Tips for travelers with disabilities

How to make the most of any trip..


Choosing Your Destination

Some countries make every effort to provide accessibility for all travelers, including those with disabilities, while other countriesdo not have the resources to do so, or do not consider it to be necessary. Before traveling, it could help to do the following:

  • Research your planned stops.

  • Ask detailed questions about the services that are provided.

  • Be prepared for a certain amount of culture shock. Some cultures are not very accepting or open about their citizens with disabilities.

Once you have decidedon a destination, consider the following:

  • Local transportation needs to andfrom the airport.

  • Luggage assistance and whether assistance will be neededto leave the airport terminal.
Some suggestions for finding resources are:contact the airport management office; work with a travel agent who specializesin travel for persons with disabilities; search the internet, call local disabilityorganizations; or check with various travel guides.

Medical Needs

Be aware of the health care available at your planned destination and prepare accordingly.

Your Doctor: Talkto your physician about the activities you have planned and your general physicalcondition, any immunizations that might be needed, and medications, whetherprescription or over the counter, that you might need for your trip.

Medication:If you take prescription medication, make sure you have enough to last theduration of the trip, including extra medicine in case you are delayed. Packyour medication in your carry-on bag. Delays can occur, and checked baggageoccasionally becomes misdirected or lost. Always carry your prescriptionsin their labeled containers as many countries have strict narco-traffickinglaws and might be suspicious of pills in unlabeled bottles. Bring your prescriptioninformation and the names of their generic equivalents with you just in case.Double-check one last time before leaving home that you have your medicationwith you in your hand luggage.

Health Insurance: Make sure you have adequate health insurance coverage while abroad. Your policy might not cover such things as medical evacuations. Ask what coverage your plan provides and how you can reach your insurance company during times of emergency. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. But many travel agencies and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations. Be sure to check our publication Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad for further information. This publication is available at


Service Dogs:Travelers should be aware that some countries have restrictions onservice dogs traveling through or arriving in their countries. If you intendto travel with a service dog, be sure to check on possible restrictions withthe embassy or consulate of each country that you will visit. (This and othercountry information may be found on each country’s Consular Information Sheet at the website If service dogs are permitted, learn about quarantine or vaccination requirements.

Find out what documentsare needed, including international health certificates, rabies inoculationcertificates and if the documents need to be translated. Talk with your vetabout how to travel with your dog and how travel will affect the dog. Youmay also want to ensure that hotels will accommodate your service dog andthat there will be an adequate area for the dog to relieve itself.

Equipment:If you require a wheelchair, scooter or other equipment, consider having amaintenance check done on it to ensure that everything is in working orderbefore you leave. You may want to research the availability of wheelchairand medical equipment providers in the areas you plan to visit before youdepart on your trip.

Airline and HotelTravel Arrangements: When making your travelarrangements, you should think through air travel plans, considering flightlengths and plane transfers.

In the United States,the Air Carrier Access Act prohibits airlines from discriminating on the basisof disability. This law affects issues such as denial of service to personswith disabilities, seating, accessible features in terminals and aboard aircraft,requirements regarding attendants, medical certificates, and transport, storageand liability of mobility and medical equipment (such as wheelchairs, scootersand other assistive devices). Unfortunately, the Americans with DisabilitiesAct does not follow you when you leave the United States.

The Department of Transportationoutlines helpful information in New Horizons for the Air Traveler with a Disability and Plane Talk: Facts for Passengers With Disabilities. Both of these publications areavailable at the Department of Transportation’s website

When making your reservations,inform your travel agent or the carrier of the following:

  • Assistance that willbe needed while flying and at the airport;
  • Type of disability andequipment used for mobility, such as crutches or a wheelchair;
  • Request for a manualor electric wheelchair to be stored and brought to the airplane door/gateupon arrival;
  • Special diet requirements.

These airline suggestionsmight be adapted when making your hotel reservations. You should make surethat foreign hotels will be able to accommodate you and your needs as well.

In all cases, ask thatyour needs and requests be documented as part of the reservation and takedown the name of the agent. That way, if there is a problem, you will havea clear record of what you requested, in the event it is necessary to takeyour complaint to a customer relations office.

It is to every traveler’sadvantage to know the policies of the airline before arriving at the airport.Arrive extra early to allow plenty of time for any last-minute problems tobe administered.


  • Carry with you your writtenitinerary and directions of where you wish to go. These can be shown to peoplewho might be able to help you if you are lost. This little step will make it much easier when trying to get help from someone.
  • Carry a point-and-conversation guide.

Your journey can be the most rewarding experience. There is a wealth of literature available bothon the Internet and in books with information and advice for disabled travelers. Take the time to search the web and your local bookstore. By taking the timeto research and educate yourself about travel opportunities and considerations for persons with disabilities, you can enjoy your adventure and have memoriesto last a lifetime.


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