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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips. 

Summer is quickly approaching, which means it’s almost road trip season in America! Visiting our National Parks or smaller towns with safety precautions in place is definitely the preferred method these days. And because air and train travel can be challenging for wheelchair users or people with other mobility limitations, many of us in the disability community know how convenient and comfortable road tripping can be. However, there are some things you should keep in mind, plus a few tips and tricks to use before rolling into your car or accessible vehicle for that fabulous wheelchair-friendly getaway.

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Make sure ALL your equipment is road ready

Anyone who uses mobility equipment knows that extra gear is going to be involved. Of course, you want to make sure that your vehicle is in good working order first, whether that’s a regular car or a wheelchair accessible van. Take it to your regular mechanic to get serviced as needed, get the oil changed and the air filter cleaned, and get new wipers if necessary. Also, check the tread on your tires. Most importantly, do a thorough inspection of your mobility equipment. If you’re using a power wheelchair, the last thing you need is for it to break down or have battery issues when you’re far away from home.

Find the sweet spot for time away from home

Everyone with a disability has different physical needs and limits. Before heading away from home for any length of time, you need to do an honest self-assessment of how much your body can handle. Even though you’re technically not doing anything, sitting in the same position inside a car for a long period of time can be physically exhausting. Not sleeping in your own bed for several nights can also be uncomfortable, or even painful for certain people. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of traveling to ensure you make the most of your trip.

Choose your stops based on accessibility

One of the great things about road tripping in the United States is that we have the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Attractions in major cities and even small towns are generally compliant with the ADA because they want as many people as possible to visit and see what they have to offer all travelers. A good way to learn about what different destinations have done to increase their accessibility is to check out the TravelAbility site, where various tourism bureaus link to accessibility resources and information about their destinations.

However, if you’re visiting a more rugged place like a state or National Park, you may want to do some research online beforehand to see if there are any wheelchair accessible trails to explore. Resources like podcasts and blogs are good starting point; for example, Explorable, a podcast about travel, disability and inclusion, has an upcoming episode with the head of accessibility of the National Park Service.

Choose your hotel stay based on accessibility

When you book your overnight stays, be sure to seek out properties that offer the room features that you’ll need. Travel sites like Orbitz let you filter hotels for features like accessible bathrooms, roll-in showers and in-room accessibility.

ALSO: Before you head out, be sure to join Orbitz Rewards for extra rewards and perks!

Plan your route with comfort in mind

One rule of thumb to always follow when planning long road trips is to keep daily drives to five hours or less. Also throw in days along the way with nothing planned and use that time to just relax. You may be on a tight budget, but you can think about splurging for a night or two on your relaxation days so you can enjoy a more comfortable room, the pool, or the hotel restaurants and shops.

Start a packing list early

Many people are last minute packers, but you definitely don’t want to procrastinate when it comes to packing for a road trip as a wheelchair user. Of course, you want to remember your basics like clothes, socks, underwear, and toiletries. But you also want to remember chargers for your mobility equipment and electronic devices. It’s important to bring an emergency kit, as well as all your vitamins and prescription medications. You may even want to invest in a vehicle battery charging pack so you don’t have to pull someone over to jump-start your car in case your battery dies. You also want to start thinking about snacks and drinks to bring in the car, and maybe even a cooler. If you travel with kids, definitely start thinking about what will keep them entertained for hours at a time.

Leave room for the unexpected

Part of the fun and adventure of road trips is finding unexpected cool places to stop and visit along the way to your planned destinations. However, the longer your trip, the more unexpected things can happen that you’re not excited about, like bad weather, illness, or car trouble. Heavy rain or snow can affect your drive time, so make sure you check the weather and adjust your schedule or your route accordingly. Bring some basic repair items with you for both your vehicle and your mobility equipment, like wrenches, zip ties, bungee cords, and duct tape. But most importantly, have a flexible attitude that will allow you to roll with the punches as you roll down America’s highways!

Tagged: Feature

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Sylvia Longmire

Sylvia Longmire

Sylvia is an award-winning accessible travel writer, and has visited 48 countries in her power wheelchair – 34 of those solo. Her solo wheelchair travel memoir, What Happened to You?, Will be available on Amazon and Apple books on May 25, and you can read her accessible travel advice and adventures on her blog,
Sylvia Longmire

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