Staying in Hotels as a Wheelchair User

In my September blog, I talked about some tips I try to follow when I travel with my motorized wheelchair. In this blog, I want to talk about lodging. There are challenges when you want to go somewhere new. If I visited a hotel or a certain area that I feel comfortable with in terms of accessibility, I become a repeat customer because it’s somewhere that I feel comfortable. I won’t have to worry about being “that guy in the chair.” Sometimes, you just want to go somewhere new and create new experiences. It’s a good thing that your disability does not get in the way of creating a new experience or traveling to a new place.

I remember a few years ago, my buddies and I took a trip to Cancun. The resort said that they were motorized wheelchair accessible and that they didn’t have stairs. When we arrived, it was the complete opposite. There were stairs to get into the main lobby and you had to go up four steps to get into our villa. It completely ruined my trip. That trip was the turning point for me. I knew if I wanted to travel to any new location, I must put the time and effort into researching any location before visiting. So, here’s some tips before you take your next trip.

Do Your Research Before Visiting

Planning is a huge factor in your trip being a success. If you are visiting a new area or take a vacation in a new place, preparation and researching can have a profound impact on how your trip goes, not just for you but for the other people who vacation with you. I cannot stress enough the amount of time you should spend doing research before you go anyplace new. Typically, everybody has access to the Internet and if you don’t, you can visit your local library and do research.

Look at Reviews and Photos

Check out restaurants in the area where you want to visit.

Once you find a place that you want to visit, check out some websites. Any travel website that you use to book a hotel has photos and reviews from previous travelers. Although a majority of these reviews are probably from able-bodied people, they are still helpful because there might be little hints in the reviews that can shed light on how ADA friendly a certain area can be. Make sure that you look at the user submitted photos and videos. Every hotel and travel website has pictures that are professionally taken. Unfortunately, pictures can be deceiving.

The user submitted photos are a great way to understand the layout of the hotel or the town. If you are reading user reviews and they mention local restaurants, write down the names of those restaurants and after you’re done reviewing all of the pictures of the hotel, do Google searches for the names of the restaurants. Use Google Maps to see how far they are away from the hotel. Can you walk from the hotel to the restaurant or do you need a vehicle?

Planning Accessible Activities

Figure out how many activities or things you can do in your power wheelchair that are also close to your hotel. If you are at an all-inclusive resort and the resort is accessible, you probably won’t need to leave the resort. Your food, drinks and lodging are all included and under one roof. If an all-inclusive resort isn’t your thing, you’ll need to figure how you can travel to and participate in activities.

Check Out Wheelchair Travel Websites

Another helpful tip: there are a few travel websites dedicated to individuals that travel with disabilities. Research these travel companies for people with disabilities and see if it’s something you can do. You may not want to book with them because of the cost. I get it. Still, you can see the places that they recommend that are motorized wheelchair accessible and wheelchair friendly. There is an accessible travel agency online that books cruises all over the world and 100 percent of their clients are disabled. They cater to accommodations on the ship and can book the on-shore excursions that you can participate in in your wheelchair. I know a few people that have use this company and it really made their trip go smoothly.

white united airlines plane
Photo by Pascal Renet on

If you have friends or people that you know who use wheelchairs, feel free to reach out and ask them where they take their vacations and what their experiences were at those places. If you know older individuals who are retired, they probably travel a lot. My aunts and uncles have recommended some really great hotels for me to stay at when visiting certain areas, especially where I can drive my power wheelchair right out of the hotel and explore restaurants and shops.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that some cities and travel destinations and hotel areas are more wheelchair accessible than others. Let’s face it: ADA accommodations have come a long way but still aren’t perfect. Make sure you do your research when traveling to a new location and staying at a hotel.

About Josh McDermott: Josh is a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab®. He is a public speaker and has served as a goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Josh lives in New York and loves to travel. Click hereto learn more about Josh.

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