Talk about Travel: Traveling with a disability

Jul 29, 2013

Artist and activist Carole Zoom, author of this week's piece on seeing China while using a wheelchair and ventilator, joins us to talk about traveling with disabilities.
Talk about Travel is here to help at 2 p.m. Mondays.
Have a travel-related question, comment, suspicion, warning, gripe, sad tale or happy ending? The Post Travel section's editors and writers are at your service. Past Talk about Travel chats

Hello, chatters, and welcome back to another installment of everything-you-want-to-know-about-travel. We'll try to help with your questions as much as we can. And when we can't we'll reach out to your fellow chatters, and to our special guest, Carole Zoom, who wrote this week's fascinating story about traveling in China as a person with disabilities. You probably picked this up from the story, but Carole is truly the intrepid -- and tireless -- traveler. She travels more than I do! She'll be joining us today from Amsterdam, so send all your questions about accessiblity her way. She can also speak to accessibility in Europe, which we had a great story about as well. And for those with mobility issues due to aging, I hope you caught our fabulous piece on that subject, too.

In keeping with the physical challenges theme, tell us about the most physically challenging experience you've encountered in your travels. Best story wins a little prize.

Now let's chat.

Great stories on traveling with a physical disability. But, you don't have to go to Europe or China to find out the hard way -- New York City is just as bad for its subway system! One can count the fully-accessible subway stations on the fingers of one hand (the new ones at WTC and Fulton Street, possibly a few others), and of course using those stations is only good if you can climb the steps at your destination station. At least there are many sidewalk curb cuts, and some of the bus routes are reasonably direct.

It is true that sometimes in the US the travel access for even getting around our own cities is substandard. There are advocacy groups around the US pushing for better access for all...and whether for visitor or resident, we still have a long way for full access.

I have a tale, and a strong warning, about the airbnb policies. Those of us who have used the company and website 'airbnb' know how great it is to find a wide variety of lodging choices for trip planning. Most of these listings at really low to reasonable rates. I know there was recently in the news an apology from airbnb to a woman who's house was ransacked by one of these 'guests'. The company offered a public apology to this host, and has strongly tightened their checks on people renting through them. This makes sense and I applaud the company for taking both responsibility and action. Unfortunately, I found myself on the receiving end of the reverse situation. I rented an apartment from a young lady for my trip to Maui with my children. This woman, after having the reservation for two months, cancelled on us 5 days before our flight. It came to light, as I frantically searched for an acceptable replacement, that she did not have authorization to rent out her place. While airbnb now does due diligence on it's guests, all it takes to be a host is a persons signature. No verification or fact checking required. The company did not help me find new lodging and I was 'red flagged' as suspect because I was attempting to book something last minute. My complaints were met with a $50 credit to my account IF I book through aribnb, and the explaination that the host can cancel at any time AND FOR ANY REASON. The fact that she entered the agreement fraudulently seems to be unimportant to the company and I was left to my own devices. I also saw where airbnb allowed this person to repost her apartment. I want others to be aware of this companies practices. Thank you for this forum.

Thank you for letting us know about this experience. The Airbnb cancellation policy can vary, based on the length of your stay and your host's preferences. This is very useful information, and a reminder that I need to revisit the travel "sharing" opportunities in a future Navigator.

I've encountered several physical challenges while traveling, but nothing compared to the folks who need to get around in a wheelchair. The two that stick out for me are when I badly sprained my ankle getting off of a boat in NW Burma. Not a whole lot of readily accessible medical care there so I had to do the best I could with some tape and some large chunks of ice I managed to get from my hotel. It was tough getting around for the next 2 weeks or so of my trip. The other one that comes to mind is my inability to adjust to the altitude in Bhutan. I wasn't able to do much climbing or strenuous activity without sweating profusely and being unable to catch my breath.

Glad you soldiered on nonetheless!

Dear flight crew: My luggage has finally given up the ghost after a decade and replacing it is more complicated than I expected. I thought I found a great set, only to get it home and read reviews that the pieces exceeded airline size requirements for carry-on and checked baggage. (I couldn't believe it until I measured myself, and yep.) So, I'd love to hear what you and other chatters have to say about brands, features, etc that you like in luggage. I travel at least monthly for business or pleasure so I need that is sturdy. Haven't been too impressed with the hardside cases I've seen, but I'm open to persuasion. Thoughts?

It all depends on your budget and what you are carrying. I have to carry enormous amounts of medical supplies and need it to be a spinner -- 4 wheeled. My new favorite is the Rimowa trunk which is just slightly smaller than the largest checked bag allowed, but because it is trunk shaped it allows access to my medical supplies more easily. It is what they call a hard sided but really it is a flexible polycarbonate and barely weighs 8 lbs. It comes with a hefty pricetag but I wouldn't trade it.

