101 Accessible Vacations
Travel Ideas for Wheelers and Slow Walkers


“Where can I go on vacation?”

As the editor of Emerging Horizons, I’ve been asked that question a lot over the years. A whole lot.

There I’d be, giving a presentation on accessible travel, and somebody would stick their hand up in the air. Since I was talking about air travel, I figured they had a question about seating or wheelchair assistance or even the boarding procedure. But no, the question was always the same.

“Where can I go on vacation?”

At first I didn’t know quite how to answer it. I mean, here was this person who I didn’t know from Adam, asking me where I thought he should go on vacation. What was I suppose to tell him?

So I usually answered it with my own question.

“Well, that depends,” I’d say “What do you like to do?”

That usually just confused people more. It was routinely met with that standard deer-in-the-headlights stare and the dreaded, “What do you mean?”

“Well,” I clarified “What kind of things do you like to do when you are on vacation? Do you like to visit museums, hike, shop, ski, gamble, drive, boat, enjoy nature, see plays, visit historical buildings or perhaps something else? Tell me what you like to do so I can give you recommendations based on your tastes After all, if you like museum hopping, my suggestion to visit the Everglades would be pretty useless to you. Give me something to work with here.”

Again, the deer-in-the-headlights stare.

And so the dance continued, until one day I finally figured out the problem. All of a sudden it hit me when a business writer interviewed me for a piece on accessible travel.

“So, where can disabled people go on vacation?” he asked. “Well,” I quipped, “They can pretty much go wherever they want. Last time I looked, there were no laws prohibiting them from crossing state lines.”

Dead silence.

“No,” he said, “Can’t you just list the accessible destinations for me - you know, like Disneyland. Everyone knows disabled people like to go to Disneyland, but I’d also like some other suggestions to share with my readers. I’ll make it easy for you; just give me a list of accessible destinations in the US.”

At that moment, the little light bulb went on in my head. This writer, like a lot of other people, thought there was this great master list of accessible vacation spots, with Disneyland at the top of the list. It never occurred to him that people should look for accessible vacation destinations the same way they look for any other vacation destination - based on their own personal tastes and preferences.

Now don’t get me wrong; I don’t have anything against Disneyland or any other theme park for that matter. Truth is, most theme parks have gone to great lengths to make their attractions as accessible as possible. My point is, just because you happen to be disabled doesn’t mean that you automatically like theme parks. If you don’t like theme parks, you just don’t like theme parks.

Unfortunately, over the years, theme parks have usually been the top (and sometimes only) accessible recommendation by many travel professionals. Even today, if you happen to run across a travel agent who is not well versed in accessible travel, she or he will undoubtedly recommend a Disney World package the minute you mention the word wheelchair.

But that’s not the way it has to be. Really. In fact, that’s the reason for this book.

Over the past decade, I’ve spent a good deal of time on the road researching accessible destinations for Emerging Horizons. Truth be told, I’ve covered everything from accessible tide pools and sailing to museums, national parks, cruising and factory tours. Granted, some destinations took a little more research and legwork than others, but, in the end, I came home with some great resources and vacation ideas.

And this book contains many of those ideas, along with the resources, information and access details to make those ideas a reality. Think of it as an accessible-vacation idea book with substance.

Of course, once I got all this information together, the real challenge was putting it in a logical order. Most travel books arrange their chapters geographically, but that just wouldn’t work for this book. After all, how do you know if you want to go to California or Texas or Indiana if you don’t know what those places have to offer? Ultimately I decided to organize the book by activity, so people could decide where they want to go based on their specific interests and travel preferences. Truthfully, that’s the way most people plan their vacations anyway - by interest, not necessarily by location.

Most of the sections in the book are self-explanatory, and they include a wide range of activities, from road trips and the great outdoors to family fun and cultural attractions. Admittedly some destinations can be classified a number of ways, and that’s where I took a bit of artistic license.

For example, Chicago is listed in the “Bright Lights, Big City” section even though it boasts a good number of family attractions. I just chose to emphasize a broader range of activities in that piece. Conversely, many of the destinations listed in the “Family Friendly Fun” section also have activities and sights appropriate for adults only. Again, it’s just that I chose to emphasize the family attractions in those destinations.

And then there is the “A Place to Rest Your Head” section, which features some fun lodging choices, many of which can be considered destinations in their own right. And last but not least, there is “Candy’s Picks,” which is just a collection of some of my favorite trips, destinations and activities.

Regardless of how they are grouped, all of the chapters contain meaningful access information. As is the case in Emerging Horizons, I describe the access of the attractions, lodging options and tourist sights rather than just state that something is or isn’t accessible. After all, accessibility is in the eye of the beholder; and what may be accessible to one person can be filled with obstacles to someone else. And finally, I’ve included resources at the end of each chapter, so you can do more research and plan you own accessible getaway.

It’s important to note that, although this book does contain information on more than 101 destinations, entire books have been written about some of my chapters. So consider this book a starting point, albeit a very well-researched starting point. And don’t forget to check out the Recommended Reading chapter for titles that offer more in-depth information on specific destinations. And of course, make sure and visit my Barrier Free Travels Blog at www.BarrierFreeTravels.com for the latest access news, new accessible travel resources, timely commentary and destination updates.

Where can you go on vacation?

After you read this book, just about anywhere you want.

Candy B. Harrington

Cover of

Books by Candy Harrington