Top tips when booking hotels as a wheelchair user

Sociability Community Member

Oct 12, 2022

Jenny sitting in her wheelchair with Lake District views behind her

Like most people, I love a trip away, be it a city break, weekend in the Lakes or a full blown week or two of summer holiday in a hot and sunny country. I’d also love to try a ski trip or inter-railing across Europe or South America. Unfortunately, as a wheelchair user with numerous additional access needs, one guarantee is that getting away - no matter the destination - is full of additional challenges, costs and stresses. Finding a suitable hotel room is usually my predominant concern, having become used to navigating booking assistance for planes and trains. I have nightmares about booking transport then having nowhere to stay, or arriving at the hotel I’ve booked and paid for, only to discover it is completely unsuitable for me to stay in for any length of time.

In this post, I’m going to discuss the problems wheelchair users face when booking an accessible hotel room, and I’m then going to suggest a few tips for booking trips away as a wheelchair user on how to navigate these issues as much as possible.

“When one considers that approximately one in five people have a disability, it seems bizarre that this statistic is not reflected in the number of accessible or at least in some way adapted hotel rooms available.”

What access features can be included in an accessible room?

Jenny sitting in her wheelchair on the edge of a lake. There are lots of green mountain peaks in the background.

Accessibility can mean different things for everyone, but there are some features that are vital for most people. As well as the emotional distress caused by inaccessibility, there are several other health risks that can result from having to stay in a room which does not meet the needs of people with disabilities. A room without an emergency cord, for example, can lead to a disabled person without help when they most urgently need it. A room with an unsuitable shower seat can cause skin damage and months of bed rest. Absence of grab rails can cause difficult transfers leading to injury or even the inability to use the toilet, shower or sink. The opportunities for disaster are endless, a holiday can quite literally become a nightmare. It certainly should not be so hard to book time away from home as a wheelchair user. However, it is, and with practice comes experience.
Over the years, I have learnt some tips for booking hotels.

Whenever I travel within the UK, Premier Inn is where I look to first. They have reliable adapted bathrooms, usually with the choice of wet room or lowered bath. You can also book accessible rooms online without having to make a phone call – a marvel which shouldn’t be as rare as it is!

If there is no option to book an accessible room online, or you can’t be sure that the hotel you are looking at has the requirements you need, call the hotel and discuss it with a member of staff. If they aren’t willing to help you, you didn’t want to stay there anyway. Be specific about what it is you need and make sure you have the right answers to all your questions before you part with any money. Some hotels only offer accessible twin rooms rather than double rooms (as though disabled people can’t possibly have partners they travel with), so this is always worth checking.

I am by nature a worrier, and can’t relax until I have seen the room I am going to stay in will 100% meet my needs and I will be safe during my time there. Hotels are usually happy to take pictures of the en-suites and rooms before confirming booking and taking payment. Again – if they can’t accommodate my needs before I arrive, I question whether it is an establishment I really want to put my trust in at all.

Know the dates you want to travel and the flight/train options available for that date, but don’t book them for sure until you have the assurance that there is an accessible room waiting for you when you arrive. This will save the pressure of finding somewhere to stay and allow you to explore your options before committing.

The more venues we map on the app, the easier it will be for our community to book meals out and trips away without the fuss! Share your experiences, good and bad so that others know where to go and explore in the area too!

Jenny enjoying a meal and a glass of wine

We have all had ‘Insta-vs-Reality’ moments where pictures of hotel rooms we see on booking websites online don’t match what the eye sees on arrival. The room might be smaller than it looks online, the beautiful sea views might be missing, or the room might not be as clean or tidy as expected. However, when trying to find a hotel online as a wheelchair user, you can be lucky to even see a photo of an accessible room and the adapted features available. For some, a visual guide is vital when determining if the room can meet their needs at all.

Often, I have to turn instead to the search filters on booking sites, where you can select things like ‘disabled parking,’ ‘wheel-in shower,’ ‘level access’ and other vague options which do not actually specify whether the hotel has a fully adapted accessible room that is available on the chosen dates of travel. For me, this feels like placing my trust in a system that is clearly sub-optimal at catering for disabled people. I want to relax when I go on holiday, not be terrified about spending a week in a room completely unsuitable for my needs. The time it takes for me to plan a trip away has increased exponentially since become a wheelchair user.

I have learnt to book each aspect of the holiday separately myself. Hopefully these tips can come in handy for those who are new to the world of booking accessible hotel rooms!

Huge thank you to Jenny for sharing her experience, what is your experience and would you add any tips to the list? Let us know in the comments below! If you’d like to find out more about Sociability, head over to Instagram/Facebook/Twitter or LinkedIn!

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A large group of Sociability community members at the Naidex Sociability Social
A large group of Sociability community members at the Naidex Sociability Social
A large group of Sociability community members at the Naidex Sociability Social
Jennie and a group of Sociability community members taking a break in a cafe
Jennie and a group of Sociability community members taking a break in a cafe
Jennie and a group of Sociability community members taking a break in a cafe
A Sociability postcard with a QR code to download the app
A Sociability postcard with a QR code to download the app

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