Welcome to our guide to travelling with special needs or a disability. Our goal is to provide useful information, tips and resources to help make your trip special, along with links to companies who cater for special needs travellers.
Travelling with special needs can be challenging and requires careful planning, but its well worth it! And with more accessible travel options available in Australia and overseas there’s never been a better time to plan a trip!
We’ll continue to update this page over the coming months so if you have a suggestion please get in touch we’d love to hear from you!
COVID-19 Update: Travel with Special Needs
The Cornavirus situation is changing rapidly and we recommend getting the latest advice on travel restrictions from your state government.
For most people international travel is not an option right now. In some areas domestic travel is now possible, and accessible travel agencies, travel operators and accommodation providers maybe starting to re-open.
Please take extra time to plan your trip, always call ahead to book and keep an eye out for any last-minute cancellations or changes due to increased restrictions in your state or territory.
General Hints and Tips:
- Do your research. Think about your destination but also how you will get there, and where you might need to stop along the way. If you are flying for example you’ll have to get to the airport, navigate through the airport, get on the plane, possibly have a stopover, and then get to your destination at the other end.
- Book ahead & book early when possible – sometimes there maybe a limited on the number of hotel rooms suitable for wheelchair users, or the number of people an airline can provide mobility assistance for. Also remember that if require Bariatric or heavy-duty equipment while in transit or in your hotel you should enquire first to check weight limits and dimensions to ensure the equipment will be suitable for your needs.
- Consider using an experienced travel agent who specialises in helping people with special needs travel. This is especially useful if you are travelling overseas or to more remote destinations.
- Involve your doctor or medical specialist in your plans early. They will be able to offer insight and make suggestions.
- Don’t forget travel insurance – see our tips below
- Don’t let your disability or fear stop you travelling. It sounds like a lot of work, and sometimes it can take time to plan your trip, but the rewards are almost always worth the effort!
- Talk to other travellers – both people with a disability and without. If you can speak with someone who has been to a destination you can get a better understand of what you’ll find when you arrive. And if its someone with a disability even better because they will be able to answer most of the questions you have and can provide specific hints and tips for you.
Travelling in Australia
Its still not as easy as it should be in many places, but every year there are accessible travel options available in Australia, and the disability discrimination act means that travel providers should make an effort to accommodate people with a disability. An increasing number of accommodation providers are able to offer (sometimes at a cost) mobility aids such as bedside commodes, shower commodes, wheelchairs and other products which maybe difficult to bring with you.
Below are some useful resources and link to companies who provide services for people travelling with special needs.
Accessible Accommodation Guide – http://cangoeverywhere.com.au/
Accessible Accommodation Providers - https://www.accessibleaccommodation.com.au/
Disabled Holidays - https://www.disabledholidays.com/search/australia-l408/
Toilet Map of Australia - https://toiletmap.gov.au/
Travellers Aid - https://www.travellersaid.org.au/
MLAK Key (to access disabled toilet facilities) - https://www.disabilityaccessconsultants.com.au/mlak-key/
Easy Access Australia - https://www.easyaccessaustralia.com.au/
Many of the major car hire companies offer wheelchair accessible rental options, there are also a number of expert mobility hire companies located in major cities throughout Australia who can provide specialised services. These include:
Disability Care Hire - http://disabilitycarhire.com.au/home.html
Wheelies - http://www.wheeliesvanrentals.com.au/
Wheels Away - http://www.wheelaway.com.au/
Hire Mobility - http://hiremobility.com.au/
Tour Operators / Travel Agents
There are an increasing number of travel agents who focus on holidays for people with special needs. These travel agents are experienced and are able to offer a personalised service. Some of these travel agents focus on Australia and some international travel.
