As carers, we need a break. But, going on holiday can feel impossible. We have to think carefully about things like special assistance, accessible transport and accommodation.
It’s not as simple as perusing glamorous villas online and clicking “book now”. In fact, the very act of just finding something that is suitable can suck all the fun out.
To ensure our travel experience with the person we care for is comfortable (and hopefully fun!), we’ve pulled together a guide. It’s full of tips from other carers and links to companies doing great things in this space.
We hope this guide makes ‘taking a holiday together’ a reality for you. We'd love to know know what was helpful (or not!), plus anything else useful you discover along the way.
Travelling through airports as a carer/ with a disabled person
Before flying, we can let the airport (and airline) know at least 48 hours before departure, the condition of the person we care for. Including what kind of help they need inside the terminal and any travel arrangements that can make our airport experience smoother.
Each airport lists the Special Assistance available, and the below links take you to the right pages:
How airlines are helping carers and people with disabilities
Did you know British Airways is the first airline to recognise the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard? Hidden disabilities include disabilities that are not explicitly obvious to others such as dementia or a chronic illness.
As carers, this means that we can have more confidence when we travel with the person we care for, especially when they may require a little more time. For example, we may already be familiar with the sunflower lanyard. At the airport, if we're flying with British Airways, our loved ones should be able to go straight to check-in. Plus, we can be assured that there is additional assistance put in place.
Don't forget that we can also be seen by a real person to help get us through the airport.
If we’re yet to get a sunflower lanyard, card or pin badges for the person we care for, simply find them here.
If we’re travelling with mobility equipment, Jet2 can carry up to two pieces of mobility equipment on the plane free of charge, if there's space available. We can confirm this when booking with their special assistance team.
It’s worth taking some time to familiarise ourselves with the types of assistance Jet2 offer here.
Not only can we use TUI to book flights to places with wheelchair accessible resorts, but they also provide four different accessible transfers - although it may not be available for all destinations. They can also help the person we care for through the airport terminals and onto the plane.
Carers have shared that both Jet2 and TUI offer large spaces for wheelchair users in flight.
Travel Insurance for carers
When travelling with the person we care for, carers in the Mobilise Community suggest considering getting specialist travel insurance if necessary. This is insurance that covers a specific medical condition while we’re abroad. As opposed to regular travel insurance.
Here are a few disability travel insurance providers that carers in the Mobilise Community have recommended:
Disabled-friendly holiday options for carers
Get inspired by the ones that have been recommended by carers in our community! This also isn't an exhaustive list - we've captured even more holiday ideas in our respite guide. 📖
Able to Holiday - Portugal
In addition to self-catering holidays, Able to Holiday in The Algarve, Portugal has something known as a ‘Hosted Holiday’. This means that with 5 people in our group, they are able to personalise holiday packages for us, which is a great opportunity to let them know about the condition of the person we care for.
Limitless Travel - UK, Europe, International
From once in a lifetime experiences abroad to fun tours across the UK, Limitless Travel packages include fun group tours, a professional carer on our tours with us, as well as accessible accommodation and transportation.
Centreal Garve is a holiday centre for people (young and old) with disabilities, along with their carers, in Portugal. Their facilities include sensory rooms, vegetable gardens, as well as accessible swimming pools.
Tourism For All
Tourism For All can help us with finding and planning accessible destinations and accommodations throughout the UK regions. These include accessible bedrooms, lifts and wheelchairs as well as facilities for hearing impaired visitors.
Enabled holidays also helps us discover disabled-friendly and accessible holidays for if the person we care for is a wheelchair user. From beaches to cities from all over the world, they can help with arranging holidays, tailored to the person we care for.
Bond Hotel Blackpool
A recommendation from carers, Bond Hotel in Blackpool specialises in disabled friendly holidays, with care packages available and the option of door to door transportation.
Marsham Court Hotel Bournemouth
Marsham Court Hotel Bournemouth offers families with disabled children a fun place to stay, providing all the accessible facilities to help us enjoy our stay. Including sensory rooms, accessible bedrooms with ceiling hoists, wet rooms and even a pool hoist for summer!
Oh - and they’re dog friendly!
Mind for You
Mind for You specialises in dementia friendly holidays across the UK, allowing us to relax or try something new while we’re on holiday with our loved ones. From Devon to Yorkshire, they also include five-day trips with groups up to 10 people to give you a break, an alternative to traditional respite.
Sykes Holiday Cottages
Looking for a short break that involves stunning cottages across the UK? With Sykes Holiday Cottages, we can book cottages around England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, from coastal views to inner city experiences.
Don’t forget that there are also respite organisations that can offer us short breaks (on our own). Such as Carefree, After Umbrage and The Respite Association.
We talk about what they offer and the fundings available for respite, breaks and holidays in our comprehensive guide to respite for carers.
Before we book anything, remember to check the Foreign Travel Guidance, to see all the information regarding Covid, entry requirements and travel warnings.
What are adaptive vehicles?
A car or truck that has been modified so someone with a disability can use it is called an adaptable vehicle. This may be something we'll consider if we're planning to rent a vehicle whilst on holiday. From swivel chairs to hoists to make it easier for the person we care for to get in and out.