Hamjambo, Travel crew! We're flying IAD-AMS-JRO next week, and we "only" have 2h 30m. (We have 5+ hours on the way back; if I were the god of airline scheduling I would have booked the longer layover on our way out, as would rather be rebooked on our way home than on our way to start our vacation, but there wasn't that much flexibility.) I can't seem to find anywhere whether we'll need to go through customs again at Schipol. (All flights are with KLM, not partners, according to the itinerary.) Can anyone tell me? Also, I'd love to know: 1) are all KLM flights tend to be in the same "hall", as they call them (A, B, C, D, etc.), and 2) what we should do if and when we do have time at Schipol? I'm especially interested in trying authentic local foods when I travel.

Hamjambo! According to KLM: "If you are travelling to/from Schengen and non-Schengen countries, you should count on having to go through additional security checks and customs inspections. These can substantially extend the time it takes to complete your transfer procedure."

The airport's Web site has a good map of the terminals, which can help you plot your transfer. The plane's airline magazine will also have a map. For ideas on how to spend a long layover, the airport offers some ideas based on length of stay. You can also finds lots of local fare here.

I wanted to follow-up on a question you had last week. The chatter was asking about traveling through Iceland on IcelandAir to Helsinki. My husband and I flew to Copenhagen on IcelandAir last month. Assuming you are going straight through, and not staying in Iceland for a day or 2, you will not need to clear security, just passport control. Once you check your luggage in America, you will not see it again until you arrive in Helsinki. The airport in Iceland is fairly small and easy to navigate (though it seems that all the flights leave within about 10 minutes of each other so watch out for the masses of people all moving at once, with little in the way of announcments or direction). The one nice thing about traveling through Iceland was that we cleared passport control in Iceland and we did not have to do it again in Copenhagen. We literally walked off the plane, grabbed our suitcase, and left the airport. All in, it took about 15 minutes. Not sure if that is the case in Helsinki.

Thanks for the info!

My son who lives in the United States is having a destination wedding in the Dominican Republic next year. I receive my dialysis treatments in Canada. Is it safe for me to receive dialysis in the Dominican Republic? My main concerns are the proper treatment of water required for dialysis, dialysis equipment available and staff training. Thank you.

According to some reviews, there is a dialysis center near Punta Cana:

HOSPITEN Bávaro Holiday Dialysis Center Dominican Republic
Average user rating achieved by this centre   
 Carretera Higüey,  Punta Cana, Republica Dominicana 1422

Nephron-Dialisis offers dialysis in the city of Santo Domingo, and also Higuey, Bávaro and San Pedro de Macorís

There are no online reviews of Nephron Dialisis but they claim to meet or exceed international dialysis standards.


Holiday Dialysis International helps dialysis users find services around the world. They require 4-6 weeks' advance notice.

And here are some tips from the National Kidney Foundation. You should probably also have a conversation with your nephrologist or other physician about this. They may have additional advice and resources for you.

Planning a honeymoon in SF area for end of sept. Looking to stay for about a week and will be splitting time between big sur, SF, and Sonoma. We are active and will do hiking, biking, touring etc. Would like to keep trip affordable but classy. Any suggestions or websites for good research on lodging, activities, and food.

Congrats! I hope the chatters will chime in with some recommendations, but we've had a few stories recently that will have ideas (be sure you look at the accompanying details boxes):

In California’s Napa Valley, winter is a season that really cuts the mustard

In San Francisco, a bounty of farmers markets

In San Francisco, the best views are just a walk away

Postcard from Tom: San Francisco

Joe also had some SF recs last week. If you like the outdoors, Muir Woods is great.

Landing in Denver and realizing I couldn't go up a staircase without huffing and puffing, because of the altitude.

Ah yes, been there, done that!

I will be visiting Marseille at the end of August and want to try the famous Bouillabaisse stew. What are the best restaurants that serve this dish? I was hoping for something more casual because I've heard it is very pricey but I don't want to get a cheap (not authentic) version either. Will it be hard to find a quality version of this dish for a reasonable cost? I've also seen it has to be ordered in advance. I plan to be in Cassis and Calanques if there are options there as well. Thanks!

Our freelancer Robert Camuto had the bouillabaisse at Le Peron, as described in this story. It does sound as though it's quite pricey -- Camuto says it averages about $50 in a restaurant -- but worth the cost if you want the real experience. Chatters, does anybody out there have more info on bouillabaisse in Marseille and environs?

To quote Dorothy Parker, What fresh hell is this? A friend just came back from Florida where he was offered rental car insurance by Payless for "lost revenue" if the car was damaged (for $12 a day!). Is this covered by your home auto insurance or the credit card auto insurance?

