent years has made foreign countries more aware of the need to accommodate people who have difficulty walking.
"There are more and more options as we educate different countries," he adds.
Understand Your Challenges
You will need to do some research when planning your trip, says San Diego-based travel agent Greg Gross. Whether you are working through a travel agent or dealing directly with hotels and guided tour companies, be sure to ask if you'll be required to use stairs or climb hills. Make sure you know about any obstacles you may face.
Keep in mind that some foreign hotel rooms are very small. If you use a wheelchair, make sure any rooms you book are large enough to allow you to maneuver inside of them. When making a reservation, be specific about your needs.
The Independent Traveler recommends that you explain clearly what you can and cannot do. Never underplay the severity of a disability. You won't enjoy your trip if each day represents a series of difficult obstacles.
If you use an electric-powered wheelchair, Disabled World recommends that you determine in advance whether you will need an adapter and voltage converter in order to charge the device in the countries you visit.
Finally, when planning your vacation, do not forget about the weather. If you are outdoors during high summer temperatures, you may tire more easily, Gross says. If you travel during the winter, you may encounter ice and snow, which can make walking or using a wheelchair hazardous.
"It is easier if you are traveling in the spring or fall, when temperatures are less extreme," he explains.
Many organizations offer useful travel information for people with mobility limitations. Be sure to check out the following resources:
- The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality provides online tips, access information, and useful articles.
- Mobility International USA offers practical advice to American travelers on such topics as packing efficiently and bringing along medications.
- The annual New York Travel Festival provides an opportunity to meet with people who understand the challenges of traveling with mobility issues.
- The Accomable.com website can help you find accessible lodgings worldwide.
- The nonprofit Open Doors Organization has released its 2015 Market Study of the air travel experience for adult travelers with disabilities.
Choose Your Tours Carefully
Recognize that some guided tours may be too challenging to be enjoyable. For example, when visiting Rome, you may enjoy yourself more if you take a sightseeing bus tour, rather than a walking tour over ancient cobblestones.
However, visiting ancient ruins isn't off limits to people with mobility problems—you'll just need to plan accordingly.
According to Rick Steves' Europe, there are some examples of ruins, such as Herculaneum in Italy, that are wheelchair accessible.
Gross notes that you can use Google Maps' Street View to scout ahead for destinations that are relatively free of physical barriers. He also recommends going online to view webcams that offer real-time views of the places you may want to add to your itinerary.
Another thing to consider is traveling with an able-bodied companion. Because you can't anticipate all obstacles, it helps to have someone around who can spot potential problems or give you a hand if you need help climbing into a bus or gaining access to a restroom.
Consider Travel Medical Insurance
Like all travelers, people with mobility issues can benefit from having a travel medical insurance policy.
International travel can represent financial risk, and it's important to note that most U.S. health coverage does not apply outside the borders of your home country. Travel health insurance can cover you in case of unexpected illness or injury.
WorldTrips offers Atlas Premium, quality travel medical insurance perfect for international travelers interested in an elite package with higher coverage limits.
Click here to check out some of the benefits of Atlas Premium insurance, and enjoy your trip knowing you're protected against unexpected illness or injury!