Is it really possible to travel on a budget when you use a wheelchair, cane or walker? Can disabled travelers find those same great travel bargains that are available to their able-bodied counterparts?
The answer is a qualified yes. The deals are out there, if you know where to look. The good news is, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to hit the road if you need accessible services. With that in mind, here are a few money-saving tips to help you stretch your travel dollars.
· Many budget properties offer excellent access, so seek them out whenever possible. For example, Microtel gets consistently high marks for access, as all of their properties are constructed from the ground up with access in mind.
· Consider staying in a hostel to trim your lodging costs. Although previously only an option for young travelers and backpackers, today hostels welcome everyone. Many hostels are wheelchair-accessible, and some even have private rooms.
· For a zero cost lodging bill, consider a home exchange. Although most home exchange services don’t specifically list accessible homes, the Institute on Independent Living in Stockholm has a great message board filled with accessible home exchange options (www.independentliving.org/vacex/index.html). Best of all, it’s free!
· The YMCA is another budget lodging option that’s often overlooked by disabled travelers. Most Ys have swimming pools and some even have weight rooms; and many offer excellent access.
· When flying in the US, save your taxi fare and choose a hotel that offers free airport transportation. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, if a hotel has a free shuttle service, they must also provide accessible transfers at no charge, even if they have to contract out the service.
· Most major museums have good wheelchair-access, while many offer special free days every week or month. Check the museum website for information about their free days, and then adjust your schedule accordingly.
· Many college campuses also boast top notch museums, which offer free admission. Most of these are wheelchair-accessible because they are on campus. Contact the college visitors center to see what they have to offer.
· Enjoy the great outdoors, with the America the Beautiful Access Pass, from the National Park Service. This free lifetime pass is available to anyone with a disability. It provides free admission to all national parks and national monuments, and offers a 50% discount at all national park campgrounds. It’s available at any national park entrance.
· Be on the lookout for free cell phone and MP3 tours. You can take these tours at your own pace, and most cover downtown areas that are largely accessible. Many Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) have them available as a free download on their websites.
· Many factories offer free or low cost tours with lots of samples and other fun freebies. A good resource for searching out accessible factory tours is Watch It Made In The USA, by Karen Axelrod and Bruce Brumberg. This detailed volume contains information on over 300 factory tours across the US.
· Last but not least, don’t forget about cruising, as it’s a very accessible vacation choice. To save a little money, get a group of friends together and book as a group. In most cases, you’ll get one free berth for the first eight cabins you book, and a full cabin for the next eight. You can take the free cabin yourself as the group leader, or sell it and pass along the savings to the entire group.