If your rental is damaged, a company may charge you for what it calls "loss of use" -- a fee for revenue that it would have collected if the car hadn't been damaged. Most insurance companies don't recognize this as a legitimate charge. Neither do I. (By the way, I'll have a Navigator on loss of use soon. It's definitely something to know about before you renta a car.)

eBags own private label lines of luggage are quite well-designed and very reasonably priced.

My son is getting married at Frenchman's Reef on St Thomas, January 25, 2014. Can you give me some ideas for an affordable trip for the family, which includes Mom and two sisters?,

Depends what you call affordable. Airfare isn't too awful for that time of year -- probably cost you about $400 to $450 per person round trip. The Marriott there, even with a negotiated rate, will be pricey, but if that's where the wedding will be held, may be difficult to stay elsewhere.  The  Villa Marbella Suites property isn't too far away, and it would be cheaper. 

Hi Travel Team, thanks for taking my question. I am leaving for a trip abroad on August 18th (returning 2 weeks later), and my passport expires February 19th - that is exactly 6 months and 1 day after I depart/land in the foreign country. I know the whole 6 month passport rule, but I'm unsure how it applies here because I don't know if the expiration applies to the departure or return date (i.e. it will be valid for more than 6 months when we leave the U.S., but less than 6 months upon return to the U.S.). I realize time is short, but there was a mix-up and I thought my husband had confirmed that we'd be okay to travel. Do you anticipate us encountering any issues? If so, is it possible to procure a new passport in this short timeframe, along with changing the passport number on all our tickets and travel confirmations?

Where are you traveling to? That will make a difference.

I have to maintain a strict gluten free diet. I am able to travel in the United States, Canada and the UK because there is no language barrier. It can still be difficult to negotiate a gf meal because every ingredient must be considered. Are there any tour companies in Europe that could assist with this? Thank you.

There are people with celiac who have to maintain a gluten free diet travel service is GlutenFreeTravel.

There are also travel cards translated to different languages that will help you make your point.

I did find it hard to communicate anything to restaurants in China because I did not speak the language, and I carried cards that showed what I was allergic to in photos.

I think it has a reputation as being somewhat overrated, but we had an AMAZING meal at The Girl and the Fig in Sonoma. Not sure how much further north you will be going, but the Russian River Brewery in Santa Rosa is worth the detour if you are at all into beer (especially for the legendary Pliny the Elder IPA).

Hi, Our son and daugther-in-law will be traveling down I95 this summer, and we want to give them an anniversary gift of a night's stay somewhere that's close to I95. Do you recommend the Abingdon Inn in Latta SC? Where else might you recommend for an overnight stay somewhere between the Virginia/NC border and the SC/GA border that's close to I-95? Thank you.

Afraid we're not familiar with the Abingdon Inn. Anyone? For the South Carolina/Georgia border area, I think you should look for somewhere in Savannah. I haven't been, so I don't have a specific idea, but maybe the peanut gallery does.

is apparently very common in scandinavian countries so I would think traveling there wouldn't be a big issue. and there are plenty of places where they speak english (belize, for example).

We went to visit my sis in law in colo. springs. a few weeks before the trip, my husband decided to take a spill on his bike - and he then had to have surgery to fix his collar bone. Of course, it was before a holiday weekend so we had to wait a few extra days for the surgery. They reassured us we'd be fine traveling. But now - husband couldn't pick up his new nephew, and going thru security - we were really worried about i! We brought a picture from the surgeon. He couldn't lift his arm over his head, which ya know, can be a problem for security - so they did some 'extra' security for us both ways. Then he couldn't do as much as we had hoped he would (we went on some ropes course, but he was good with sitting with the baby while the rest of us did stuff!). I had to do the driving while he usually drives. It worked out fine, I suppose, but it wasn't ideal.

No, not ideal at all, I'm sure. Thanks for the story.

I am not physically disabled except that I am woefully out of shape. In a trip to Wales a few years ago, I was traveling with someone who is in very good physical shape - and would not take "I don't think I can make it" as an excuse not to hike up to two castles on hilltops. I comforted myself with the thought that if it got too bad, I could just stop and go back down - and with his constant mantra of "baby steps! baby steps!" I got up both hills. The third hill, however was the most difficult because we had gone DOWN to see a waterfall, so there was no option of not climbing that hill all the way. I had to, because our car was at the top. My friend kept just a few steps ahead, repeating "Baby steps! Baby steps!" so often I wanted to do him harm. I had to rest a few times, but I did it... and I am still inordinately proud of that climb. (I later looked it up - it was listed as "Challenging" in a guidebook!) And ever since, whenever I find myself getting winded climbing hills, I can't help but think to myself... "Baby steps! Baby steps!" It works.

