By Jon at Reduce My Excess,
10 November 2023
6 mins read
Travelling within the UK or further afield on holiday takes a little extra planning if you have a disability.
It’s important to consider travel accessibility if you need to factor in a wheelchair, guide dog or adapted hire car.
Fortunately we have gathered everything you need to know about disability travel in the UK and Europe, hopefully making it easier for you to plan your staycation or European getaway.
What travel accessibility options are out there?
If you would like assistance for an upcoming flight, GOV.UK recommends letting your airline know at least 48 hours in advance.
To manage the distance between check in and departure at the airport, transportation options are available.
Those with less visible disabilities such as autism or dementia can also request assistance, such as fast track boarding.
You are able to get assistance for your journey through the airport, onto and off the plane, onto a connecting flight (if applicable) and out of your destination airport.
Can guide dogs go on planes?
The good news is that guide dogs or assistance dogs are generally allowed on planes. You will need to let the operator know at least 48 hours ahead of time.
According to Guide Dogs UK, airlines may ask for evidence that your dog has been trained by a recognised organisation.
You will be given a Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM) agent who will escort you through the airport and assist you with boarding the plane.
They will meet you at an agreed location and there will be an opportunity for your animal to relieve itself before boarding.
The agent may run through checks to ensure you have the right paperwork for your dog to travel abroad and return to the UK.
Floor space is typically provided in an adjoining seat or similar. Options can differ per airline, so it’s worth speaking with the operator ahead of time and potentially comparing airlines to get the best setup for your needs.
If you’re planning on hiring a car in France, Germany or further afield, checking for information such as local drink driving laws may not be your only consideration.
For those with a disability, car hire in the UK and Europe is very doable. Hire car companies can provide adjusted vehicles to accommodate disabilities.
As with airports, it’s recommended to request these changes ahead of time. These adjustments can include:
- Foot pedal extension
- Indicator extension
- Steering ball
- Portable hand control for throttle and brake
- Assisted handbrake release
There are also wheelchair accessible vehicles available for hire, which can be fitted with features such as external or internal mechanical lifts, handrails, floor tracking and high visibility seatbelts.
Before you drive your car away, be sure to check for signs of any issues to avoid scenarios such as being forced to jump start a vehicle in the middle of nowhere.
Don’t forget extras like car hire excess insurance, which can save you £100s.
When travelling by train in the UK, you will be able to get a third off rail tickets with a disabled person’s railcard if you are eligible.
You can request a copy of the Accessible Travel Policy, or ATP, which your chosen train company follows.
There will generally be space for wheelchairs on mainline trains - those which travel within cities, in suburban areas and cross-country.
You can give National Rail advance notice if you believe you will need assistance from staff.
It’s also advisable to check if your departure and arrival stations have accessible facilities. You can do this via the National Rail website.
Trains in Europe have a similar setup – there will generally be space for your wheelchair. Speak with the operator ahead of your holiday to get all the necessary information.
Taking a coach on holiday within the UK or further afield is a great way to avoid driving. Fortunately there are options out there for people with disabilities.
National Express offers a Disabled Coachcard which allows people to save a third on travel, and coaches are accessible for wheelchair users.
Similarly, Megabus will provide wheelchair space on their services – just be sure to request this at least 36 hours in advance.
You can also book special coach tours designed specifically for disabled people; these can be found online with a quick Google search.
When you are travelling by coach in the EU, the rules are similar – there will generally be accessible transport available, but it’s advised to speak with the operator in advance.
Cruise and ferry
You may want to take a ferry across the Channel or enjoy a cruise. As part of your planning, it’s advised to let the operator or travel agent know about your disability when you’re booking.
They will need to ensure assistance is available for when you board and leave the ship.
When you arrive for the trip, you will be helped with getting on board, stowing away your luggage and getting set up in your cabin or seating area.
You will be able to bring an assistance or guide dog, subject to safety conditions and any applicable rules for the places you are travelling to that relate to the movement of animals.
Bear in mind that your dog will need to meet animal health requirements, and you may be asked to provide proof of appropriate training.
Disability travel in Europe by ferry tends to operate with similar guidelines. Talk with your operator ahead of time to arrange an accessibility plan.
About the author
Jon spent years travelling Europe and Asia before settling down in the UK when he met his wife.
He’s hired cars across the globe and is passionate about helping people save money with excess insurance.
Since co-founding Reduce My Excess, Jon has found that he can use the knowledge he picked up from his travels by sharing it in online guides and articles.
He hopes to save people from making the mistakes he learnt from over the years by giving them the travel information they need before they head off on their holidays.