Or, if we're planning to do a staycation within the country, we can check the Motability website to see if our car is eligible for any adaptations before we take off!
Alternatives to flights
If flying with the person we care for is out of the question, then there are other options to consider, which can still get us out of the UK!
Not only do ferries offer amazing views but they are also a great alternative mode of transport to planes.
How does cruising from the UK to France or Spain sound?
Carers have recommended Brittany Ferries, for travelling abroad with the person we care for.
Carers have also told us that they enjoy cruising as a method of travelling and consider it to be a safe option.
Mobility at Sea
Just as the name sounds, Mobility at Sea aims to provide us and those we care for with amazing experiences, not only on land - but on the waters! They offer different mobility vehicles (from scooters, to power-chairs) and recommendations for cruise trips.
If we're looking for a rare but memorable holiday experience with our loved ones, Princess Cruise offers international cruises from Asia to the Caribbean. They also have a selection of staterooms for wheelchair users.
Trains are also a good alternative to flights - if our chosen destination is not too far from the UK.
Have you tried the Passenger Assistance app?
If taking the train is part of our holiday, we'll most likely have to do a lot of figuring out which places offer special assistance.
With the Passenger Assistance app, we don't have to spend a big bulk of our time looking for and requesting assistance. Whether the person we care for is a wheelchair user or has a hidden disability, in a few clicks, we can request to book assistance for every rail journey we take.
All we have to do is set up a simple profile for the person we care for and fill in a few details, i.e. whether they have a mobility impairment, sensory impairment, or non-visible impairment. Then we can start booking the train tickets through the app!
What has worked for carers? (carers’ tips to booking a holiday)
Carers in the Mobilise Community have kindly shared their top tips of what’s worked for them.
1. Let transport know that you're travelling with a wheelchair
This may sound obvious. As we mentioned earlier, it’s always good to let the airport we’re flying from know about our travel arrangements. This will give them extra time to prepare.
If we’re not travelling by plane, letting our train, ferry, or coach company know in advance means that we’ll have a ramp (for example) ready for us on arrival.
2. Book and make use of the Assistance Lounge
Similar to the ‘Special Assistance’ provided by airports, some airports may have an assistance lounge (a separate space from the public) where we and the person we care for can stay before departure.
Carers suggest it’s worth asking to see if some airports do this (although not all do). This can also apply to any hotels or accommodation we’re staying in.
3. Make sure there is enough medication, medical and personal care items
Make sure we have enough medication, medical and personal care items (such as pads). Not only for when we’re away, but for when we return too.
The last thing we want is to return from holiday and realise we’ve run out of something essential!
In some cases, carrying more medication or personal care items may mean we need extra baggage. Although there is no universal agreement from airlines that these extra fees can be waived for carers, John Morris from Mailbag suggests some solutions that can help us overcome this.
4. Make sure medication is stored at the right temperature
Some of us may be looking after someone who has diabetes which means we need to find a way to safely travel with insulin injections. And what happens when we also need to keep them cool? Here are some tips that have worked for others:
"We can buy isothermal cool bags to keep our diabetic supplies and insulin at the correct temperature"
"Try Frio Cooling products on Amazon. Around £20. I have one and works really well"
"Halfords do a mini cool box that can be plugged into the mains & a car cigarette lighter socket"
"Contact the company you're travelling with and ask if they can supply a fridge in the room"
5. Make use of the Tourist Information available
We can ask the staff at the hotel or even our transportation company. Here are some things to consider:
What times are the first and last trains or buses?
What carer-friendly activities are on?
Where is our closest pharmacy, or hospital?
Are there any accessible toilets and changing place toilets?
Carers also found that travelling outside of the school holiday period for them was better. Restaurants are less likely to be fully booked which means we don't have to worry so much about finding a place to eat. Plus, there should be more room for mobility aids.
But for those of us caring for children, we may be stuck with the peak school holiday time for a few more years. The tip here is to do our best to book ahead, as much as possible. If we’re hitting theme parks and attractions, it’s always worth asking if carers go free, and if they have a queue assist scheme.
6. Radar Keys for Disabled Toilets
This only applies if we’re travelling within the UK. Radar keys are keys for disabled toilets. With 7000 participating in the National Scheme, it’s a convenient way for the person we care for to access toilets throughout the day.
Our guide to planning an accessible staycation has many more great tips on planning a day out for carers.
For those of us in the search for more inspiration to days out, check out our ‘Discounts for carers’ guide to see where carers can go for free!
7. Build a break that suits you
Some carers have shared that they sometimes ‘build the break themselves’ using the accessibility options in booking.com or Airbnb. This is a quick and useful way to tailor the holiday to suit the person we care for’s needs
8. Have a set list of questions as a template
Having a template which lists a set of questions to ask our holiday providers can be helpful.
These can include, how many steps from the door to room are there? Or are there any? Are there any accessible toilets? If it’s a hotel, what are the receptions operating hours?
This standard approach ensures we don’t miss any of the important information when booking our holiday.
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