Wonderful, thanks!

My family may not be able to take a vacation next summer until August. We are considering Brussels and Paris. Is August too late (and too hot) for Paris? We've been to major museums in Paris, so this trip would allow us to hang out more, explore new neighborhoods, shop and relax. Would we run into problems with too many places closed for the month? (especially boulangeries and patisseries?

It's never too late -- or too hot, IMHO -- for Paris! And don't worry about the August closings. Paris is a big city, and plenty of places remain open for tourists. You may have more trouble in some of the arrondissements farther from the city center, but in the heart of the city, there'll be enough to keep you occupied and happily munching away on your favorite pastries.

I'm thinking of taking a river cruise for my 50th birthday in March. I'm French and I would meet my sister in France and we probably do a Rhone cruise. I sent her the Viking website link to check out and she came back with CroisiEurope which is significantly cheaper than Viking. Since you get what you pay for, I'm a little leery. Can anyone chime in with feedback on European river cruise operator recommendations? Is CroisiEurope as good as it sounds? Thank you.

CroisiEurope's passengers are mostly French, so you might feel right at home. Food and lodging is more basic than Viking, which is considered a luxury line. But for those who don't want all the bells and whistles, it might fit the bill. If any chatters have cruised on CroisiEurope, please chime in!

I'm taking a last minute trip to Montreal and would like to know if you have any suggestions for must-see sights and places to stay.

Joe, our expert on all things Montreal, is out today. But here's a story he wrote a while back. He also had Montreal recommendations in our July 15 and April 22 chats.

Hello all! First a huge thanks for these weekly chats! This December my husband and I are looking to take a 5 day vacation to someplace warm/ tropical. Our budget is around $2000 total for accommodations and flight. What recommendations do you have for location? I have not spent much time in the Caribbean/ Bahamas/Mexico and really do not know where to begin. We would like someplace where we can get there from BWI/DCA relatively quickly. Thanks!

Since you're only going for five days, I'd recommend targeting destinations that offer nonstop flights. That would include San Juan, PR and Nassau, Bahamas from DCA. More choices are available from BWI, including Cancun, Aruba and Montego Bay, although schedules may not fit for a shorter-than-one-week vacation. $2,000 is not a lot of money with flights. If you enjoy eating and drinking, an all-inclusive may be the most frugal way to go, and Cancun would be my first choice. If lots of food and booze isn't your thing, look at Nassau.

I appreciated your section on Traveling with a Disability. Although I am not in a wheelchair, I have a bad knee which limits my mobility. On a recent cruise I had difficulty with the tub in the bathroom since it had high sides and was enclosed so I needed my husband's assistance to get in and out; there were more stairs and longer walks to the restaurants than I expected. In New Orleans where we had decided to not rent a car, we discovered that the taxis were SUVs with a high step. Are there guides for the U.S. which review accessibility of cruises, hotels, cities, etc.?

If you are a proficient internet user you can sift through a number of blogs to find the info you need. Many stories are anecdotal rather than measurement/metric based, but they will give you some insights to different destinations.


My favorite review of cruise ships/lines comes from Laura Chapman who has a family member with disabiliities and so is careful to do research on the number of and kinds of cabins and access accommodations offered on different ships.

For general stories on access to travel a good site is The Accessible Travel Guide, which organizes destinations alphabetically.

Additional info can be found at The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality.

There's some portable adaptive equipment like a shower seat that may be helpful to take along to extend your mobility. This product is highly helpful for people with difficulty standing for a shower or for folks in wheelchairs who need a safe seat to transfer onto. I carry my own because most of those offered by hotels are unsafe for a wheelchair user to transfer onto and too small for my er, um, baggage :)

I have the opportunity to go to Anchorage for 3-4 days in September. If I do this, what are the important things to squeeze into this tight time frame?

You don't need to sleep, do you?

You will want a good mix of culture and nature. Here are some suggestions that should keep you busy: Anchorage Museum, Alaska Native Heritage Center, Alaska Museum of Natural History, Chugach State Park (third-largest in state; 18 miles from the city), tour of Portage Glacier and Sourdough Mining Company for food and drink.


I have a breast prosthesis after a mastectomy last year. My home airport, Sea-Tac, is well-known for insensitive TSA agents. I am terrified of being publicly humiliated on my first flight next month. Should I just pack the falsie and go through the security line in all my lopsided glory? Or, since I am doing carry on only, will they insist on pulling it out and examining it closely, because it is made of that suspicious gel?

Anyone can request a private screening at TSA and you will get a screening behind closed doors with an agent of your same gender.

