Travel is Becoming More Accessible—Here’s How

From specialized tour operators to groups and resources.

Unpacked: Accessible Travel

Illustration by Terri Po

One of AFAR’s core editorial values is inclusivity: travel—and travel stories—should be accessible and should reflect the multitude of human experiences. In the past, we’ve worked with writers such as Ryan Knighton and Kelly Dawson to better understand an African safari when you’re blind or the kindness of strangers when traveling with cerebral palsy. But we don’t want our coverage to feel sporadic—we want travelers to rely on AFAR as a resource to get out into the world, whether they’re traveling with mobility issues, with a family member on the spectrum, with anxiety issues, with any range of special needs. We believe that travel is one of the greatest educators—a way to learn greater empathy for other cultures and better understanding of ourselves. It starts with being a better listener.

“Did you know that 87 percent of families whose children have autism don’t take family vacations?” says Stuart Butler, chief marketing officer of Visit Myrtle Beach, a popular South Carolina beach destination making accessible travel a priority (see also: Washington, D.C., Tampa, and more. Just check AccessNow.) Butler was citing an oft-quoted IBCCES study that also found that 93 percent of families surveyed would be more inclined to travel if they knew of autism-certified options. Imagine if mainstream media made sharing those options a priority? We hear you, Stuart.

In our first-ever Accessible Travel package, we launch a series called Traveling on the Spectrum, where AFAR contributors share personal experiences, practical tips, and lessons learned from traveling with a family member with autism or on the autism spectrum. Traveling with Autism notes the not-so-obvious challenges: “The changes in routine, unpredictability, crowds, new noises and sights can all make the experience difficult for people on the spectrum and their families.” Below, we share how to make domestic and international travel easier—and a lot more fun. I bet all parents will recognize a few of the tried-and-true tips offered in the stories below (such as, but not limited to: always pack Goldfish and noise-canceling headphones, and try to go with the flow).

This series is just for starters. After all, about one in six children (17 percent) ages 3–17 were diagnosed with a developmental disability (as reported by parents)—autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, blindness, and cerebral palsy, among others—during a study period of 2009–2017, according to the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. Anxiety and mental health conditions are on the rise as well. Travel needn’t be another major stress in our lives—on the contrary, it should bring relief.

AFAR will continue to update this page year-round with stories from travelers seeing the world from different perspectives. I hope you see yourself reflected on our website, and in our magazine’s pages. Laura Dannen Redman, digital content director

Laura Dannen Redman is AFAR’s editor at large. She’s an award-winning journalist who can’t sit still and has called Singapore, Seattle, Australia, Boston, and the Jersey Shore home. She’s based in Brooklyn with her equally travel-happy husband and daughters.
Neurodivergent Travel
In our new series “Traveling on the Spectrum,” one family shares tips to make travel easier with neurodivergent kids.
In our new series “Traveling on the Spectrum,” one family learns you don’t have to push pause on outdoor activities, thanks to U.S. adaptive recreation organizations.
Find out which airlines are making the extra effort to support travelers on the autism spectrum.
A short list of theme parks, cruise lines, and outdoor activities that offer sensory-sensitive solutions.
Inside Give Kids the World Village, where the ice cream is unlimited, nightly tuck-ins from six-foot bunny rabbits are complimentary, and Santa Claus visits every Thursday.
In our fifth episode of “Unpacked by AFAR,” we hear from travelers with disabilities about what it’s like to embark on trips, and explore how a more accessible world benefits all travelers.
Wheelchair Travel
The platform is adding wheelchair-accessible navigation options for transit routes in six major cities.
A wheelchaired perspective of Frida’s Casa Azul, where home, hurt, and history intersect.
A spinal cord injury left Alysia Kezerian unable to walk—but it didn’t stop her from exploring the world.
A new prototype for the first-of-its-kind airplane seat was unveiled this week at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, and could transform the inflight experience for passengers with reduced mobility.