Accessible Travel Planning

Just because you use a wheelchair doesn't mean you're limited to staying at home. YES, you can travel! Sure, there will be limitations but there are still many places and new things to experience. The fear of the unknown and how to get started can be a hurdle for some. I realize it can be intimidating when you start thinking about traveling in a wheelchair, especially a power chair, but it is possible! So, start thinking where do I want to go?

Zack Helicopter

Planning a vacation takes effort, I find doing it in stages makes it easier and I enjoy the process because it makes me feel excited about the future upcoming trip. When I first traveled with Zack, my then 16-year-old quadriplegic son, it was simple to prove we could do it. We flew from California to Colorado with a layover. I do recommend a straight flight if one is available, depending on the length of the flight sometimes that break is helpful. After we saw that travel was possible, I surprised Zack with a trip to the Aloha state. We have since been to Hawaii 3x’s the islands Honolulu, Kauai & Maui have proven to be pretty wheelchair accessible.

How to Start: Where, Research, Dates, Flights, Hotel, Transportation & Activities

Pick a spot and do some research about the place. Check the weather for the time of year you want to visit, look up things to do there, what they are known for.

Find flexible dates that work and start playing around with those dates while looking up flights and hotels, before you request time off work, making sure those dates all match up. You will need an aisle seat.

Flight options

So far, the different airlines we have used have been helpful. You will be the first to board and the last to exit the plane. Employees bring out a small transfer isle chair and you will need to be lifted to that chair from your wheelchair. Employees are willing to help with this transfer. They then roll you to the airplane seat (aisle chair is the easiest). We find it helpful to bring the cushion from wheelchair, and put it on the airplane seat, just be mindful if it is an air type cushion (example Roho brand) as it will inflate from the altitude. We combat this by letting a small amount of air out before. We tried a gel filled cushion on our last trip and worked fine.

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Hotel accommodations

Roll in shower for us is a must have. I confirm with the hotel this request before I book and double check closer to our arrival date.

Van rental

There are wheelchair accessible van rentals, we have had several different ones, and all have worked for us. We also rented a Hoyer lift and they delivered it ahead of time. We own a travel commode chair, but these can be rented as well. Look up local medical supplies companies that rent medical equipment.


Zack is a foody so new places to eat are fun entertainment for him. A lot of beaches have optional accessible beach chairs if you can be transferred, Zack usually is okay with finding lookouts or island driving tours for example. He has done helicopter tours, small plane tours and sky diving! Yes, all after injury as a C-4 quadriplegic.

Try an overnight or weekend road trip, getting out of town, into nature or touring a new city can be an adventure. Start planning that vacation, where have you wanted to go? It all starts with a thought…

About the Author - Amber Collie

My life has had many parts, I could write a book just on that section but let's fast forward to when I married Adron Collie. Two weeks after turning 20 (yes, very young!) I had Zackery at age 22, Levi at 24, six years later Kaden, and 18 months after that daughter Laila, making me a busy mother of four. At that time, I also ran a photography business. The year Zack was injured, I had a child in preschool, elementary, junior high and high school. Four kids in four schools! I thought I was so busy, just getting their drop off and pick up times correct was a challenge. I have to laugh now thinking back on that because little did I know my life was just about to turn upside down.

Amber Collie

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.