Special Needs Travelers: Go with Confidence

By Susie Reese

Some of us wing packing, throwing a few items together at the very last minute. Some of us have a checklist when we travel.

Slacks? Check.

Sandals? Check.

Toothbrush and toothpaste? Check.

And some of us have a longer checklist than others.

Special needs travelers wheelchair family

Special needs travelers have only begun their adventures!


Pureed foods?


It can be hard to procure the necessary items for a relaxing vacation away from the comforts of home, so until recently, special needs individuals—senior citizens, amputees, slow walkers, and people with wheelchairs or chronic diseases—refrained from indulging in their love of travel. Now, the possibilities aren’t quite endless, but they’re definitely increasing. With the right amount of planning and a willing spirit, almost anyone can have a pleasant getaway.


Get up and Get Living, Special Needs Travelers!

When Linda Cutrupi’s mother had a series of strokes, she explored different options to give her mother a better quality of life. What she found were a wealth of opportunities for special needs travelers.

“There’s no reason 90 percent of people can’t do something,” says Cutrupi, owner of Mainly Special Needs Travel and a travel consultant with more than a decade worth of experience.  “People are too scared or don’t think they can travel, but that’s no longer the case.”

special needs traveler cruise

Cruise ships offer some of the best special needs experiences.

For those with a disability, Cutrupi offers a cruise as the best option. While flying poses concerns for many mobility-limited, cruises depart from New York/Bayonne and Miami and are self-contained getaways with many handicap accessible restaurants and entertainment levels, reachable by elegant glass elevators. Handicap accessible cabins are available for those needing extra room for wheelchairs or fold-down shower seats, and depending on the cruise line, ships are equipped with lifts for the pools and whirlpools. For guests in need of dialysis or even chemotherapy, certain cruise lines are able to accommodate as well.


On Shore

All-inclusive resorts offer special needs travelers with pureed food and other dietary options.

All-inclusive resorts offer special needs travelers with pureed food and other dietary options.

Cutrupi also lists all-inclusive resorts as another option for the special needs traveler. These luxurious establishments thrive with excellent and attentive service, including special amenities like a Mobi-chair and near-elevator rooms. The all-inclusive aspect allows for several meal options, and if a modified diet is needed, such as pureed or honey-thick foods, the resorts can usually accommodate but must be notified ahead of time.

If heading to an all-inclusive resort, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are the most special needs compliant because both destinations are part of the United States. Hotels on these islands must adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Islands such as Barbados, Aruba, Jamaica, and St. Martin took strives recently to accommodate mobility-limited guests. Most hotels in Latin America have ramps, elevators, and specifically equipped rooms, but speaking with a travel agent is a must before booking to know destination options and activities.


A vacation for/with a special needs traveler is no longer a dream. With accessible accommodations and activities, traveling to new and exciting destinations is a reality.


For more information about a special needs vacation, check out “5 Tips or an Enjoyable Special Needs Escape” here.