Before you go
Make sure you have the right travel insurance for your needs. This could be expensive but it’s best to be covered. Shop around for quotes and ask for advice from disability organisations. You must tell your insurance company about your condition when they ask. If you don’t, your insurance could be invalid. The Money Advice Service has more information about what you need to consider and how to find a specialist insurance broker or provider.
Research your destination. Guidebooks, local tourist boards and tourist information websites may have details of facilities for disabled people. Online travel and disability forums can also be a useful source of information. You can also find general travel advice by country on gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
You may need to make special arrangements if you’re travelling abroad with medication. The rules about what’s allowed vary in different countries. You may need to check with your airline or tour operator as well if you’re planning to travel with medication. Contact your GP at least two months before you go for advice. You can find more details on nhs.uk.
If you need special equipment, such as hoists, find out if you can hire it locally rather than taking it with you. You may be able to get in touch with local disability groups for information about what’s available.
Booking a holiday
When booking accommodation, be very clear about what your needs are and make sure that it really is accessible. Get confirmation in writing of any assistance they’ve agreed to provide. You might want to check whether they have:
- step-free access to all the main areas and toilets
- access to amenities such as swimming pools, bars, the beach
- charging facilities for equipment such as powered wheelchairs or scooters
- aids such as grab rails, ramps, or special mattresses.
Think about the location as well and how close it is to the places you want to go.
Make sure you know how to get around once you get there. Find out about local public transport and any assistance that might be available. You might want to research contact details for taxi companies that can accommodate a wheelchair for example, and check that any tourist sites you want to visit are accessible.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has a useful checklist for disabled and less mobile passengers to help you prepare for your holiday.
Travelling with a wheelchair and other equipment
Remember to take any equipment and spare parts that you might need, such as tools, inner tubes, a voltage converter and adaptor.
Attach instructions to your wheelchair or scooter so it can be handled properly, at the airport for example. If there are any items that could become detached, such as cushions or parts, keep them with you.
Some airlines won’t take certain types of batteries or oxygen cylinders and they might have special procedures for how to pack some items. Check the airline’s policy on any equipment that you need to take with you. You can travel with up to two items of mobility equipment free of charge if you’re disabled. This won’t count as part of your baggage allowance.
If you’re flying
Before you travel, let the airline or tour operator know your specific requirements. You must travel with a companion if you need help with things like feeding, breathing, using the toilet or taking medication.
- Plan how you’ll get to and from the airport.
- Carry documentation that explains your disability or health condition and your specific needs.
- Some airlines may ask for evidence, such as a medical certificate from your doctor, that you’re fit to travel.
- Get written confirmation of any arrangements that you make with the airline.
People travelling by plane to or from the EU have certain rights. Airlines and tour operators must not refuse to carry passengers or take bookings because of reduced mobility, except for safety reasons or because the size of the aircraft makes it impossible for you to board. If you’re refused, they must offer you an acceptable alternative.
They should also provide assistance from when you arrive at the airport to when you board your flight. If you’re blind, partially-sighted or deaf, information such as flight departures and in-flight safety should be available in alternative formats such as Braille and audio. You could also sign up for text and email alerts about flights too.
If you don’t get the help you’re entitled to, you should complain to the airport or airline first. The Civil Aviation Authority.
You can download a booklet from the Equality and Human Rights Commission to find out more about your rights when travelling by air.
Travelling by rail
In Europe, most rail companies should be able to offer assistance to disabled travellers but the standards may vary and you’ll need to organise it in advance. You can find the contact details of rail companies on eurail.com.
If you’re travelling to other countries, contact local rail companies to check what assistance is available before you travel.
If you’re travelling in Europe, you can use your Blue Badge to get the same concessions that are available to local citizens. There are no arrangements outside the EU so you’ll need to find out about local concessions before you go.
If you’re hiring a car, make sure the company is aware of your specific needs and check the terms of any insurance. You may want to pay extra to ensure that you’re fully covered.
You can find more advice about travelling abroad if you’re disabled at gov.uk/guidance/foreign-travel-for-disabled-people