TSA says:

You may tell the TSA security officer that you would greatly appreciate that your screening be handled as discreetly and quietly as possible. 


You should neither be asked to nor agree to lift, remove, or raise any article of clothing to reveal your breast prosthesis, and you should not be asked to remove it.


If the security officer’s gloves alarm for explosives after conducting your pat-down, you will need to undergo additional screening.


You are free to ask the security officer about the screening process and screening equipment.


If you decide to bring your prosthesis or mastectomy bra in your accessible property rather than wearing it, it will be allowed through the checkpoint after it is screened. The prosthesis or the mastectomy bra is not subject to the 3-1-1 rules normally applicable to liquids, gels, and aerosols because it is considered to be medically necessary.  You may also ask that your bag be screened in private...


If you are comfortable stating that you are a breast cancer survivor who wears a breast prosthesis, please let the security officer know.  You may also use a travel communication card which provides this information in writing and show it to the security officer instead of, or in conjunction with your conversation with the security officer.  To assist you in this process, TSA recently made a notification template available which can be found at by clicking here.

We are driving DC-Rockland, ME with two kids. Whats a good overnight stop? Somewhere in CT, right? Or MA? Never done this before, help!

We've offered many possibilities on this route in the (very recent) past. A lot depends on your route, and how much you're willing to detour, but here are a few thoughts: Northampton, Mass. or Amherst, Mass. -- two equally beautiful college towns that would require just a slight dogleg off the straight path from DC to Rockland. I love the Hotel Northampton in Northampton.

More directly along your route but a farther drive is Newburyport, Mass. Waterfront town that's one of my very favorites. Also lovely and maybe not quite so far is Rockport, Mass., a seaside town on the "other" cape, Cape Ann.

If you don't want to travel quite so far in one day, you could stop along the Connecticut shore in Mystic or Old Saybrook, which Andrea finally discovered last summer. Or there's Newport, R.I., which would again be a bit of a detour, but worth it for the glimpse of the fabulous seaside "cottages" of 19th-century millionaires like the Vanderbilts and others.

Chatters, what do you recommend?

hoping you/readers can help - a Lithuianian friend will be home visiting family while I'm there and agreed to play tour guide for a few days! From her place (near the coast), she said I can take a bus to Liepaja, Latvia. Any suggestion to making my way across the country (and eventually to Tallin, Estonia)? I'm into nature, culture, art/architecture. No interest in history or politics. No need to see coast, necessarily, as I live at the ocean. Using public transportation and will have about 3-4 days in Latvia and about 3-4 days in Estonia.

Eurolines budget European bus company lists destinations in both Lithuania and Latvia and Tallinn, Estonia.


Google Maps will map a path between cities on your route with public train and bus information as well when you choose the train icon above the address.

One of our colleagues who's familiar with Latvia suggested that you take the bus from Liepaja to Riga, the capital of Latvia. If you like culture and architecture, he says you should visit Mezaparks, a kind of museum of folk architecture, on the outskirts of the city. And check out our story from the other year on Tallinn. Here's some info on how to get there by bus. Chatters, other suggestions?

hi - off to Finland, Russia and the Baltics on THURSDAY! Meeting Mom for a Russian river cruise after traveling on my own in Helsinki. I know Carol advises going a day before.....but the train from Helsinki to St Petersburg sounds soooo reliable and fast, I'm going to take the first one of the day. QUESTION: getting from the train station to the dock. I have the name of the dock and correct spelling. The cruise company had advised getting a taxi but I can't get any information on reliable/real taxi and also how to negotiate price of what it might cost. Ideas?

Not sure what it would cost, but hope you have the info written in Russian, as most cab drivers do not speak/read English. has info on walking and taking the bus out of the cruise port in St. Petersburg. with satelite photos of what you are looking for. Reverse the instructions and that should get you there.

Need recommendations on restaurants and sightseeing. Hotel is by Aquarium. tia!

Andrea and I were just there for our guidebooks vs. apps throwdown the other month. Here's my take, and here's Andrea's. Also by then it's possible the new baby panda twins will be on exhibit at Zoo Atlanta. Squee!

My flight was diverted and we are currently stuck on the Tarmac. Have been here more than an hour and they don't know how long we will be here. What are the rules governing when we can get off the plane or redress?

2009 DOT rules state passengers must be given food and water if the delay exceeds 3 hours for domestic flights (4 for international) and must be allowed to deplane at 4 hours. There is an effort to rescind these on-tarmac rules currently.

planning a trip to barbados in the fall. I'm ok with the fare prices ... they've just been high all around this year, but the total flight times are horrible. upwards of 18-19 hours on some of the return flights. there has to be a better way. I know NYC flies direct. anywhere else closeby that has direct flights to barbados? kicking myself for not booking when I say the NYC flights pretty low. Still may go that route just to avoid leaving barbados at 8 am and getting back at midnight. also, any ideas on best places to stay in barbados? thanks!

