However you book – in a shop, via a website or call centre – and whoever you book with – direct with a tour operator, airline or cruise company – the booking process should be accessible. Your travel organiser should be able to provide information in large print or braille, on disk or memory stick, on audio file, or simply by email.
A key point when booking is to pre-notify your travel company of your needs (preferably at the point of sale, and no later than 48 hours before you travel). Pre-notification is vital because without it you have no legal guarantee that you’ll get the assistance you need on your journey.
You can download and use our Checklist for Disabled and Less Mobile Passengers. Or ask the ABTA Member to use it when you’re booking. Pre-notification info includes details of any mobility or other equipment you may wish to take, and whether you travel with a companion or you need assistance on the journey.
See the journey for information about travelling with assistance dogs and mobility equipment.
Remember, if you have a permanent and stable disability you do not require medical clearance to travel. However, some airlines and cruise companies may ask for medical clearance and may want assurance that you can attend to personal needs, such as feeding yourself onboard, or using the toilet. Crew onboard are not required to provide this type of assistance.
You and your doctor may need to complete a Medical Information Form (MEDIF), valid for one trip and only for the travel arrangements shown on your ticket. Frequent travellers with a stable condition may be able to obtain a Frequent Travellers’ Medical Card (FREMEC) – a permanent record of your specific needs.
- Pre-notify your assistance requirements at the point of sale, and no later than 48 hours in advance if travelling by air or sea. If you are taking your own wheelchair or an assistance dog there may be limitations on what can be carried on the aircraft.
- Are you travelling with a companion or will you need the airline, cruise company, hotel etc to provide extra support?
- Try to pre-book a seat on your chosen transport – check the terms and costs of pre-booking. Find out about toilet accessibility and special dietary requirements.
- People with a permanent and stable disability should not be asked for medical clearance to prove they need assistance.
- When pre-booking assistance, look for freephone numbers or call back options. You must not be charged for this service. Check with your travel company as to whether you will be charged for pre-booking a seat.
- Explain your needs clearly. You can download and use our Checklist for Disabled and Less Mobile Passengers. Or ask the ABTA member to use it when you’re booking.
- Ask your agent, tour operator or transport provider for written confirmation that your pre-notification of assistance has been recorded (by invoice, itinerary, e-ticket, online boarding pass, email or letter).
When you’re selecting accommodation to meet your needs, be as specific as you can at the time of booking. You can use our Checklist for Disabled and Less Mobile Passengers or include information on the travel provider’s own booking forms.
This information is important because you need to find out if the accessibility of your room and accommodation facilities will form part of your booking contract, not just ‘on request’ – which means they may not be provided. Check with your travel provider as to what can be guaranteed when you book.
Your travel agent or tour operator can advise on accommodation details, as can the hotel, resort or cruise company direct. Think about the accessibility of your room, public areas, bars, swimming pools etc., besides how close the resort is to local shopping and entertainment, and the accessibility of various excursions.
- For wheelchair access, check that all main areas of the hotel, resort or ship are step-free, and that lifts serve all the floors you’ll need to reach. Are lifts are big enough to transport your wheelchair or other equipment?
- If you need medical equipment, such as back rests, bathing equipment, special mattresses etc, this can sometimes be hired locally. Local disability groups may be able to advise.
- Check the dimensions of your room and whether the bathroom has facilities like roll-in showers and grab-bars.
- Ask if the hotel, resort or ship can meet your dietary requirements.
- Ask for written confirmation that your requests have been noted.
It’s wise to plan your needs for getting around in your destination. If a transfer is included in your holiday booking, check with the travel agent or travel provider that the transport will meet your assistance needs.
Adapted cars are available for hire in many countries. Inform the car hire company of your requirements and always make sure you know the licence and insurance requirements, driving laws and driving conditions of the country you're visiting.
If you’re booking a taxi, book well in advance and stress your needs.
- The Blue Badge Scheme operates throughout the EU.
- Check the level of car hire insurance offered – you may feel it's a good idea to extend the insurance.
- For the visually impaired, Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has produced a sign to help hail taxis.
- Be aware that in many places accessible vehicles may not be available.
Insurance can protect you if you have to cancel your travel arrangements, so make sure you’re fully covered – for all the activities you may try – when you book. In many countries the cost of medical treatment in the event of illness or accident can be high, so it's essential that you take out a full travel insurance policy.
Things to check in the cover: medical and repatriation expenses; cancellation or delays; luggage and equipment; personal injury as a result of terrorist activity; personal liability to others; legal costs.
When you declare a medical condition you generally have to undergo medical screening, for instance calling a medical helpline to give details of your condition, or asking your doctor to complete a questionnaire or declaration of fitness to travel. Alternatively, you may sign a declaration stating that: you aren't travelling against doctor’s orders; you do not have a terminal prognosis; you haven't received in-patient treatment in the last six months; you aren't awaiting treatment or travelling in order to obtain treatment.
Most insurance suppliers will provide cover and offer specific policies for travellers with disabilities, or for older travellers. Shop around, and always check the small print.
- Some standard policies are inadequate for people travelling with mobility equipment such as wheelchairs. Check if these items are covered under your household policy.
- Anyone travelling within the European Economic Area or Switzerland should also get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). You can apply for an EHIC online, or at the Post Office.
- Make sure your insurance is up to date, valid for the entire trip and covers everyone who's travelling.
- Look carefully at policy exemptions, including any relating to drugs or pre-existing medical conditions.
- If you have a serious condition or a mental health problem, your best option may be to seek cover from specialist insurers.
- Know your rights under the Equality Act 2010 and any corresponding obligations of the insurer. If you feel you've been discriminated against within the meaning of the act, raise this with the insurer.