Today I’m going to be deviating from the usual topics of beauty, lifestyle and fashion and instead talking all things disability. Specifically, I’m going to be talking travel and sightseeing as a disabled person.
I love to travel, I love seeing new places, meeting different people and having memories to look back on in years to come. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling in my life with friends, family, independently and in groups. I’ve traveled with and without a guide dog, planes, boats, trains, coaches and countless buses. I’ve had the goods and the bads.
In my life I’ve been to many places both in the UK and abroad. I’ve been to Italy, France, Switzerland, Greece and Turkey; to places here in the UK like Cardiff, Bath, Edinburgh, Cornwall, Northumberland and all along the Southern Coast. Admittedly I’ve not done as much international travel as I’d like as I’m still trying to get my head around the process of traveling with a guide dog. But, there’s time for me to work up to that.
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I’m so excited to be spending the weekend at @thehogsheadinn in Alnwick, Northumberland. I was very kindly invited to spend the weekend by @theinncollectiongroup as the company are committed to ensuring their establishments are disabled friendly and accessible. The hotel staff are so lovely and the rooms are warm, inviting and so cosy. It’s so lovely to be working with a hotel that care about their disabled customers and want to make their visit enjoyable. I also spotted that they have a Strawberry Daiquiri on the cocktail menu! 🍹 the inn is situated in Alnwick not too far from Alnwick Castle. It’s s very peaceful place. The Inn is also dog friendly and has a children’s playing area. Tonight me and my mum are going to sample their food (and cocktails) and have an early night before our excursions tomorrow. Stay Tuned! . . . Picture description: An image of Emily and guide dog Unity standing outside The Hogs Head Inn. . . . #alnwick #hogsheadinn #travel #hotel #accessibility #wanderlust #northumberland #disability #bloggerlife #funtimes #holiday #weekend #getaway #england
But today I wanted to share some of my top tips for traveling when you have a disability.
Know What Your Entitled To
Being disabled and traveling can be expensive, especially if you have to pay extra to have a companion accompany with you or for things like taxis if public transport is accessible. And let’s not even talk about travel insurance! So saving money can be key.
Always be sure to check to see if you can get any concessionary rates that you are entitled to as a disabled person. Make a list of places you’d like to visit and check to see what they offer. Most places will offer things like concessionary discount and/or a free companion if you need one. You might also be able to get discount on things like trains, coaches and buses, this will depend on where you are going. But, for example in the UK if you have a Disabled Person’s Railcard you can get a 1/3 off your ticket for yourself and for a companion when you book train tickets.
It’s also worth pointing out that some establishments like hotels and taxis may not be aware of the law surrounding guide dogs and assistance dogs and therefore attempt to charge you extra for your dog. If this does happen be sure to inform them that your dog is not a pet dog and that therefore you are not required to pay extra to bring your assistance dog with you.
For more advice and information on this check out the Guide Dogs Campaigns Access All Areas webpage .
If you are thinking of going to an area you have never been to before it is always a good idea to research the local area and attractions to find out how accessible they are and what they offer for their disabled visitors. Check out the accessibility page, read reviews on places like TripAdvisor and ask on forums to find out people’s honest opinion on what they thought.
Accessible Travel Companies
If you want to go on trips as a disabled traveler there are lots of companies out there who are dedicated to making travel accessible and inclusive. I myself have been on two trips with Victa Children which were both fantastic experiences. Victa is a charity aimed at empowering visually impaired young people and they also have many trips and activities throughout the year. There are also organisations like Seeable who tailor make holidays for people with disabilities.
Book in Advance
One thing that being a disabled traveler has taught me is that early planning and booking is essential. If you require travel assistance a lot of places require a minimum of 24 hours notice to book your assistance like train stations and airports. So, don’t leave anything till the last-minute, be sure that you book everything as early as possible and that you set yourself an itinerary of things you are doing, travel times and any other relevant information you might need.
Have all your Documentation
If you are traveling and you have disclosed you have a disability there might be some occasions where establishments need to see proof of your disability. For example, when I was flying to Scotland the airline company asked to see my guide dog’s identification card. Or if you are going into an attraction they might ask for proof of your disability if you are paying for a concessionary rate or having a free pass for a person accompanying you otherwise known as a “carer”. Not always, but there are times where you may be asked for it. So always have them readily available in case they are required to be presented. If in doubt check the website guidelines for what you might need and keep them in a folder or a document holder.
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Day One in Edinburgh: Edinburgh truly does have some incredible views. It’s a city surrounded by hills and mountains and is part of a landscape with extinct volcanoes. It’s so incredibly stunning, I only wish I had had more time to explore this wonderful city. But, I will be going back again in the future and will be armed with my camera. I literally looked so cliche walking around with my camera hanging around my neck and my selfie stick it was a joke! . . . . Picture Descriptions: Some landscape images of Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park with green fields, hills trees and clear blue skies. . . . #Edinburghdiaries #Edinburgh #travel #landscapephotography #landscape #nature #scotland #scottish #photography
Give yourself time to travel
One thing I’ve learned being disabled is that you can NEVER be last-minute when it comes to travel. Especially if, like me, you need assistance in train stations or airports. Assistance could be late collecting you or platforms might be changed at the last minute (both of these happened to me). It’s never a good idea to be in a rush, give yourself a good amount of time to arrive and to be collected by assistance so that you don’t risk being late.
Always keep a portable phone charger with you
This rule applies to everyone, both disabled and non-disabled people. But, it’s especially important when you have a disability because you will rely on your phone so much more for things like orientation, being able to call someone in an emergency and being able to get assistance like a cab or access travel information.
I remember when I went to Edinburgh last year, I had my old iPhone at the time and the battery was on the brink. I didn’t think to get it changed before I went away and I didn’t have the best portable charger in the world. But, the plot thickens!
One afternoon on my trip I decided to leave the group when they went back to the hotel and went on a mystery tour of Edinburgh. Yes, alone, with my guide dog, without a decent phone charger. But, I am used to walking solo with the guidance of Google maps, I do it all the time in London.
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Today on our Cornwall adventures we visited the Bodmin & Wenford Railway Train. It’s an old fashioned original British Railway steam train. It was lovely to see the Cornish countryside from the comfort of an old carriage compartment. We managed to get a compartment to ourselves and it was literally like being onboard the Hogwarts Express. I half kept expecting to see Harry, Ron and Hermione climb aboard with a stack of cauldron cakes! I’d definitely recommend this experience. The staff were so friendly, its dog friendly and it’s such a memorable excursion. It’s like a part of history has been perfectly preserved. From the train itself to the station and the uniforms worm by the staff. Time may have moved on since steam engines gave way to electric ones, but here time seems to have stood still. #cornwall #travel #steamtrain #vintage #britain #railway #steamengine #old #cornish #time #trains #holiday
Guess what happened? My battery died and I got lost in Edinburgh! Luckily I managed to backtrack far enough and returned to the Royal Mile. By this point it had started to get dark and panic was starting to set in. I go completely blind in the dark and I had no way of being able to call a cab back to my hotel. Every person I asked for directions was a tourist themselves and didn’t know where they were either. But luck was on my side, suddenly the sound of Bagpipes drifted on the Lowland breeze and I followed the sound. In my mind I thought “those bagpipes will lead me to a Scottish person and they will know where to go.” Well I was right, it was a Scottish person, a very lovely older gentlemen who I had a 10 minute chat with. He laughed and told me that my hotel was literally in the next street. So it was! I got back to the hotel and lived to tell the tale to my highly amused roommates.
But all jokes aside, I put myself into a very vulnerable situation, I have an illness and a sight impairment. Something could have gone seriously wrong and without my phone I was without my key tool for orientation and safety.
But the moral of the story is…Don’t be like me, do the smart thing get yourself a decent portable charger and if you think your phone battery needs replacing do it before you travel.
One thing you may have heard of is a Medic Alert bracelet, essentially its a bracelet you wear which has important medical information in case you fall ill and require medical attention and cannot speak for yourself. When you become a member of medic alert your account number is also disclosed on the bracelet, which medical professionals can give to the helpline to find out things like medication details and emergency contacts. These bracelets are highly recommended to people with illnesses where they carry emergency medication or have complicated illnesses. They are essential when traveling and I wouldn’t go somewhere on my own without mine.
I have an endocrine illness (Septo Optic Dysplasia) which impacts a number of glands in my body and my hormone production levels. My body cannot deal with shock as I an Adrenal Insufficiency, I’m Hypoglycemic and my body cannot produce Cortisol. So in an emergency I must have an emergency Hydrocortisone injection and Glucose gel. My bracelet is an added security measure to insure my safety in a medical emergency as someone who does travel alone.
The information is also accessible in 100 different languages and Medic Alert is known internationally. So if you haven’t got one and you have an illness I would highly suggest you look into getting yourself one. They come in a range of styles and colours at different price points.
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My time in Edinburgh with Unity made me realise just how truly lucky I am to have such a wonderful guide dog traveling with me. She guided me through the labyrinth of streets and up the steep inclines of the city. Weaving her way through passers by and the huge crowds of people all flocking to this beautiful city. Unity was so well behaved on this trip from boarding her first ever flight with to our wanderings around I deeply want to go back and explore more of Scotland with Unity in the future. Unity was most intrigued by the rolling hills of Arthur’s Seat, as you can see by the picture! I think Unity has as much of a love for Scotland as I do. . . . . Picture Description: An image of Unity’s head from the back, depicting her looking out over the green hills of Arthur’s Seat. The wind is slightly flapping her ears. #accessability #Scotland #Edinburgh #Arthursseat #guidedogs #travels #wanderlust #scottish
Make a travel plan and keep it handy
Something I always like to do is to write a detailed plan including train times, booking references, when I booked my assistance for and seating numbers so that I have it all to hand and ready if it’s needed.
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Day One of our holiday to Cornwall. We are heading up to Cornwall tomorrow but first we made a pit stop at Dorchester. We found the birthplace of writer Thomas Hardy, owned by the @nationaltrust It is a quaint little cottage nestled amidst rolling hills and woodlands. #touring #travels #thomashardy #nationaltrust #cottage #england #photography #wanderlust
If you are traveling alone then make sure that someone knows where you are and what you are doing. Text them regularly to update them, if on the off-chance something did go wrong then at least somebody knows where you are. If you are getting assistance off a train station always make sure the train staff know where you are getting off so that assistance will be informed.
Leave honest reviews
When you travel I honestly think one of the best things you can do for your fellow disabled travellers is to leave honest reviews on review websites about your experiences, talk about things like accessibility and how inclusive they were. If you don’t think the hotel, travel company or establishment was up to scratch, say so. If you think they could be doing better contact them directly to give your feedback on ways they could improve, but equally commend where you feel did do a good job. I always give shout-outs on social media when I’m traveling if I feel met they my access needs.
That conclude todays blog post, I really hope you found it useful.
Do let me know if you have any travel tips of your own to add and where you’d most like to visit.