Tips for a well-prepared holiday
Having a disability does not mean that you have to give up your travel dreams forever.
Before you book
- Try to collect very detailed information in advance. This will help you determine whether the holiday destination is suitable for you. Those who are well prepared will probably experience less discomfort in case of unexpected events. For example, you can inquire whether there is a repair centre or rental service for medical devices in the area. If you use electric devices, check whether the voltage is the same as at home. Enquire about what happens during an emergency: how should you call for help, can you be evacuated?
- Don't forget that all aspects of your holiday can be important. You are not going on holiday just to be bored sitting in your hotel room. Are there suitable activities, places of interest or attractions nearby? Can you have a delicious meal in the vicinity? Is specially adapted transport available to take you places?
- Just remember, something can always go wrong. Don't let unexpected events ruin your trip. Sometimes a worst-case scenario can turn into a hilarious holiday memory.
- Book on time! After all, those who arrive first have the most choice. Adapted holiday homes are booked more quickly than regular accommodations. The same is true of group holidays that are open to participants with a disability.
- Do you organise your holiday on your own or do you consult a travel agency? Some travel agencies specialise in holidays for people with a disability, but you can book your trip with a regular travel agency. They probably have less experience with accessibility issues so it is important that you discuss your needs and desires in detail. What are the dimensions of your wheelchair? Can you walk short distances? Do you use medical devices? Are you taking medication?
- Will you be travelling alone or with a companion? That can determine your choice. Think about baggage, transport, transfers, etc.
- Be sure to contact someone at your destination in advance. You cannot rely on the good (or bad) experiences of another traveller with a disability. Everything depends on your own travel situation, needs and desires.
- Be sure to correspond with someone who has seen the holiday accommodations in person. An employee who accepts reservations for a hotel chain often isn't sufficiently aware of the actual situation. Ask to speak to someone from the logistics department or ask your contact to check out the situation first.
- Ask open questions rather than yes or no questions. Even the most sympathetic hotel manager, campground manager or receptionist tends to give the most desirable answer. You can avoid this with open questions:
DO NOT ASK: “Are there stairs or steps?”
ASK: “Can you describe the route from the front door to the bathroom?”
Some people find it difficult to imagine the practical consequences of your disability. Without explaining your entire medical history, you should pass on useful information.
- Measure the width and length of your wheelchair. Add 10 cm to each side so that you can manoeuvre properly. This will enables employees on location to check whether your wheelchair will fit through door openings or in the lift.
- If you use a hoist (“steel nurse”) then the available space under the bed is also important: at least 10 cm high and 80 cm wide.
- Sometimes only a suite will meet your requirements. Ask whether you will be required to pay a supplement for this.
Posing your questions in writing has several advantages.
- You are less likely to forget to ask something.
- It gives receptionists more time to provide a serious answer (they can check something or actually measure something). Moreover, you usually receive a written answer.
- To prevent misunderstandings (and to have evidence in case something goes wrong), it is best to have all agreements in writing.
- You can phone the manager in question in advance to outline your situation and to state that you will be sending some questions via email or in writing.
On site: be diplomatic
- Despite your thorough preparations, you may be confronted with unpleasant surprises. Be sure to take into account that you seldom find the same comfort as at home. Talking and diplomacy will take you far, but that doesn't mean that you do not have rights. If an agreement is broken, you have the right to an equivalent alternative.