By Candy B. Harrington
Road trips are an excellent option for wheelchair-users and slow walkers. You can pack along all your equipment and supplies, take a bathroom break whenever you want, and never have to worry about accessible transportation at your destination. That said road trip budgets can range from super-shoestring to uber-expensive. With that in mind here are a few tips to help you reign in the costs the next time you hit the road.
- Plan ahead for an accessible towing service before you leave home. Not all auto clubs offer accessible vehicles, and if you’re caught unprepared you may end up paying extra money for a specialized vehicle. Play it safe and enroll in an auto club, like the ADA Auto Club (www.adaautoclub.com), which offers accessible tow vehicles.
- If you drive an adapted vehicle, find out where you can get it serviced along your route. Not all repair facilities are adept at repairing accessible vans, so finding a qualified shop in advance can save you both time and money. The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association can help you locate an appropriate shop. Just surf on over to www.nmeda.com and search for a member dealer by zip code or location.
- Join a hotel rewards program and rack up some points on your road trip. Choose a chain like Best Western, Microtel or Holiday Inn that has roadside properties. And look for chains that offer extra points or added amenities to their members. Points can add up quickly and you may even be eligible for a free night or two on your first trip.
- Get a free national parks America the Beautiful Access Pass. This lifetime pass provides for free admission to all national parks and recreation areas, and it’s available to U.S. citizens or residents with a permanent disability. Passes can be obtained at most national park entrance stations, or by mail (for a $10 fee). For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm.
- Some national parks offer upgraded, affordable, camping options. for folks who don’t want to pitch a tent but still want to enjoy the great outdoors. Take Yosemite’s Housekeeping Camp (www.travelyosemite.com/lodging/housekeeping-camp), for example. These three-sided concrete structures with canvas roofs are furnished with beds and a table with chairs. Sites 57, 58, 59 and 60 are the most accessible choices. These units rent out for $105 per night, which is a great deal compared to the other in-park lodging offerings.
- Many states offer free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses for disabled veterans. Check with the state department of fish and game at your destination to see if visitors are also eligible for these discounts.
- Some state parks have affordable family cabins. Eisenhower State Park (http://ksoutdoors.com/State-Parks/Locations/Eisenhower) in Eastern Kansas has several furnished accessible cabins with bathrooms starting at just $75 per night.
- Don’t rule out non-profit organizations for affordable lodging sources. For example the YMCA of the Rockies (www.ymcarockies.org) has some nice accessible rooms at their family lodge in Estes Park, Colorado for $99; while the Telephone Pioneers of America built an accessible lakeside cabin in Mirror Lake Sate Park (http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/camping/cabin.html) that goes for just $34 per night.
- Give yurting a try. These round platform tents which have wooden frames and floors are popping up at recreation areas across America. They are furnished with bunks and futons and are ideal for family outings. Most yurts have electricity, some have bathrooms, and many are wheelchair-accessible. A basic accessible yurt rents for $80 per night at Golden Gate Canyon State Park (http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/GoldenGateCanyon) in Colorado, while a deluxe yurt with a bathroom goes for $90 per night at Oregon’s’ Umpqua Lighthouse State Park (http://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=83).
- Last but certainly not least, pack along a picnic lunch and stop at a highway rest area to cut meal costs. Most roadside rest areas have accessible picnic tables as well as accessible restrooms. Not only will you save a few bucks by eating alfresco, but you’ll also dodge the extra calories and sodium that come with most fast-food meals.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Known as the guru of accessible travel, Candy B. Harrington has been writing about this niche exclusively for over 20 years. She’s the founding editor of Emerging Horizons, and the author of 12 accessible travel titles, including her latest release Barrier Free Travel; Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (www.barrierfreeyosemite.com). Candy’s work can also be found in disability-related magazines, mainstream publications and on the web. Tape measure in hand, Candy hits the road often, in search of new accessible travel finds.