If we count ourselves among people who don’t have major health concerns, we likely take much of our daily lives for granted. Simple activities, like heading to the store for a quick shopping trip, getting dressed in the morning, or taking a stroll through your neighborhood park, can be accomplished without a second thought for most of us. For those living with serious health issues, however, these tasks can be difficult without assistance, and in some cases, impossible. Traveling with a brain or mental health disorder can be even more challenging. To have a successful trip, it’s necessary to begin planning well in advance of departure.

The need for adaptive transportation, wheelchair access, and being able to bring the proper nutrition, medications, as well as the cost to include caregivers or family members, can make traveling with a disorder or disability infinitely more difficult. That isn’t to say that a fun vacation or a productive business trip can’t be made while living with a brain disorder. Below we’ll discuss some of the resources, travel tips, and accommodations in lodging and hospitality-type destinations that can help make a trip or vacation more fulfilling for those living with a brain disorder.

Traveling With a Brain Disorder – Planning Well in Advance

Traveling with a brain disorder or any type of disability comes with its own unique challenges. No matter the length of your travel, make sure to research the travel regulations and requirements for airlines, buses, private transportation, and lodging wherever you’re going. The best place to start is by planning out exactly where you or your loved one wishes to travel.  Then, determine what types of local activities and sites you want to include in your itinerary. 

Traveling With A Disability 

Mapping out your schedule and destinations, and knowing exactly where you’re going ahead of time can help with research and accessibility planning. Two great resources to begin your planning are the U.S. Department of State’s website and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website. There you’ll find information regarding considerations for those with disabilities traveling within the United States. Unfortunately, these laws and regulations are limited to the United States alone, so if your travel itinerary includes overseas destinations it’s best to thoroughly research Accessibility Acts in those countries.

The American’s With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all businesses, public transportation, and community facilities to adhere to certain regulations to make them more accessible for those living with disabilities. Regulations include wheelchair ramp accessibility, counter height, assistive devices for the hearing or visually impaired, bathroom access, service animal accessibility, and the right to freedom from discrimination in places of employment, businesses, and public spaces. While some countries have their own protections for accessibility, travel outside the U.S. can be very different when it comes to your rights.

There are travel agencies out there specializing in assisting persons with disabilities, or those living with chronic illnesses. These agencies specialize in helping travelers find accommodations and transportation that are accessible to their specific needs. These types of agencies can take much of the stress out of doing your own research, and if they don’t know the answer, they’ll track it down for you.

Making the Trip Easier – Packing and Sticking to Normal Routines

Once the trip is planned, it’s time to navigate the day-to-day details. It may be best to attempt to stay as close to a home routine as possible. Maintaining eating and sleeping times and planning daily activities on par with the schedule you have at home can help keep some normalcy during the trip. Vacations are exciting and it can be easy to become fatigued and overtired. 

Having a medical checklist for your trip is one way to stay organized during your travels. In the event that medical assistance is needed, it’s a good idea to keep paperwork regarding care, medications, or information for a medical team on hand, whether you’re traveling alone or with others. Check with your insurance provider to confirm your plan includes international coverage, and make sure to bring enough medication for the length of your trip, plus a few weeks extra in case your return is delayed.

traveling with a disability

If you’re booking your accommodations and travel alone, be sure to ask lots of questions before confirming reservations. If a hotel or business is not ADA compliant, calling ahead to ask about wheelchair clearance or assistive devices can help determine whether that stop should be included in your trip. Another great tip for travelers with a brain disorder: take advantage of discounts offered for individuals traveling with a companion or caregiver wherever possible. These discounts typically require proof of a disability, so make sure to include this with your medical information for your trip..

Museums, amusement parks, zoos, and historical sites may not have full ADA, or persons with disabilities, accommodations. While some businesses and facilities may not be able to accommodate your specific needs, there are thousands of amazing adventures and opportunities out there that can. 

No matter where you’re traveling, or for what reason, we hope your trip is wonderful and you are able to take in as many of the amazing sites as there are hours in the day. 

The United Brain Association’s mission is to help fund the most promising research projects aimed at finding better treatments and cures for brain disease and mental health disorders around the world. With your help, we can make a difference together. To learn how you can donate to help change lives, please visit our donation page here.

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