Don't know what days/dates you are flying but American offers short connecting flights from DCA via JFK/MIA. And prices are about the same as the very long flights. As for where to stay, much depends on your price point. Any chatters have favorites?

Was in New Orleans about 15 years ago and at the end of a week of business, was going to stay with a friend to experience Mardi Gras. On Friday afternoon, the French Quarter streets are only open to pedestrians and the carriages of the partying Krews. Things got so out of hand with people surging for beads, the rear wheel of a fully loaded carriage ran over my right foot. Within seconds, it exploded to the size of a football. After much trouble, got to the hospital and then flew home the next morning on crutches back to BWI. Not something I'd like to repeat!

Yikes, it hurts just reading about it!

Hello! I posted a few weeks ago and no one could help, so I'm trying again. We are visiting Napa and Sonoma in a month and want to tour wineries but neither of us wants to be the designated driver. A car service is $60 a hour, which is beyond our budget. Does anyone have any recommendations for a non-touristy wine tour?

Did you see the answer a fellow chatter shared with you in a follow-up last week?

We are a couple in our 50's celebrating our 25th anniversary. In February, we would like to take a week-long trip to a Caribbean island. We're looking for a bit of luxury without completely breaking the bank, lying on the beach during the day, shopping and walking in the late afternoons before having a drink and a great dinner each evening. Which island(s) and resorts/hotels/B&B's would you recommend? Thanks!

I love St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The island has a darling town (very laid-back) and lots of protected land for hiking and beach-going. The most luxurious hotel is Caneel Bay, the former estate of Laurance Rockefeller. However, you can find equally romantic properties in the mid-range, such as St. John Inn or Inn at Tamarind Court. Or if you seek adventure, try the tent cottages at Mayo Bay Camps or Concordia Eco-Tents.

A ferry runs between St. John and St. Thomas, so you can take day trips to the sister island to go shopping  (oodles of duty free) and explore other beaches and restaurants.  You can also take the ferry from St. John to Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada. Just remember to bring your passport because you are leaving U.S. territority and entering international lands.

hi, travelers! my boyfriend likes mexico and jamaica while I'm more of an Aruba and Puerto Rico gal. any tropical destination that you can recommend that we both would love? we are at risk of no vacation at all! thanks for your help.

What about someplace really different for both of you. I just returned from Sanya, China, which is on Hainan Island just east of Vietnam. It looks exactly like Hawaii with white sand beaches and lovely blue water, but it is a vacation of a different stripe because it is inside China.


Another lovely and under-considered destination is the Florida Keys. We spent 2 weeks of bliss on Islamorada. It takes nearly no time at all to get there, and the sun and sand are just as beautiful as the Caribbean.

Those people could have avoided the surge for beads by coming back the next day and picking them up of the streets. I didn't go to the parades but I gleaned a whole shopping bag full of beads the next morning. Sorry about your foot.

Just wanted to thank the Travel section and all of the authors for highlighting an issue that many of us never consider. I've definitely found myself thinking - as I was navigating a train with very high steps or an old building with narrow stairs and no elevator - 'how do older folks or people in wheelchairs do this?' Glad to hear that some people just make it work!

Thanks for taking the time to ponder these stories and how travel could be improved for all. As the baby boomers age, the travel industry will be facing a number of new kinds of customers that they have yet to adequately plan for.

i understand that there is a book titled 10 Mistakes to Avoid While Traveling in Paris. Does anyone there know what those 10 mistakes might be? Am traveling to Paris soon with husband, adult children, and three year old grandchild. We will be there for only four days. Would appreciate any tips anyone can give us.

I'm not familiar with that book, and a Web search did not turn it up, although I did find this Conde Nast Traveler article on 10 mistakes not to make in Paris. Things like not shopping on the Champs Elysees, not wearing shorts, not spending all day at the Louvre. All sound reasonable to me. I'd also say, be sure to avoid the panhandlers and beggars on the streets (there are many, but they're obvious, coming up to you with a piece of paper saying what a hard time they're having and asking for money) and watching your money against pickpockets. Also, research good places to eat -- that vaunted French cuisine ain't quite what it used to be, and you can walk into some really mediocre meals if you don't plan ahead. What do you say, chatters?

