Summer vacation ideas for wheelchair users – Spin the Globe
Posted by: Sylvia Longmire (Spin the Globe)
Awesome Summer Vacation Ideas for Wheelchair Users
Summer is in full swing and everyone is in vacation mode! Kids are in summer camps or on road trips with Mom and Dad, grownups are flocking to beaches and pools, and others are sheltering inside for a blast of cold air conditioning. Unfortunately, summer break options are sometimes limited for wheelchair users like me. Sand isn’t kind to narrow wheelchairs, and some of us don’t tolerate heat well. Fortunately, there are more and more options for “wheelies” to enjoy summer like everyone else.
I live in sunny Florida, so a good beach usually isn’t further away than an hour’s drive. There are over three dozen beaches in Florida that have special polyester or wooden mats installed across the sand. These mats allow us to enjoy the beach and even roll down to the water. In most of these locations, wheelchair users can rent or borrow balloon-tire beach wheelchairs that get us even closer to all the action along the shore. My favourite spots are Siesta Key Beach near Sarasota, Hollywood Beach between Fort Lauderdale and Miami, and Fernandina Beach near Jacksonville.
There’s no shortage of swimming pools or outdoor water parks in Florida. However, I have multiple sclerosis (MS), which means I’m very sensitive to heat. Summers can be brutal for me, which interferes with my ability to help my two sons enjoy the outdoors. This is why I’m such a huge fan of Great Wolf Lodge and their indoor water parks! They’re usually busiest during the winter months when visitors can get a break from freezing temperatures outside. For me, the regulated temperature and shade indoors is a life saver! They also have water wheelchairs and pool lifts that allow me to enjoy all the fun with my kids.
Road trips are a time-honoured tradition in the USA and my kids and I really love taking one every summer. This year we made the drive from Orlando up to Atlanta for a few days and it was a blast! We enjoyed taking a break from the heat in the amazing—and enormous—Georgia Aquarium, where we stared in awe at tiger sharks and beluga whales and even had a private encounter with an African penguin! We learned some cool history at the World of Coca-Cola and cooled off across the street at the Fountain of Rings splash park. The boys also loved building to their heart’s content at the Legoland Discovery Center.
If you’re lucky enough to have some disposable income for a summer trip, a Caribbean cruise is the way to go for wheelchair users. Most larger cruise ships today have fantastic accessibility, from their cabins to public spaces to pool areas. There are several Caribbean itineraries where the ship only docks at a pier, which means wheelchair users can disembark at every port. Some ships on certain cruise lines even have roll-on/roll-off platforms for tender boats! There are also accessible tour companies in the Caribbean that offer wheelchair friendly shore excursions at most ports of call.
Another summertime favourite is exploring the great outdoors. Larger and more popular national parks like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone can get insanely crowded, so it’s smart to discover state and local park options for some woodland smells and critter sightings. State parks across the country have done a great job making trails more accessible for wheelchair users. Some, like Shark Valley in the Florida Everglades and Myakka State Park near Sarasota, even have wheelchair accessible tram tours! You can find out more about accessibility at national parks at the National Park Service website, and make sure you visit your county or state parks and recreation websites as well.
If a “staycation” is all you can manage in the summer, investigate some local and nearby options for cooling off or trying something new to eat. Splash pads are a great alternative to pools and the beach and I love how I can cool off with my kids without damaging my power chair with too much water exposure. Check out smaller museums and galleries to discover local artists and handmade crafts. Just make sure you call before you go to ensure they’re wheelchair accessible first (Google Maps can help with this).
Taking a summer vacation can come with challenges for wheelchair users, but with careful planning, we can enjoy all the sun and fun there is to offer!
Sylvia Longmire is an accessible travel writer for Spin the Globe and Spin the Sunshine State, and her writing has been featured in the New York Times, Lonely Planet, and the Matador Travel Network. She is a full-time wheelchair user, accessible travel agent, disabled veteran, and the former Ms. Wheelchair USA. You can follow her on Facebook at @spintheglobeonwheels, on Twitter at @spin_theglobe, and on Instagram at @sylvia_longmire.
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