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A Guide for Traveling With Disabilities

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Antonio R. Renteria
November 6, 2023

I recently completed a cross country road trip with individuals of mixed physical limitations and would like to share some tips and thoughts that may help you, your friends and family also enjoy some time out and about. While some disabilities are apparent or visible, some are not. All of us have aged, and some of us are fighting new battles with chronic illnesses such as Long Covid. This doesn’t mean you need to pass on exciting adventures.

The following are some good tips for all travelers, and especially those with limited mobility: 

Plan Within Your Current Health Parameters

One thing to consider when traveling is your current level of fitness. You don’t go from 2,000 steps a day to 15,000 steps at Disney world without consequences. It’s important to build up your energy and endurance before you head out. It is imperative to remember that you’re not always going to be able to hit your step count or reach every milestone each time you go out for a hike. Making the attempt and moving every day you are traveling will help to build and maintain maintain your endurance, making traveling a much fuller experience by the end of each trip. 

Planning With Friends of All Abilities

Rather than not invite a friend of family member with a chronic illness or disability, ask them what they would like to do or if they would be up for an adventure. Some of us know that uneven terrain or high temperatures are a deal breaker. Be sure to manage your expectations and inform yourselves of other’s needs while sharing your own as well. 

When I plan to go with other people who may or may not have disabilities, I communicate. I have a plan for alternative activities just in case when we arrive, I am not up to hiking, as not to overdo it. I also check in with them about what their needs are. The following links give a rating score and denote wheelchair accessibility to some of the better-known trails in the United States. 



Traveling With Pets

If you have a companion dog (non-ADA trained dog), you will need to call ahead and verify if you can bring your dog to the park. If so, call your vet and make sure your dog is up to date on vaccines, licensed, microchipped and you have their records. 

Always be a good dog steward, pick up after your pet in parks, never bring an unvaccinated puppy or adult dog to a park as they can spread illness and disease to other dogs and wildlife. Always keep your dog on a leash unless signage states otherwise. 

Lastly, always check about water safety including deadly diseases that can be found in local water supplies. 

Bring What You Need to Survive and Thrive

There is no shame in taking care of yourself. Make sure your travel plans have self-care tied in including extra sleep time for strenuous drives and down time to soak it all in.  

Pack foods you love to eat. Bring your camp set up with the food you like especially when you travel outside of your state. Always use bear boxes when provided! 

Plenty of WATER! Always have more water than you need. Always. Life straws or iodine packets work to filter or disinfect natural water: 

Water Filters & Water Purifiers | LifeStraw – LifeStraw Water Filters & Purifiers 

Potable Aqua Iodine Tablets | REI Co-op 

Make sure that you have all your medications for various needs. Speak with your doctor, and make sure you have the things you need.  

Mobility aids: call ahead and verify that walkers or canes are okay on the trails as some trails can have a fragile eco system which can impact flora and fauna. For more on mobility aids please see the following links:


Veloped Trek 12er & 14er | Trionic USA Walkers & Rollators 

Safety first: always check local weather reports, sign up for the emergency alert network where you will be hiking, read up on local cellphone reception, make sure you share your intended and final location prior to your hike including an expected return time.  

All National and State Parks must be ADA Compliant to receive grants, but there are sometimes places within the park that are not. 


Traveling with disabilities can present unique challenges that require careful planning and consideration. Not all destinations are equipped to accommodate all mobility needs. However, through careful planning and greater awareness of accessibility improvements, the hope for an inclusive and enjoyable traveling experience remains strong. Traveling opens a world of possibilities and inspirations, and, while challenges may arise, the joy and fulfillment of reaching those destinations and creating those experiences cannot be measured. 

Author: Antonio R. Renteria has served as the Civil Rights Coordinator and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at the Mendocino County Department of Social Services in January of 2022. Antonio graduated with a master’s degree in public administration from Sonoma State University in 2019, and with a degree in Political Science from the University of Notre Dame, du Lac in 2013. Antonio was born and raised in Mendocino County and takes great pride in returning to serve the very community that gave him so much.

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