Many things to do in Riga, which is a beautiful city with Jugendstil architecture. Along the way (well, sort of) is Kuldiga, a charming small town next to Europe's widest waterfall (never mind it's only about 6 feet tall) and down the road towards Riga is an absolutely wonderful indoor/outdoor art museum called Pedvale. Then, between Riga and Tallinn, you could stop at Sigulda, which is as hilly as Latvia gets (not very) but nonetheless a very naturally scenic area.

My mother had polio, and as she has aged, walking has become extremely difficult, though her upper body still works (mostly) fine. Her nature is to be extremely cautious, and she was reluctant to join me in a two-person kayak through St. John's mangroves, but that was really the perfect activity. She could move freely on the water in a way that she can't on land and experience all kinds of things (octopus!). This specific solution is appropriate for everyone, but it is worth considering what strengths someone does have (and how you can make up for any deficits) when planning a holiday. Works for fully-body-abled people, as well.

So often when a person with disabilities or their family member asks about access to an activity, nondisabled folks will discourage them with "that just wouldn't be possible." But my experience is that these issues are very individual and I've learned to set my own course rather than rely on answers or discouragement from others.

Thanks for taking the question - we'll be traveling to Peru (via Miami). Thanks!

From my research (Visa HQ, which helps travelers obstain visas and other documents), "your passport must be valid for at least 90 days following your departure date from Peru." However, most Peru tour operators suggest that your passport is valid at least six months following the end of your trip.

To be safe, renew it.

I traveled with my handicapped mother to Morocco. It was the best thing we could have done together, though the mobility challenges were very real. Thank you for the articles and the resources.

I traveled in Morocco in the 1980s by myself in a wheelchair and it was a very challenging place to travel, especially as a woman alone. I would be very interested in your take on your trip, if you'd like to reach me at my website I remember that most of the dwellings and hotels were on what we call the second floor and they call in Europe, the first floor. So to get to my room I had to be carried up by the bellman, my wheelchair and me both!

I have gotten so many conflicting answers on this but figured I'd try one more time. What is the rule of thumb on whether to accept insurance from the car rental company (in the U.S.)? I have my own car insurance and have an AmEx card that I will use to rent, but I still am not sure if there is some gap. Geico wasn't that helpful when I called to ask. Any advice would be great. Thanks!

Most car insurance and many credit cards will cover your rental if you're driving in the U.S. But there are exceptions. For example, a specialty vehicle might not be covered, and your policy may only be secondary insurance. Regardless, there are no laws I'm aware of that require you to buy insurance from the car rental company, which is what some counter agents imply in order to get you to buy their expensive insurance. By the way, I'd be happy to shoot over a draft of a chapter on car rentals from my upcoming book, which will offer a more in-depth answer. Just let me know. Here's my email address. 

I am looking to travel to Prague in a few months' time and have heard great things about it. For those who have been, what are some must-see sights, outside the obvious touristy attractions? Also, any recommendations on hotels and restaurants?

Prague is amazing, and there are so many "touristy" attractions that you won't have time seeking out any other kind. You must visit Castle Hill and walk down Golden Lane. Cross the Charles Bridge. Hang out in Wenceslas Square. Visit the Lennon Wall. The Jewish Quarter and cemetery are fascinating. Take in Old Town Square. There's too much to list, frankly. As for hotels and restaurants, it's been a while since I was there, so I throw that out to the chatters. Folks?

I noticed that the 3+ articles focused on mobility challenged travelers. What about folks who have other kinds of disabilities, e.g., deaf/hearing impaired, blind/visually impaired, intellectual disabled (e.g., autistic, learning disabilities, Asberger's)? Have you thought of doing a follow-up series on these types of ailments? For example, I have hearing impairment in both ears for which I use hearing aids, but I don't use sign language because I can articulate quite well. I'm also learning disabled (and no, it's NOT the same as mental retardation), and have occasional trouble walking because of balance and coordination. When traveling, I usually inform airline, train and cruise staff that I may need help in boarding aircraft, trains, and cruise ships, or when boarding and exiting buses and tenders when docking at cruise ports. I almost always accept that help and I thank the staff for their assistance.

There are a wide number of disability groups that could enjoy further information on accessibility. I noticed in Sydney that the busses and trains did not announce stops which is required in the US to provide access for blind and visually impared riders and folks with reading difficulty.

I'm interested in other "cross-disability" experiences if anyone would like to share them via my blog at


There are also websites and blogs that specialize in information for people with differing disabilities such as the UK based and Access-Able.


The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality ( also includes info on travel tips for people who are autistic.

yikes - checking in and had to add a bag to my flight. The question reads "Please tick if the credit card holder is not travelling. Yes No" -- this is not a Yes/No question! I am the card holder - no local phone number (I'm not in the Baltics right now) - thanks!!!

