How to travel on a budget as a wheelchair user

Jul 4, 2021

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One of the main things that hold us all back from traveling the world and pursuing our dreams of exploring exotic lands is money, or a lack thereof.

As we all know, traveling can be expensive and as a wheelchair user, it is no different. Paying for flights, hotels, accessible transportation, food, and souvenirs can add up pretty quickly.

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However, there are ways to cut costs and still have a phenomenal trip. Here are five ways to travel on a budget as a wheelchair user.

Inquire about walking/rolling tours

(Photo by PacoRomero / Getty Images)

When planning to visit a destination, research online to see if there may be walking tours offered. If so, give the company a call or shoot them an email and ask if it could be made wheelchair accessible. I have found, in multiple instances, that walking tour guides have been happy to accommodate a “rolling” tour as well.

Before discovering this idea, I will admit I spent a lot more money and saw a lot less of some cities by doing a private tour with accessible transportation. On driving tours, trying to see out of the windows as the guide describes things can be tricky. Instead of admiring the sights, you may only catch a glimpse of a tree or the side of a building while driving by.

The walking/rolling tours are a much better way to explore a city. You can immerse yourself in the smells of the delicious foods, see the culture in the streets, and feel like a local as you roll through the city and alleyways at a much lower cost than an accessible driving tour.

Travel to cities that have accessible public transportation

Most larger cities have accessible public transportation, whether it’s with buses or a subway system. Using public transportation instead of taxis or private tours gives you the option to save some money and see the city while hopping on or off at any point you desire.

Related: These are the most wheelchair-accessible cities around the world

Many cities have public buses that can easily accommodate wheelchair users via ramps. You will be able to get from point A to point B with very minimal cost out of pocket.

In a past visit to Helsinki, I was able to use the city bus system and was more than pleased with my experience getting to my favorite areas. When I lived in Washington D.C., I regularly took the metro system everywhere that I went. With an easy roll-on and roll-off platform, this made maneuvering around the city so enjoyable and cost-efficient as well.

Choose accessible group tours

Private tours can be pricey and there’s no sense in wasting money that you do not have to spend. A few years ago, I was able to book an accessible safari tour in the heart of Kruger National Park with Epic Enabled, a tour company that specializes in accessible safari group tours. Booking with a group helped us offset the cost of the accessible vehicle and see the same exotic animals as the private, more expensive tour.

Related: 10 wheelchair-accessible tour companies that are changing the travel industry

Also, by booking an accessible group tour, you are saving money on booking privately for transportation and having to pay a tour guide separately. The all-in-one package deals with accessible group tours not only will save you money, but eliminates the stress of time spent planning your own excursions. If you are like me, time is money and I value both.

Cruising is the best way to save money on multiple destinations

(Photo by Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images)

The way I see it, cruising is a one-stop-shop. You can pay one price, eat all you want, only unpack one time, and wake up in a new and wonderful city each day of your journey. When planning a cruise, always call ahead to request the wheelchair-accessible stateroom. Accessible staterooms are available in all price ranges, from interior rooms to suites. Typically, you will enjoy easy access within your room, no matter the size of your wallet.

Related: 5 tips for going on a cruise as a wheelchair user

The cheapest vacations I’ve ever taken have been 3-day cruises from Port Canaveral on the eastern coast of Florida to The Bahamas. These cruises are cheaper than driving to a nearby city and spending three nights in a hotel, and the experience is much more fun. Perhaps most importantly, let’s not forget that you would still need to shell out money for food and drinks, but all meals are already included in the price of a cruise. Of course, the shorter the cruise, the more money you save, so plan accordingly for your budget.

Take a road trip

Deciding to drive your own vehicle instead of giving your money to the airlines is a money-wise decision. This will save you a ton of money and think of the extra time spent with your friends or family in the car as a money-saving “bonding experience”.

Flights can be expensive and for wheelchair users, flights are not the most accessible option usually. Getting up to go to the restroom from your plane seat is not an easy task and can be very challenging, plus there’s always (unfortunately) the possibility of your wheelchair being damaged during the flight.

Related: 7 air travel tips for wheelchair users

Driving your own vehicle will allow you to keep more money in your pocket and give you the freedom to stop along the way for restroom breaks anytime you want. Choosing a destination within a few hours’ drive can even save more money and you may see sights along the way that you would not have seen from 30,000 feet above.

Even choosing a staycation in a nearby city can be cost-efficient and exciting. Seeing a familiar city from the eyes of a tourist and exploring every corner will give you a better sense of where you’re from and also keep more money in your pockets for the next big excursion that you decide to take.

Photo by Carlo Prearo/EyeEm/Getty Images

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