1. Where will your travels take you?
- Learn as many details about your holiday destination as you can in advance. This will make it easier to determine its suitability with regard to your specific needs. Think about all aspects of your holiday trip. Are there accessible activities, sights or attractions available in the vicinity? Are there any accessible restaurants that suit your tastes? Will there be appropriate transport?
- Being well-prepared can result in less discomfort due to unforeseen events. Is there a repair service or mobility equipment for hire nearby? If your aids require electricity, check whether the outlets and mains voltage in Flanders are the same as at home. To be on the safe side, investigate what emergency plans are in place: how can you call for assistance? What is the evacuation procedure?
- Book your stay in good time! Booking early increases your range of choices. Often, adapted holiday accommodations will be fully booked even faster than regular rooms. The same applies to group holidays designed for people with disabilities.
- Are you making your own holiday arrangements or using a travel agent? Certain travel agencies specialise in holidays for people with disabilities. You may also decide to book your trip through a regular agency. These can have less experience with accessibility issues. Be sure to go over your needs and wishes in sufficient detail beforehand. What are your wheelchair’s dimensions? Can you walk short distances? Do you use specific aids, take medication or require special care?
- Are you travelling alone or will you have a companion? Such factors can influence your choices regarding accommodation, transport, activities and any need for care or assistance.Are you looking for a group holiday or do you prefer organised, but independent travel? If so, have a look at the ‘Organised trips’ information pack on our website.
3. Knowledgeable contact person
- Get in touch with someone at your destination in advance. You cannot always rely on the experiences of other travellers with disabilities. What counts as accessible may vary greatly depending on the person in question. It all depends on your travel circumstances, needs and wishes.
- Make sure to communicate with someone who has personal experience of the holiday accommodation. A hotel chain’s central booking service generally won’t be sufficiently aware of actual conditions. You may need to speak to someone from logistics or ask that your contact person take a look for themselves.
- Ask open-ended questions, that cannot simply be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Even the most well-intentioned hotel operator, campsite manager or clerk will try to give desirable answers. Avoid this by asking open-ended questions. DON’T say, “Are there any steps or stairs on the way to the bathroom?” DO say, “Could you describe the route from the front door to the bathroom?”
Not everyone is aware of the practical implications of your disability. Without actually presenting your medical records, you can still provide some highly useful information.
- Measure your wheelchair’s total width and depth. Add another 10 cm on each side to allow for maneuvering. That way, people on the spot can check whether your wheelchair will fit through their doors or in a lift.
- If you use a mechanical lift, or ‘steel nurse’, this requires a certain amount of free space under your bed; at least 10 cm in height and 80 cm in width.
- Sometimes only more luxurious rooms will meet these requirements. Be sure to check whether you will need to pay a surcharge for this.
5. Get it in writing
We recommend contacting operators and providers in advance. You can also call to outline your situation and then add that you will be sending them a few questions by email or post. Written questions offer several advantages:
- You are less likely to forget to ask something.
- The clerk has more time to check with someone else or actually measure something, enabling better answers.
- You will usually receive a written reply, which can also serve as proof.
To avoid misunderstandings, it is recommended to bring physical copies of such agreements and confirmations along on your travels.
6. Home again
Safely home again? We’d love to hear about your experiences!You can email your travel experiences and tips to email@example.com.Maybe your tips will give other travellers with disabilities some good ideas…