Tips for Accessible Travel
Last week I wrote about ways to make sure both you and your mobility van are well-prepared for an accessible road trip and some steps you can take to avoid unexpected, unpleasant surprises along the way. But what’s the fun of being ready for a trip without an idea of where to go or what to do? I know some people relish the idea of just getting in their wheelchair vans and taking off to points unknown, but me…I’ve got to have at least a rough sketch of a plan, or I just can’t get excited about a trip.
With that in mind, I think the best follow-up to a post about how to plan accessible travel in your mobility van is a discussion of where you can travel! Of course this list won’t be anywhere near inclusive, but I thought it’d be fun to explore a few different budget-friendly trip types, which can hopefully inspire all kinds of great vacation ideas.
First: National Parks! I know, creative. But no matter which part of the country you live in, there is a
fantastic natural area within driving distance. I love our National Parks. They’re already extremely
affordable to visit, plus the National Park Service has a program that allows US residents with
permanent disabilities to obtain a free lifetime Access Pass which allows free admission to the
majority of US natural areas. You can learn more about the Access Pass from the NPS website, but even
without it, national parks are worth every penny of the admission fee. They literally offer something for
everyone, no matter how you like to enjoy your natural beauty. Drive through the park in your mobility
van and enjoy the gorgeous vistas, or plan a bit ahead and find the park’s accessible trails and picnic areas and spend some time outside- either way, you’ll enjoy these amazing landscapes and all of their bio diversity. The National Park Service website maintains a list of accessible trails (with descriptions of each), campgrounds, and picnic areas, so if you’re thinking of heading out in your mobility van for one of these destinations, check it out- it might expand your opportunities to enjoy the park!
How about Washington, DC for an accessible travel destination? If you enjoy the busy bustle of cities & faced paced trips, the value for your time and money can be very high in DC. As with our national parks, there’s something here for everyone, from art museums to zoos and aquariums to historic landmarks and amazing greenhouses. Amazingly, most of these attractions cost absolutely nothing. I’ve never been to a city that gives you so many important experiences for free. As in any large, very busy city, parking- let alone accessible parking for wheelchair vans- can be difficult to locate. It’s not impossible, but if you’re willing to park your mobility van and use DC’s accessible public transit systems, it could save you some time and stress. I traveled all over the city using the metrorail way back in 1990, and was truly amazed at how easy it was to get around. In addition, DC does have several taxi services that offer mobility vans or vans with wheelchair or scooter lifts. Access Information, Inc., a nonprofit group in the DC metro area with actual everyday experience with DC’s accessibility has a website with detailed information about accessible restaurants, attractions, shopping, and transportation, as well as a calendar with many types of accessible events- it can help you develop a plan for what you’d like to do and see while you’re in or around DC, plus they have a $5 hardcover guide you can bring along on your trip for reference. Overall- even in spite of the summer heat and the crowds- it’s just a great city, and probably one of the best-priced ways you can visit many wheelchair-accessible attractions at once.
The last isn’t a destination; it’s an idea for cheaper, fun accessible travel – accessible housing exchanges. Some people may not know what I’m referring to, some may have already considered the concept, but I think it deserves mention. Though your BraunAbility mobility van can get you wherever you want to go, it’s no fun to be there unless you have a safe, accessible place to sleep, shower, and just relax. We all know that can be easier said than done. The frustration of finding an accessible hotel or arriving at a prearranged hotel and learning that your room is not as you believed can disrupt your enjoyment of the trip. Housing exchanges can cure that frustration by giving you a known lodging destination and the assurance of accessibility, if you exchange housing with someone who requires the same accessible features. There are many resources online that facilitate accessible housing exchanges– if you plan ahead and are flexible, plus willing to do a bit of searching work, you can even choose your road trip destination or get new ideas for where to travel based on housing availability. If you and your house-swapping partner understand common courtesy and have worked out exactly what the exchange will entail in detail, it should be simple to pull up to your temporary home in your mobility van and start enjoying your vacation! If it sounds like an interesting idea to you, find out more and it might inspire some trip destinations that you’ve never considered.
Have you had any great low-cost accessible travel in your mobility van? Do you have any other ideas to keep travel low-cost and accessible for wheelchair and scooter users? Let us know!