While there is plenty to get excited about before you go on vacation, for disabled people, there are also lots of things to get ready and prepare. Here’s our essential checklist…

It’s true that travel should be all about discoveries and revelations. That’s why we venture miles from our familiar surroundings, to see and to experience different things. However, travel shouldn’t be about shocks and nasty surprises that can all too easily spoil our vacation and even make us think twice about getting away again. Fortunately, a little preparation goes a long way.


It’s time to get excited. Research sounds a bit like a chore but it’s a really good way of heightening your anticipation of a well-earned break. At the same time, it’s also a way of making sure that you get the best out of your vacation.

You may have already selected your holiday destination because of the opportunities to take part in a certain activity (such as fishing or diving) or perhaps you’re aiming to see a specific place. Now’s the time, before you go away, to do that extra digging around, not only to find out about general access and facilities but also to find out when it might be less busy or has discounted entry (including disability concessions) and so on.


Unless your vacation is specifically limited to a resort, for example, you’ll need to look at how the transport options work. Are public transport options stepfree or otherwise accessible to you or is it wiser to have taxis in mind – in which case, are they expensive, etc?

Lots of regions, here and abroad have organisations that publish details for tourists (including notes on accessibility) online – or you could purchase an up-to-date guide book.


There are some things you can’t control, such as the weather. However, you can control how you prepare – either with sunscreen, warm clothes or waterproofs, depending. Think about how weather affects your condition and your energy levels.

Questions, questions, questions

This is a vital part of the booking process , especially where travel operators or hotels are concerned. Although more and more travel businesses want to help disabled people enjoy their services, they very often need a pointer from an expert, like you. Because each disabled person has individual needs, it’s important that you discuss this carefully during the booking process. Avoid using general terms, such as ‘accessible’ since this can mean a variety of things, just like the word ‘hot’ that can describe, for example: a bath, a cup of tea or a volcano! You need to focus on specifics as you require them. For instance: ‘Is there a step into the shower?’ As well as asking about your room and bathroom facilities, you need to make sure that the general access to the building suits you as well. Although you’re likely to be out
and about, a hotel can be a handy place for a midday rest – or even a place for a comfort break.

Disability specialists

If you find, during the booking process, that you aren’t being filled with confidence about your forthcoming visit, it might be time to look at the increasing number of specialist holiday providers. The choice of destinations and styles of holidays will be narrower than in the mainstream market but this aspect of the disability specialist market has come a long way and continues to increase. The upside is that disability specialists will have a better understanding of disability in general. Naturally, it’s still a good idea to talk through your needs before booking but, specialist organisations should foresee any challenges before you arrive – and set up
appropriate solutions.

Your choice between using a mainstream organisation and a specialist provider will be based largely on your own ‘feel’ – in terms of level of service available and value for money, as well as arguably, value for peace of mind.

NB: Details of several specialist accommodation providers can be found in this supplement as well as in sister publication, Able Magazine.


It can sometimes be difficult to get the money together to take a vacation. There are however, organisations that can help through grants or providing time away at their own facilities.

See: Disability Grants

Specialists in helping disabled people find grants and funding for all manner of projects and of course, that includes holidays.

Family Fund

The Family Fund can provide grants towards the cost of holidays for families on a low income who are caring for a child with a severe disability.

The Family Holiday Association

A charity that provides breaks at holiday sites, or grants to help with the cost of a holiday, to low-income families in need of a holiday away from home. You need to be referred by your social worker, GP or health visitor, or by a charity or other welfare agent.  https://www.familyholidayassociation.org.uk/


Carry slightly more than you need, on your person, to allow for any delays to your journey and think about splitting your meds up in case a piece of your luggage gets lost.

Carrying medication on to a plane (or through airport-style security)

If you’re carrying essential medicines and even liquid dietary foodstuffs, they will not be limited to the usual 100ml hand luggage allowance. You will need supporting evidence such as a letter from your doctor or a copy of your prescription. (The same applies for gel packs.)

Airport staff might need to open the containers to screen the liquids as you pass through security. Carry medication in its original packaging.

Most airlines allow you one extra free piece of luggage if you have a disability.

Rules about carrying meds

You could get a fine or go to prison if you travel with medicine that’s illegal in another country , even if you’re just changing planes – check with the embassy of the country you’re going to before you travel since different countries have different rules.

Visit: www.gov.uk/travellingcontrolled-drugs (You can also check against a list of controlled drugs here as well.)


Airports aren’t the scary and stressful places you might think they are. In fact, there’s a lot of really useful assistance available. The difficulty is that each airport and airline has their own way of doing things, so you’ll need to contact them during the booking process to find out what you can expect
from them. (For most assistance services you will need to give notice, usually around 48 hours.)

In any case, according to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), if you are disabled you are legally entitled to free of charge support, commonly known as ‘Special Assistance’ from airports and airlines.

Special assistance is available to any passengers who may need help to travel because of physical disability but also extends to people with autistic spectrum disorders and dementia, who may find communication difficult, for example.

Your right to special assistance is stipulated in EU law and applies when you fly from an EU airport and/or with an EU registered airline to an EU airport.
The CAA advice states clearly that help is available from the moment you arrive at an airport and can cover:

  • Your journey through your departure airport
  • Boarding the aircraft and during the flight.
  • Disembarking the aircraft
  • Transferring between flights.
  • Travelling through your destination airport.

Try before you fly by QEF

QEF’s Tryb4uFly service provides information and advice for disabled children and adults who are thinking about travelling by air. They provide individual cabin assessments, free information about flying with a disability and hire equipment to help make your journey easier.  www.tryb4ufly.co.uk

Go by car

Arguably the most convenient form of transport for disabled people is their own (adapted) car. The advantages are that luggage and kit is limited only by bootcapacity and that you can take your own route, at your own pace to wherever you like – and get up and go when the mood takes you. Having said that, driving can be stressful and tiring.

Go by train

Railway services in the UK and across Europe (connected via the Channel Tunnel) can offer assistance to disabled passengers with their luggage and boarding, etc. In the UK, the Disabled Persons Railcard offers a third off the price of all journeys.

Travel insurance

Despite the costs, travel insurance is a must for any traveller and even more so if you have a disability or pre-existing medical condition. Although it is likely to be more expensive, travel insurance cover for people with pre-existing conditions is essential since falling ill abroad can mean very expensive medical bills, running into thousands of pounds. It’s important to discuss pre-existing conditions with your insurance provider since standard policies may refuse to pay out for illnesses that they regard as relating to conditions such as diabetes or heart disease etc.

Insurance companies are not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of disability but some will undoubtedly be better at understanding the needs of disabled clients than others.

Specialist insurance providers

Disability travel specialists may well be able to offer a better policy since they make it their business to understand more about the needs of disabled
people as individuals. They will also realise, for example, that you can be disabled and in good health, at the same time.

The process of purchasing insurance can involve answering some questions about your condition that you might find awkward or uncomfortable.
Nevertheless, you need to answer these fully and properly since failure to do so can seriously jeopardise a payout if you fail to mention important details.



There are plenty of online reviews geared towards disabled travellers. These are well worth looking at for handy tips and advice. Here are a few specialist websites to get you started…

Open Britain
Euan’s Guide

ABLE Magazine’s travel section is sponsored by Post Office Travel Insurance