The golden years are a great time to travel and see the world, and many people make this a top priority once they retire. For disabled seniors, however, the thought of world travel can be intimidating, and the idea of being somewhere that doesn’t accommodate people with disabilities is a huge turnoff. But with more countries improving accessibility for the disabled, and with more information becoming available, the door is widening to a world of exploration.
Travel companies, cruise lines, tour groups. All of these options are more accessible now than ever before. With a little research and some preparation, you can be on your way to enjoying the trip or trips of a lifetime.
Where Can You Go and What Can You Do?
The first step in planning an overseas trip is determining the limitations of your mobility. What can you easily do? What can you absolutely not do? For example, you might not be able to walk to the top of the cupola at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, but maybe you can take an elevator to the roof. It might be a stretch to go on a safari, but with a little advance planning and the right travel agent, anything is possible. Evaluating carefully what you want to do versus what you are capable of doing will give you the best starting point.
Planning ahead, and then planning ahead some more is crucial. Use everything at your disposal to get us much information as possible about your accommodations, transportation, tours, and restaurants. Communicate with hotels and inns about your disability and what kind of accommodations you need. Research thoroughly where you want to go. Certain attractions might be more accessible than you realize on first glance, and other destinations might require that you plan your route carefully. Consider using a travel agent when you can — particularly one who specializes in travel for the disabled. And always book your travel as far in advance as possible. While you’re thinking ahead, imagine some of the worst-case scenarios that could crop up and have a plan in mind. If you are in a wheelchair, bring a small repair kit. If you wear a hearing aid, pack extra batteries and tubing. If you are prepared for the unexpected, it’s less likely to ruin your trip. Of course, so will having a sense of humor and the ability to take everything in stride.
Health and Safety Advice
If you have special equipment or requirements for when you travel, it’s important to research how to navigate through airport security and on the plane. If you have special medications, be sure to take extra supplies, and always store everything in your carry-on bag. Get a typed letter from your doctor that explains your condition, special needs, and necessary medications in the event that you must explain your disability to airport security or a physician at your destination.
Contact your health insurance company to find out the requirements for when you are traveling overseas. And it’s always important to stay sharp, but when you are traveling it’s even more important to be aware and pay attention to your surroundings. You are at a disadvantage when in unfamiliar territory, so keeping your wits about you can ensure that you avoid common tourist pitfalls and accidents.
Remember that the golden years are a reward for you to savor. Whether your disability is new or one you have always lived with, don’t let it keep you from getting out there and seeing world. Happy traveling!