5 Travel Tips from an Accessible Travel Expert
As part of BraunAbility’s Drive for Inclusion initiative, we asked Brett Heising, founder and CEO of brettapproved, Inc., home to brettapproved.com— a travel and lifestyle website with more than 2,000 accessibility-focused, user-generated reviews of hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, and attractions — to share his Top Five Travel Tips with you.
By Brett Heising
This just in … summers in Phoenix, Arizona are sweltering. I roll from my air-conditioned SUV to my air-conditioned office with a singular goal: avoiding the heat. Don’t get me wrong, I love Phoenix but even I need a break from the Sonoran Desert’s “dry heat” and other-worldly monsoon-related dust storms.
So how do I cope with the heat? I get the heck out of town! But if you’re new to a chair or you’ve had decades of practice living life on wheels like me, traveling can be intimidating. Trust me, I get it.
Nevertheless, the driving force behind my desire to travel and help other people with disabilities experience our world is my belief that life is defined by experiences. Consequently, living with a disability shouldn’t limit our opportunities to experience exotic, far-flung destinations or the new barbeque joint across town.
Here are five tips that help me travel as confidently.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate:
Once you choose an airline, hotel, cruise line or rental car provider; communicate with them before your trip so they know your needs in advance. Call them several times to confirm details, document what time you called and with whom you are speaking. Note: Calling in advance doesn’t guarantee there won’t be any hiccups, but it helps.
4. Own your trip:
If you’re like most Americans, you may only get 5-10 vacation days a year, so make them count! How? Ask lots of questions. Doing so allows you to own your trip. If I’m taking a cruise, for example, I’ll call and ask how wide the doors are to the accessible cabin I’ve booked. My TiLite is 23” wide so knowing that, tells me immediately if a cabin will work for me.
Nobody knows your ability level better than you, so be your own advocate. Tell anyone associated with your trip what you need. Be firm but friendly. Make a list of questions you have before you begin the planning process, so you don’t forget anything. After booking every portion of your trip remember that follow-up is critical.
3. Book directly with the provider:
Working directly with airlines, hotels and rental car companies can pay dividends. If a challenge needs to be addressed during your hotel stay, for example, a hotel employee typically has much more latitude to resolve the issue in real-time if you booked directly with the hotel or service provider. If this seems daunting, brettapproved, Inc. works with travel agent partners to help take the guesswork out of coordinating your next trip. The bottom line is we’re a resource and we’re here to help if you need it.
2. Prepare for the unexpected:
I always bookmark medical supply, wheelchair repair, and bicycle shops in the area I’ll be traveling on my phone. You never know what may come up and I do my best to be prepared. When I travel outside the U.S. I always have spare tubes and tires for my chair. I even travel with a portable air compressor because anything can happen on the road.
1. Ask for help if you need it:
At 43-years-old, I’m finally mature enough to ask for help … and I’m a better person for it. I’ve met awesome people on the streets of Manhattan when I have asked for directions, struck up wonderful conversations with perfect strangers when I have asked for help getting my luggage off the conveyor belt at baggage claim, and I’ve enjoyed thoughtful dialogue with hotel staff when I explain why rooms with roll-in showers are so important to me.
The best travel tips are worthless unless we get out there and explore our world. With this in mind, a few destinations I enjoy are Lucerne, Switzerland; Barcelona, Spain; Portland, Oregon. I also absolutely love my adopted hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.
If you have travel-related questions or you want to learn more about my favorite destinations, email me at email@example.com. Together with the entire brettapproved team, I’m here to help. I hope these tips help you hit the road this summer and that your experiences, with the passage of time, become cherished memories. Let’s show the world we’re a Driving Force!