Pipeline Holidays - http://www.pipelineholidays.com/
Special Care Travel - https://www.specialcaretravel.com.au/
Care Away - http://www.careaway.com.au/
Leisure Options - https://www.leisureoptions.com.au/about-us/
Push Adventures - http://pushadventures.com.au/
Travelling with Children in Australia
Any trip which includes children who have a disability or who need extra attention requires careful planning to ensure it is a relaxing and enjoyable experience for everyone involved!
It’s understandable that many parents feel anxious about taking children with special needs travelling, however if you are able to overcome that fear it is often possible to do more than you imagined (with our doctor or caregivers advice and blessing of course!).
Talk with your Doctor and let them know what kind of trip you are planning and ask for their input. They will be able to answer your questions and come up with some suggestions or considerations you might not have thought about.
Start by mapping out your trip, including the journey to get there and back, and what you’ll do when you arrive. Plan out each step and understand what mobility aids, equipment and resources you’ll need with you, and if you are staying overnight what level of accessibility your accommodation needs to have.
Once you have a plan you can go out and find the right types of transport, accommodation and activities to suit the special needs of your child/children.
Playgrounds are now being designed to be more accessible to children with additional needs. Some playgrounds use natural features such as sand and water play pits, or children's climbing frames which cater for children of a variety of ages, abilities and needs. Many councils are now replacing traditional climbing frames, swings and slides with playgrounds that can be enjoyed and shared by all children. Bigger resorts often allow you to hire or borrow smaller items of play equipment to use in a quieter and calmer area outside of the main playgrounds, swimming pools and water parks. If you are visiting a family-friendly resort you'll usually be able to find a gallery of photos on the website so you can have a look at identify areas you might be able to use, and areas which are definite no-go's so you can plan ahead.
Also remember it’s a family holiday, and as well as considering the important needs of any children who need extra attention, its important to remember that you need to plan to be able to have quality time as a family, and with any other children in your family too.
Many developing countries don’t have the same laws regarding discrimination or infrastructure for people travelling with special needs. This is especially true when travelling to less developed counties in places like Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa.
Popular international destinations, such as Bali do have specialist accommodation providers and guides available to help you. Western countries such as the United Kingdom have provide a similar level of options as you will find in Australia but it always pays to do your research
Bali Travel Guide - https://www.rollinadventures.com/wheelchair-travel-bali/
Accessible Bali Holiday - https://havewheelchairwilltravel.net/bali-wheelchair-accessible-holiday/
Bali Travel Agent - http://www.baliaccesstravel.com/
Smart Traveller - https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/before-you-go/health/disability
Have Wheelchair Will Travel - https://havewheelchairwilltravel.net/
Its worth taking expert advice on travel insurance to make sure you are covered for any unexpected accidents or mishaps. Insurers should not refuse cover based on a disability (that would be discrimination) but you should disclose your disability to insurance companies to make sure there are no restrictions or conditions attached, or that for some reason they determine it a pre-existing condition.
Check the policy wording careful and make sure your travel insurance covers you for the destination you are visiting and the types of activity you plan to do. Consider what level of insurance you would like for any mobility aids, such as a Rollator, would like to take with you.
Taking Mobility Aids, Wheelchairs and Equipment with you
Airports and airlines in Australia need to adhere to the Disability Discrimination act to provide assistance to people travelling with a disability but some go further than others so its important to do your research ahead of time!
Before making a booking check with the airline or transport provider what can be taken and what can’t, and find out about any restrictions or conditions which may apply. There are also sometimes limits on the number of wheelchairs a plane can travel with so booking early is advisable.
Qantas and Virgin have detailed information on their websites regarding mobility assistance and mobility aids.
- Find out if you are able to use your mobility aids right up to the airport gate or whether you will need to check it in as luggage. You maybe able to hire a transit wheelchair or borrow one in the airport
- Always ensure all mobility aids are well packaged, clearly labelled and remove any loose (e.g. seat cushions).
- If you have a stopover and require your mobility aid request it to be made available to you
- Inspect your mobility aid when it is returned to make sure it hasn’t sustained any damage during travel