The holidays are coming up fast, and many of us are making plans to visit family and friends who may be far away. Travel is already challenging enough, but when you or a family member have a special need, it can become much more complicated. Doing the right research, planning, and preparations ahead of time can reduce stress so that everyone can get the most out of your trip. The most important thing is to be prepared.

  1. Consult with a Physician

Whenever a person with special needs is planning to travel, one of the first steps to take is to discuss the travel plans with the person’s physician. Be sure to give the doctor an accurate picture of what the trip will entail. In many cases, the physician can help plan for medical needs while traveling. The doctor can prescribe certain measures to help make travel easier and can provide you with a medical statement for emergency situations. It is also helpful to have your doctor’s name and phone number available while traveling, as well as to identify medical care at the travel destination. Be sure to carry extra medication in case of unforeseen delays and have all medication in carry-on bags to prevent loss. Be prepared because the doctor may also advise against certain types of travel depending on the nature of the person’s disability.

  1. Know Your Rights

When planning for accessible travel, it is important to know the rights of people with disabilities in order to be a good advocate. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has certain procedures for travelers with special needs and medical conditions. It is important, before going through airport security, to understand these procedures. The Air Carrier Access Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also provide information regarding the laws for those traveling with disabilities. Unfortunately, many employees of airlines, cruises, theme parks, and other travel destinations will not know the law regarding those with special needs, so it is always best to obtain the information ahead of time.

  1. Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is the most important tip and encompasses all the other tips. One easy way to plan ahead is to hire a travel agency that specializes in accessible travel. These agencies can plan for the specific abilities, limitations, and needs of the traveler with disabilities. If you wish to plan your own travel, then begin to plan early. First, research and create an itinerary for your trip. Websites can be helpful in obtaining information about accessibility and services offered. Even with websites, calls should be made to schedule the necessary accommodations to make each stop on the itinerary enjoyable. Remember to be detailed when describing the person’s needs so that everyone accurately understands their abilities and limitations.

Planning ahead for flights can also be very helpful for people with disabilities. If possible, avoid connecting flights and fly directly to the destination. If a connecting flight is unavoidable, make sure there is plenty of time between flights in case of delays. It is also advisable to check in with the flight attendant before landing to make an exit plan. Once you’ve disembarked, if a wheelchair is necessary, make sure you have set up accessible ground transportation to and from the airport. All of this can be done ahead of time to help arrange more relaxing travel for everyone involved in the adventure.

The experience of travel can be smooth and enjoyable with the right information and planning. Of course, even the best plans can experience turbulence along the way, but planning and documenting can help to soften any bumps along the way. Just remember, after calling and booking for special needs accommodations, call again and touch base 24-48 hours in advance of traveling to ensure everything is in order.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like information about special needs planning, please feel free to contact us.


Photo copyright Fernando Jose Vascocelos Soares.