The following travel tips can help people with restricted mobility reduce their travel stress and successfully navigate accessibility issues associated with accommodations and transport.


Traveling during the holiday months of November and December – the busiest of the year – can be stressful for anyone, but is especially stressful for people with limited mobility. Last year, AAA projected that 54.3 million Americans would travel over Thanksgiving and a record-breaking 112 million during the year-end holiday season. This year could see even more holiday travelers. With the prime holiday travel season quickly approaching, there is a benefit to preparing and planning in advance for accessibility to ensure a smooth trip. The following travel tips can help people with restricted mobility reduce their travel stress and successfully navigate accessibility issues associated with accommodations and transport.


Whether a holiday traveler's plans include a vacation destination or a cruise, it is important to research accessibility and mobility assistance before booking accommodations. Not every hotel, Airbnb or other type of accommodation is wheelchair and scooter accessible. Travelers should do their homework before booking accommodations to ensure in-room accessibility. Online sites like Expedia, and Airbnb are beginning to address the concerns of people with mobility restrictions, with specific filters and options to help travelers determine the accessibility of hotel rooms, cruise cabins or houses. Travelers booking directly with the hotel or cruise line – or with an online booking engine – should take the time to speak to a hotel or cruise representative to ensure accommodations meet their accessibility needs. It is a good idea to research the availability of ramps, elevators, handicapped parking and other accessibility features. It is also important to ask questions to determine whether or not the room has an accessible shower, storage space for a scooter or wheelchair, grab bars around the toilet and shower, the option for a shower chair and the availability of accessible rooms on the first floor.


Airline travel poses challenges to people with limited mobility including maneuvering through crowded airports, enduring long waits at security checkpoints and dealing with baggage restrictions. When booking a flight, travelers should let the airline know that they need assistance and should do this again when checking in for their flight. If traveling with a manual wheelchair, electric wheelchair or scooter, travelers should ask for their mobility device to be gate checked. This will allow the passenger to use the device right up to the plane's door before being transferred to an aisle chair. When gate checking their wheelchair, travelers should remove leg supports and cushions and bring them on the plane with them, so they don't get lost in transit.

When planning a flight itinerary, travelers with mobility issues should leave plenty of time between connecting flights to avoid rushing through crowded airports to make the next flight or missing the flight altogether.

Travelers with limited mobility should also consider renting a wheelchair or scooter at their destination to avoid the very real likelihood of damage to their mobility device in transit. "Between January and August— the latest month for which data is available — U.S. carriers reported having mishandled at least 6,915 chairs. That's an average of 29 times a day." This number is likely even higher as many passengers don't report damaged mobility devices to airlines or the damage is not immediately apparent.

Renting a mobility device can save travelers time and stress. If a traveler is going to need a wheelchair or scooter for their entire stay, it may make sense to rent a mobility device for the duration of their trip. Many companies make it easy and convenient to rent a mobility device, delivering the device directly to the traveler at their place of accommodation.


Train travel comes with its own issues for people with mobility challenges. Trains are known for confined spaces and limited room, making it important for travelers with restricted mobility to plan ahead to ensure an enjoyable trip.

Train travel comes with its own issues for people with mobility challenges. Trains are known for confined spaces and limited room, making it important for travelers with restricted mobility to plan ahead to ensure an enjoyable trip.

Travelers should try to select the carrier that offers the most services tailored to their mobility needs. Some carriers offer a complete list of services – from boarding assistance to accessible sleeper cars – while others may offer only a few retrofitted cars with wheelchair tie-downs. It is a good idea to ask questions ahead of time so that travelers with restricted mobility have a complete understanding of accessibility options before making a final booking.

In particular, travelers should ask if their train car has doorways that are wide enough to permit access while seated in their wheelchair or scooter. Ideally, their room should have enough space to maneuver the mobility device on both sides of the door. The best accessible rooms have door handles, latches and other switches mounted at a height that permits travelers to use them while seated in their wheelchair or scooter. Train car restrooms should also be large enough to accommodate the traveler and their wheelchair along with an escort or attendant. If such a car is not offered, the restroom should at least be accessible to the traveler and their mobility device.

Travelers who have additional needs that require the services of an escort should ask their carrier about special rates and allowances. For example, some carriers require that escorts assist their travelers in boarding, disembarking and moving about the train -- regardless of whether the carrier offers special boarding assistance. This is of particular importance if the traveler's escort is elderly or unable to assist in this manner.

In all cases, travelers with mobility issues requiring the assistance of an escort should be prepared to present valid documentation that supports the need for an escort (typically, a medical certificate, doctor's note or an ID card issued by a qualified organization). This requirement ensures that only travelers with the legitimate need of an escort are able to take advantage of this service. Travelers should also ask their carrier if the departure and arrival stations are equipped with high-level platforms or wheelchair lifts, which will make boarding and exiting much easier.

Most carriers will do their best to accommodate special needs passengers and the extra luggage they may require, allowing travelers with limited mobility to check their scooter, wheelchair or powerchair at no extra cost. It is a good idea to talk with the carrier in advance about additional luggage requirements which will allow them to be more prepared and to make the boarding process as quick and pleasant as possible. Travelers making the decision to check their mobility vehicle should ensure they have made arrangements to rent a mobility device for stops along the way.


Buses are a lower cost travel option that can get a traveler to their destination for a fraction of the cost of flying or even taking a train. Because of this, buses are an excellent option for visiting friends or family over the holidays but can also bring challenges, especially for long-distance routes for those with mobility devices.

The first thing travelers will need to do before taking a bus trip is to research the bus company and their desired route. When booking a trip, travelers should let the bus company know they will be traveling with a mobility device and if they will be sitting in the wheelchair or scooter during the trip. Buses equipped with wheelchair lifts may have maximum weight and size limitations for wheelchair or mobility scooters and travelers should be sure to check this before booking. Travelers should also arrive early to allow the bus company to store their mobility device in the baggage compartment. Be sure to ask a customer service representative for a claim check.


New technology in the form of Intelligent Personal Electric Vehicles (EVs) can also help people with limited mobility travel with more ease and independence this holiday season. Travelers considering renting a mobility device can rent these Personal EVs, which come equipped with an all-wheel drive system for maneuverability and easy transportability features to help make travel seamless in areas with heavy traffic flow like airports and theme parks.

Future holiday travelers with limited mobility may also be able to take advantage of new assistive technology in the form of autonomous wheelchairs. For example, WHILL, a manufacturer of Personal EVs, is currently conducting trials of autonomous wheelchairs in airports around the world. This service will allow passengers with restricted mobility to navigate more easily through the airport, providing additional independence and minimizing the need for assistance from a family member, friend or staff.

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is another innovation that is making holiday travel more seamless for people with restricted mobility. MaaS is defined as the integration of various forms of transport services into a single mobility service accessible on demand. MaaS providers and platforms are on the rise in cities across the world and include platforms being created for people who require mobility assistance. Holiday travelers with restricted mobility can use these platforms to access worldwide rental, repair and mobility management services to help them travel seamlessly from their origin to final destination – whether that be at the airport, at their hotel, resort, or most anywhere else. While travel, especially holiday travel, presents its own unique stresses and challenges to people with limited mobility, following the tips outlined above can help make holiday trips as stress free, seamless and enjoyable as possible.•


Kerry Renaud is CEO and Managing Director of Scootaround — a personal transportation solutions company. With a goal of seamless travel experience for anyone with reduced mobility, Scootaround joined forces with WHILL — makers of the cuttingedge Model Ci and Model A Intelligent Personal Electric Vehicles (EVs) — to help improve the current mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) model and to evolve personal mobility and transportation.