Before You Fly: Travel Preps for Traveling with Disabilities

It took us a year after my husband’s stroke before we started traveling again further than visiting relatives 2 hours away. The little overnight stays at families’ and day trips certainly helped us prepare for our first plane ride since, and we’ve definitely gotten better each time. Here are some things I make sure are ready prior to boarding. And really, this is something everyone can use.

Before anything else, some disclaimer: The list below has served as our personal checklist. You should check with your physicians, travel agents, insurance providers, government agencies, lawyers, etc., to seek advice on what you specifically need as each situation and individual is special. 😌

Adapting to new ways in old travel situations.

TRIP and Travel Insurance (there is a difference!)

I’ve always bought travel insurance, even if something going wrong seemed highly unlikely. Like any other insurance, it’s something you buy but hope not to use. And when my husband had a stroke, I was just glad I bought travel insurance for our upcoming trip, especially since I had booked a trip for 7 people. Stroke already came so randomly for my husband, I was so grateful that I naturally don’t leave such things as finances to chance.  

There’s 2 parts of this - the trip insurance and the travel insurance. Trip insurance is the one for lost luggage, trip interruption or cancellation, trip delay, that sort of it. The travel insurance includes medical/dental, medical evacuation and repatriation. If you’re traveling internationally at least 3 times within the year, an annual travel insurance plan may end up being cheaper. At the very least, the trip insurance is always wise to get for anything that could interrupt your trip before you fly. Expedia offers insurance when you book a flight. If you do a package flight and hotel, then you’re covered for the entire trip. But, if you book your flights separate from hotels, the time in between is not really covered for the travel insurance.

If that’s the case, you may want to purchase a separate travel insurance. The premium is not a large investment, and it’s usually age based. Key point to remember is WHEN to buy this. If you have a disability or traveling with a person with disability, you’ll want to purchase this as soon as you make any initial payment for the trip so that your Pre-Existing Condition is waived. A lot of companies provide the waiver if you purchase your insurance within 10-14 days of the initial payment. Do not think that if you do not have physical disabilities, you do not have a pre-existing condition. I even have a pre-existing condition because I take prescription medication, so most definitely, check the glossary of terms.

Disabled Travel Parking Placard

Though the International Symbol of Access (ISA - the blue background with a wheelchair symbol in white) is widely known and recognized by authorities, some states may not accept your state's parking placard. In California, you can apply for a travel parking placard and it’s free to obtain at the DMV. It’s valid for 90 days. Check the requirements per country. Some of them may accept your placard from home (like Canada). Others may require you to apply for a local permit, so again, check before you fly. Even if you can use your country's placard, its validity of use may be different. For example, here in the US, there is no time limit on the parking meter if you have your placard visible, but when we traveled to Quebec, time limits did apply. I never travel without making this effort, even if it means a trip to the DMV. 😌

Medication, and extra medication

Do not forget your meds! Having said that, there is no need to bring all your medicine bottles. Buy the stackable pill containers (see photo below) and bring what you need, plus at least a week extra (in case you end up extending your vacation). Your mail-order pharmacy would likely be okay with shipping meds to you if you need more, and for a shipping fee, you can order for it to arrive the next day.

Inform your doctor

It’s nice for you to chat with your doctor about your travel plans to get additional points that you should remember for your condition specific to traveling. You should list your doctor plus their contact information and keep it in your wallet. Because you’ve given your doctors a heads up, they know you are out of town and provide specific assistance in case they need to be called. And even before you fly, make sure you build a relationship with your doctors so that you’re more than a chart. I email and call for everything, and I make no apologies for that lol! 

Inform tour operators

If you’re going on some tours, it’s always a good idea to contact the operators anyway so you’re clear on the details of what they offer. I especially inform them of my details - I’m traveling with 2 seniors, 1 who walks with a cane, the number of children, that sort of detail - and I ask them what they would recommend. The best thing that may come out of it is for them to offer you private tours even if your party is less than their minimum for private tours. And really, all you did was ask. 

Accessibility of sites

It’s worth making calls for this instead of making the drive to get to a place then finding out it's not wheelchair accessible or there's 387 steps on a spiral staircase. But, my husband sometimes is up for physical challenges. Safety first, of course. We always assess if it’s doable. 

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Nifty things to pack

These are things I learned along the way as we adapted to our situation. 

Foldable cane When we travel by plane, gone are the days when my husband always pick the window seat. We’re more practical now and choose the aisle seat for accessibility. Because he does need a cane, a foldable one fits his need and is considerate to other passengers to avoid tripping hazards for everyone.

Portable urinal and Udder cover Depending on your situation, you may be able to control your bladder but may not be able to walk as fast to get to a restroom. That’s our situation so we carry a portable urinal along. An Udder cover is the one moms use to cover when they’re breastfeeding. It’s been a useful cover when we do use the portable urinal. You can buy Udder covers but there are also patterns online for you to make your own.

Plastic shoe horn If you use a brace, it’s always handy to keep a shoe horn with you. And get the plastic one so it’s as light as can be.


We’ve learned after 2 years of trying to conquer stroke that our disabilities shouldn’t keep us from traveling. We just have to find new ways how. We would definitely love to hear any tips and tricks you’ve developed as well!


Bianca is one of the founders of get there | get lost. She is an avid writer and photographer based in Northern California. Her love for history, literature, architecture and food culminate to her passion for traveling and learning about different cultures. She advocates for accessible travel, and continues to explore with her husband and travel partner, Jesús, despite physical limitations. Follow their adventures on Instagram as @gettheregetlost and @coffeeandtherapy.