If you are traveling on this ticket, click "yes." If you run into trouble, let me know. I'll do my best to help.

What are you refering to when you say affordable but classy? I suggest avoid the coast and sonoma on Friday/Saturday stays. Do SF instead. Hotel rates will be high on weekends. This time is peak tourist season for SF so hotel rates across the board will be higher. Look to explore the norther coast up to Mendocino. Have some flexibility because September is wildfire season.

Thanks for the tips for the honeymooners.

We invited Brian's 84 year old father to join us on trip to France. He has a bad back and some walking/tiring easily issues. I had investigated 'handicapped accessible' transportation and venues. I was delighted when he asked whether the airlines would let him take his walker with him, that has a seat, so if he got tired he could sit down. We stayed near a metro stop that had escalators (Rue de Bac) and near the Hop On-Hop off bus tour stop. We rarely took cabs, but did when it made sense. We rented a car for Normandy and Omaha Beach and that worked fine for him.. Restaurants in Paris were very good about holding the walker while we dined and assigning us a table that made it easy to get to. My 84 year old dad with troubled knees went on a river cruise with a group on the Rhone River in France. He was traveling alone, but knew one or two in the group. He opted to take his cane along with him "just in case" and take the morning sightseeing excursions in each port, He opted for on board activities in afternoon. He had a marvelous time and didn't let age and walking issues slow him down much. As he says, "It beats the alternative!"

As you've noted the issues for people who walk with some difficulty are different from those of full-time wheelchair users. It sounds like you found some great work-around solutions in both cases.

Next month my teenage son and I are heading to California - his first trip West - and I'd love your suggestions for some interesting outings. We're flying in to Long Beach then heading south to San Diego. I have vague ideas like a Universal Studios tour, driving PCH to Dana Point, doing an adventure outing on Catalina Island...does anyone have any tips for those "must-sees" (or "stay away!") Thanks!

Long Beach is only about two hours from San Diego, but Universal Studios is at least an hour (and that's with light traffic) in the opposite direction. So I'd nix that. If he likes amusement parks, stop in Disneyland or Knott's Berry Farm instead (both are located between Long Beach and  San Diego). That will take all day, however, so won't leave much time for wandering the Pacific Coast Highway. If you want to stay overnight along the way, I'd recommend Laguna Beach. I'd skip Catalina and spend more time in San Diego, where there is so much to do. He may like biking along the beach in Pacific Beach/Mission Bay, watching the seals in La Jolla, hiking at Torrey Pines, taking in a Padres game, the San Diego Zoo, etc. For more ideas, go to San Diego tourism.

I had to fly to SC for family reasons 2 days after having major foot surgery. I was in a cast and on crutches and the United Airlines staff at Dulles were absolutely horrendous to me. I had notified the airline that I would need a wheelchair to get through the airport, and they really acted as though my needs were an enormous imposition on them. The plane was a small regional jet and we were flying out of the Z gates where you have to go outside and either walk up steps or walk up a ramp to get on the plane. It was pouring rain on both my outbound and return flights and no one seemed even slightly willing to assist me in getting from the wheelchair to the plane. They couldn't even bother to carry an umbrella over me so I didn't have to end up soaking wet - they left me sitting in a wheelchair on the tarmac while they discussed how to get me up the ramp and onto the plane. Finally a kind male crewmember just picked me up and carried me up the ramp and yelled at the gate agent to bring my crutches and purse along. Arriving back at Dulles (after a MUCH more pleasant arrival & departure in Savannah, with an actual jetway and wheelchair right into the plane), it was pouring again and had basically the same treatment. I did write to United to complain and I think I might've gotten 10,000 FF miles as "compensation." All I could think about was "Wow, I'm glad my disability is temporary. I'd hate to go through this every time I want to go somewhere!"

Really. Sounds awful.

Besides ignoring those that are recognizable, for men, carry the wallet in the FRONT POCKET. I had a packet of tissues swiped from my back pocket, by someone who I am sure thought they were getting hold of my wallet!

I second that, for sure!

And we're done! That went quickly. Thanks all for joining in our chat today. It was a tough choice for the prize winner today, but I'm going with the person whose mantra when facing a difficult physical challenge is "baby steps." Works for me! Send your contact info to me at, and I'll send you your prize.

In This Chat
Zofia Smardz
Zofia Smardz is the deputy editor of Travel.
Andrea Sachs
Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Travel's editorial aide.
Christopher Elliott
Christopher Elliott writes The Navigator column, clearing the way through the fog of consumer travel issues. He is also National Geographic Traveler magazine's reader advocate.
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
Carole Zoom
Carole Zoom is an artist and activist who lives in Hawaii and blogs about traveling and disability at
Recent Chats
  • Next: