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Vacationing With Limited Mobility

Art Aiello |
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Art Aiello is a writer and editor based in Waukesha, WI. 

Are you tired of the winter weather? I know I am. Despite the many ways there are to stay active inside during the winter months, nothing compares to being outdoors on a warm, sunny day. As such, your thoughts may now be turning toward end-of-winter vacation plans that will jumpstart your summertime dreams. But with so many venues geared toward children and young people, what's a senior to do — especially one with limited mobility?

Fortunately, resorts and other vacation spots have not forgotten about you. There are plenty of choices to consider when you want to get away but want to go somewhere that is geared especially for you and your needs.

Let’s begin by looking at cruise lines. There seems to be some debate about whether or not all cruise lines — foreign or domestic — operating in American waters are required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the website, this is because there are no aspects of the ADA that explicitly address cruise ships. As a result, some do more than others to accommodate folks with disabilities.

Thus, the first order of business before booking a cruise is to discuss your physical limitations — and therefore, the accommodations you will need — with the cruise line before booking your trip. In the interest of narrowing down your selection, identifies Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines as each having ships that are especially accommodating to those with mobility limitations or other disabilities. All have a number of wheelchair-accessible staterooms and other accessibility amenities. Some even offer the services of a tender, or a small boat, to comfortably ferry wheelchair-bound passengers ashore when the ship comes into port.

If you are a cruising caregiver — someone who is accompanying a friend or family member aboard a cruise — you can help by focusing on several items, according to the website. First, consider the duration of the cruise, especially if your travel companion is someone who has never cruised before. You might want to select a cruise of only a few days, for example, to allow your friend or loved one to ease into the experience and decide how much they like it. Then, longer, more extensive cruises might be in the offing in the future. A short cruise is also a way to allow you to make mistakes that would ruin a longer voyage, such as inadvertently selecting a stateroom that is too far away from the activities you and your companion want to engage in.

Next, make sure that you book the trip well in advance to ensure that you get the staterooms you want, with the amenities you need, in the locations you most desire. For example, you and your companion will likely want staterooms next to one another. You will also want to consider staying in a room that is easy to get to — one at the end of a long hallway is probably less than desirable, for example — and as mentioned before, close to those features of the ship that are most important to both of you. By booking in advance, you can ensure comfortable and appropriate accommodations.

If cruising isn’t an option — or isn’t desirable — what should you think about regarding resorts? The same advice applies in general. Discuss your needs with them, given that many resorts have accommodations that are up flights of stairs or access to amenities that might make it difficult for someone with limited mobility to access.

One additional item to consider is exploring resorts that are for adults only. These resorts prohibit visitors from bringing children, which means you won’t have to worry about having toddlers or small children underfoot potentially upsetting your balance. Adult-only resorts also tend to have events, programs, meals and tours designed specifically for adults. There are also cruises that are designated as adult-only, which could make your experience that much more enjoyable.

Finally, consider checking out review websites like While researching this story, I found several questions posed by visitors to that site specifically regarding the appropriateness of a vacation venue for someone with limited mobility. The value in this approach is that you will get to hear from other travelers like you about how cruises, resorts and other vacation spots cater specifically to people with limited mobility or other disabilities. At a minimum, visiting and similar sites could help you narrow down your list of potential venues.