12 Trips for Accessible Travel That Don’t Involve a Coach Bus

The nation's most-visited national park is also one of the best for leaf peeping. The fall colors in the Great Smoky Mountains arrive as early as mid-September at higher elevations and work their way down. Take a drive along Clingmans Dome Road or the Blue Ridge Parkway for a good look.
America’s national parks offer visitors inspiring and affordable ways to unplug and reconnect with nature. Although not every state has a national park, the National Park Service also oversees national monuments, national historic sites, and national rivers, among other areas. Some parks are iconic, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite, and others are underrated and lightly visited. This list highlights 50 must-see destinations — the best the country has to offer. National parks often charge an entrance fee that grants seven days of access and costs up to $35 a vehicle. An interagency annual pass provides access to all the national parks and other federal fee areas for $80. Seniors 62 or older can buy a lifetime passes for $80 and annual passes for $20. Members of the military are eligible for free annual passes. Fee-free days also are offered occasionally during the year, including Sept. 22 for National Public Lands Day and Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
Slide 1 of 12: Travelers to Spain can take to the skies for a hot air balloon ride above La Garrotxa Natural Park which features Catalonia’s volcanoes. With three-door baskets, the wheelchair accessible balloons fly for roughly an hour and a half while guests sip a glass of wine. For the land-bound, Accessible Spain hosts excursions to the top of the world’s third largest volcano, Mount Teide. In a wheelchair-accessible van, the 2,370-meter ascent from sea-level ventures through Las Cañadas National Park, which was also a filming location for Star Wars.
Slide 2 of 12: Easy Access Travel hosts safari-goers at a 30-acre wheelchair-accessible resort complete with gardens, a pool, and spa. They also provide beach wheelchairs, accessible snorkeling, and a cable car for views of Durban during downtime. The safari itself takes guests into one of the largest Big Five Game Reserves in Africa, Hluhluwe, as well as Isimangaliso Wetland Park. Participants will also find themselves interacting with elephants in Zululand and feeding wild cats at the Cat and Cheetah Rehabilitation Centre.
Slide 3 of 12: Two hours north of Boston in Lincoln, New Hampshire, Accessible Travel utilizes a resort that offers a ski school with certified instructors for guests with disabilities. The school includes equipment adapted to be suitable for wheelchair users. Based in the United Kingdom with 17 years of experience, the tour operator guarantees accessibility and expertise to accommodate all.
Slide 4 of 12: The Aviation for Paraplegics and Tetraplegics Charitable Trust located in Wiltshire, England was established for the sole reason to teach people with disabilites to fly. With an instructor in a two-seat, microlight plane outfitted with modified controls for various types of abilities, students can enjoy a new experience or become a pilot themselves. APT Charitable Trust seeks to give its visitors a new-found freedom.
Slide 5 of 12: Travelers with impaired vision visiting the Uffizi gallery can experience some of the world’s greatest art by feeling 3D-models of paintings like Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.” At the Accademia Gallery, visitors can use gloves to touch Michelangelo’s sculptures. Beyond the walls of the galleries, certified tour operator Fantastic Florence utilizes other tools such as models to scale of the city’s most famous buildings—including the Duomo di Firenze and the Palazzo Vecchio—as well as evoke a sense of place by encouraging his guests to hone in on the sounds and smells of their surroundings.
Slide 6 of 12: Japan is preparing to host the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, making it an increasingly accessible destination for disabled travelers. Inside Japan takes guests round-trip from Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka by train. On this self-guided cross-country tour, visitors can expect to see Tokyo from atop the Skytree, Mount Fuji from Lake Kawaguchi, and wander the Golden Temple in Kyoto.
Slide 7 of 12: From California to New York, Paradox Sports teaches amputee students with any level of experience to climb, hike, and camp in destinations like Yosemite and the Shawangunk Mountain Range. With trips available year-round, students can choose ice climbing during winter months or rock climbing after the thaw. The staff, based in Boulder, Colorado, seeks to challenge what can be done by differently-abled persons. In 2016, nearly 40 percent of Paradox Sports clients had been impacted by spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries, but with adaptive climbing, they have an opportunity to overcome mental roadblocks.
Slide 8 of 12: Divers can get certified or simply book a trip with Bali International Diving Professionals, a team with over 25 years of experience in the area who understand how to accommodate disabilities. Diving is considered highly therapeutic to people with disabilities because the natural buoyancy often allows divers a different range of movement. Guests can expect to enjoy four dives with a qualified dive buddy to assist with any difficulties while underwater.
Slide 9 of 12: Travelers to Spain can take to the skies for a hot air balloon ride above La Garrotxa Natural Park which features Catalonia’s volcanoes. With three-door baskets, the wheelchair accessible balloons fly for roughly an hour and a half while guests sip a glass of wine. For the land-bound, Accessible Spain hosts excursions to the top of the world’s third largest volcano, Mount Teide. In a wheelchair-accessible van, the 2,370-meter ascent from sea-level ventures through Las Cañadas National Park, which was also a filming location for Star Wars.
Slide 10 of 12: Though cancer is not a disability, this scholarship retreat provides holistic travel to women battling breast cancer. Attendees take yoga classes and spend time with horses in Clyde Park, Montana to center and connect with themselves and others with similar experiences. With the help of 25 partners, Big Sky Yoga Retreats has hosted more than 60 participants. Guests enjoy gourmet meals, meditation, daily yoga, horseback riding, journaling, and a photography session with a professional. As a safe space, all activities are optional for “cancer-kickin’ cowgirls” to join as they choose.
Slide 11 of 12: In Wales with Celtic Quest Coasteering, “coasteering” includes cliff jumping, adventure swimming, and rock hopping. Along the black sand beach in Abereiddy, the team encourages guests to explore the coast and all it contains from sea lion pups to a slate quarry known as the “Blue Lagoon.” Participants don a highly buoyant kit which removes the need for strong swimming abilities.
Slide 12 of 12: Adaptive Adventures often partners with military, veteran, and rehabilitation hospitals throughout the United States to give the opportunity of cycling to people. Home to a fleet of bikes ranging from hand cycles and recumbent to traditional and tandem bikes (which can be paired with other adaptive equipment), anyone can access cycling through the operator. Events include single-day, multi-day, and challenge rides such as the Bike Tour of Colorado. Adaptive Adventures also teaches participants safety and maintenance to ensure independence in the sport.

Travel is often freedom from our routine and a chance to see and experience something new, but for years, it has also been a privilege for the non-disabled. More than 1 billion people worldwide have a disability and more than 2 billion are caregivers. Fifty percent of people with disabilities agree that they would travel more if they were sure their needs would be met. Some operators are, however, greatly simplifying travel by planning comprehensive trips and itineraries for the adventurous and the culturally-minded. While advice is largely shared among the differently-abled community, we have gathered some of the best and most adventurous trips that make accessible travel widely available.

Join a Safari in South Africa

Ski in New Hampshire

Learn to Fly in the United Kingdom

Explore Florence’s Uffizi Gallery

See Mt. Fuji

Attempt Ice Climbing

Dive in Indonesia

Hot Air Balloon in Spain and Summit Mt. Teide

Find Holistic Healing in Montana

Try Cliff-Jumping in Wales

Conquer the Bike Tour of Colorado

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