Traveling with Disabilities
Preparing for your trip in advance will help to ensure that your travel is accessible, safe, and enjoyable. Each country has its own standards of accessibility for travelers with disabilities, and many countries do not require accommodations similar to what you might find in the United States.
Know Before You Go
Preparation is critical. If you don’t travel frequently, speak to someone with a similar disability who has traveled to your destination before. Consult your travel agent, hotel, airline, and others to understand the services available for your trip. Consider contacting disability organizations overseas at your destination.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a helpline number designed to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. Travelers may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787-2227 prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint.
The Air Carrier Access Act and its amendments have resulted in the Department of Transportation (DOT) instituting regulations to ensure that persons with disabilities are treated without discrimination in ways consistent with the safe carriage of all passengers, domestically and internationally. Carriers are prohibited from imposing charges for providing required facilities, equipment, or services to an individual with a disability that is covered by DOT’s Air Carrier Access regulations. Travelers with disabilities should review the Department of Transportation pamphlet New Horizons for the Air Traveler with a Disability for more information about the Air Carrier Access Act.
Research Medical Care and Costs
Consult with your physician prior to your travel overseas to identify your health care needs during your trip. Many countries have national health systems, but it is important to investigate availability and quality beforehand. Carry medical alert information and a letter from your health care provider describing your medical condition, medications, potential complications and other pertinent medical information. Note that environmental conditions at your overseas destination may contribute to specific health concerns, particularly if you are sensitive to altitude, air pollution, humidity, or other conditions.
Carry sufficient prescription medication to last your entire trip, including extra medicine in case you are delayed. Ask your pharmacy or physician for the generic or chemical name of your prescriptions in case you need to purchase additional medication abroad, since physicians and pharmacists abroad are more likely to be familiar with that name. Pack your medication in your carry-on bag, since checked baggage is occasionally lost. Always carry your prescriptions in their labeled containers, not in a pill pack. Take a copy of your immunizations records along in your hand-carry luggage.
We highly recommend that you get health insurance to cover private medical treatment and for medical evacuation to the United States just in case. Medical treatment and hospital care abroad can be expensive, and medical evacuation can easily cost $10,000 and sometimes more than $100,000, depending on your location and medical condition. Medicare and Medicaid programs do NOT provide payment for medical services outside of the United States. You can find the names of some of the companies offering short-term health and emergency assistance policies on our website. Visit our Your Health Abroad Page for more health related tips. Health information may also be found at the Travelers’ Health page of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
Understand Requirements for Service Dogs and Assistive Equipment
Before you travel, contact the embassy or consulate of your destination country for information on possible restrictions for service dogs and assistive equipment. If service dogs are permitted, find out about requirements for quarantine, vaccination, and documentation. Talk with your vet about tips for traveling with a dog, and make sure your hotel will accommodate your service dog. Find out if there are specific policies for devices such as wheelchairs, portable machines, batteries, respirators, and oxygen. You may want to research the availability of wheelchair and medical equipment providers in the areas you plan to visit.
Understand your Social Security Benefit
If you are thinking about an extended trip abroad, find out if you can receive your Social Security or other federal agency benefits outside the United States. Social Security Administration’s Office of International Operations (OIO) provides such information, and consular officers at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate can also assist you.
A secure way to maintain your emergency contact information is to enroll
in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Your information is stored securely and enables the Department of State, U.S. embassy, or U.S. consulate to contact you, your family, or your friends in an emergency according to your wishes.
- Mobility International USA
- Air Travel Service Complaints & People with Disabilities
- Common Questions Regarding Travel for People with Disabilities
- Flying with a Disability
- Safe Travel for People with Autism or Intellectual Disabilities
- Access-Able Travel Source
- Disabled Cruising Resources
- Disabled Travelers
- Global Access News – Disabled Travelers Network
- Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality
Learn About Your Destination
Check your overseas medical insurance coverage: Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.