Many Brits are opting to stay home for their holidays and have done so for the last couple of years, leading to a rise in the staycation. Whether this is due to unrest abroad or the unpredictable value of the pound, the British tourist industry is going strong and revelling in the new trend. Travelling even within the UK with limited mobility can offer many obstacles, but most of these can be overcome with proper planning and a positive attitude.
Knowing where to start is often the greatest hurdle but studies show that the planning of a holiday gives us the best boost, so a little extra organisation shouldn’t hurt. After asking far and wide for tips from accessible guides and bloggers with limited ability, we came up with this guide to help you plan your staycation.
Whether you fancy a coastal escape, a city break or a rural paradise, the UK can offer destinations that both fulfils your desires and suits your needs. Ian Carter is attached to Good Access Guide, a company started by a collection of guys with spinal injuries and an adventurous spirit that helped them maintain their can-do attitude. Since Ian joined, that positive attitude has continued to help others, as the guide ever expands its list of accessible accommodation and activities. Ian urges those looking to go on a staycation: “Try something different - we've got great destinations all over the UK to choose from. Once you've found somewhere that ticks all the boxes for you regarding accessibility it can sometimes seem like a big risk to try something or somewhere different.”
By looking at the other areas of the guide, your destination may come naturally, if you fall in love with a darling cottage in the Lake District or the perfect B&B in Devon, your destination will already be decided. Jay from the blog Jay on life is no stranger to travel as she sets out to explore her home city of London as well as other cities while being on crutches. Jay advises using a staycation as a trial run if you are planning to go abroad in the near future “I would suggest going somewhere that is similar to a place they would like to visit abroad. When travelling with a disability, you always have to consider whether you are able to participate on certain activities/trips. And a great way to find out is through a staycation. It gives you a rough idea of what to expect further away from home, but with the security of being in familiar surroundings and understanding the language. And who to turn to, should you require assistance.”
Where you stay is crucial to your holiday’s success. If your accommodation is positioned poorly or has a sneaky step you were not expecting, this can inconvenience you greatly and put some serious negativity on your entire stay. Thankfully many sites and accommodation catalogues allow you to filter by wheelchair access, however as different people have different needs, ticking a wheelchair accessible box is not enough reassurance for some people. We understand that leaving your own home comforts behind, especially mobility accessories like stair lifts, is difficult, however assurances can be found in photographic form.
Ian Carter goes on to suggest that photos are the way forward “We love it when property owners have loads of pics on their own websites. A picture paints a thousand words and all that. For wheelchair users being able to see plenty of pics helps to make the decision as to whether a property will meet their needs. It also lets you see plenty of pics of the bathroom and toilet! A really crucial room for everyone but a disaster if you can't get into it.” If even after you have seen images you remain unsure, you can always contact them directly, if in doubt, then Ian advises: “Call them. Ask them what accessibility features they have.”
iknow is an index of accommodation across the UK that allows you to not only filter wheelchair access, but also whether your room will be on the ground floor. From there you can access the accommodation’s site directly, view images and see their full accessibility.
Researching what activities are around your chosen destination not only builds the anticipation for your holiday, but also allows you to be well versed, should plans change. It is a well-known fact that the British weather cannot be relied upon, even in the height of summer, let alone a tempestuous spring, so if it does choose to rain three days out of five (as it is likely to do) you will not be confined to your accommodation. Michelle from iknow suggests researching the wider area for accessibility friendly activities: “Certain destinations around the UK like Weymouth on the Dorset Coast, Blackpool and Scarborough not only offer a great selection of accessible accommodation, they also feature fabulous accessible attractions. Some themed attractions across the country also go that extra mile to assist less mobile visitors like our classic steam railways.”
Certain towns and cities are renowned for their accessibility, if you are looking for an experience without the countryside. Checking these cities’ tourist boards should inform you about their recent endeavours towards accessibility. The more recent the development within the town, the likelier they will have moved towards more accessible attractions.
If you are looking for something a little more rural, then check out The Outdoor Guide. They have an enormous selection of walks that have great descriptions and really in depth knowledge about the trails. They also have a wheel friendly walks page for those with limited mobility. Holly from The Outdoor Guide feels there are trails for everyone: “We are more than happy to encourage people getting outdoors no matter what their ability. What I might suggest is our National Trust Malham Tarn Walk as the NT offer a tramper which can be taken out for the day. Also Julia’s Canal walks which follow the canal paths.”
“The UK National Parks have some great tips on accessible attractions like Brockhole in the Lake District, where to hire mobility vehicles and more accessible activities.”
Visit Scotland’s website has great filtering options to view the accessible attractions around where you plan to stay as well as an Accessible Holidays in Scotland section. Next month they plan to launch a new accessibility guide tool for both Scotland and England which will be invaluable to those who both live in and visit Scotland.
When you are off relaxing in the best that Britain has to offer, that has to extend to your food as well. While fish and chips on the pier may be a solution for one evening, it is better to research some restaurant options and get them booked early so you can spoil yourself without accessibility worries.
There are lots of guides and resources to check restaurants all over the UK, Chloe from cpstudentblog understands the trials of navigating areas that are not built with accessibility in mind and agrees that the best way to guarantee a smooth dining experience is in the planning. She said: “When traveling I would definitely advise a lot of planning, I know it sounds obvious but I have had loads of places that claim to be accessible on the website, yet I get there and am faced by a flight of stairs, so I would say to always clarify what is meant by accessible, you will be amazed at what they sometimes say!”
Square meal is an index of restaurants and venues in the UK’s principal cities. This website allows you to filter by such things as accessibility. Once you have several restaurants to choose from, you can access a feature that allows you to book online, previous customer reviews as well as the restaurant’s information and contact details so you can confirm door widths yourself.
If you have seen a restaurant that makes no mention of steps or ramps, you may still be in luck and they may have forgotten to mention crucial details. Ian Carter suggests calling the restaurant directly: “We've come across some real gems - accommodation, visitor attractions, restaurants - that have great accessibility but they've forgotten to mention it on their websites.” By calling venues you can relay your own specific issues and ensure they are aware of your needs.
Euan’s Guide is a review site for disabled people written by disabled people, exposing the accessibility of businesses including restaurants and attractions, all over the country. With honest reviews and an easy to use site, it is a useful tool.