Budget Lodging Options for Disabled Travelers

Is it really possible to travel on a budget? Well of course, that depends on your budget. Seriously though, it never hurts to stretch your travel dollar; and the best way to do that is to rein in those ever escalating lodging costs. According to PKF Consulting, hotel rates in the top 50 hotel markets in the US are projected to rise 4.7% in 2005. The good news is, it’s still possible to find lodging that’s both affordable and accessible. So let’s take a look at a few budget lodging options.

First stop — hostelling; an idea which first gained popularity in the 1970s as an inexpensive way for young people to see the world. Today hostels are open to travelers of all ages, and many hostels are nicely accessible. Some properties, like Hostelling International’s (HI) Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel, have even upgraded their accessible rooms.

Says Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel manager Rick Young, “We sought input from a number of local disability organizations during the construction of our accessible wing. It took a little longer, but it was well worth the effort.” The renovated wing features an accessible kitchen, a bathroom with a roll-in shower and two dorm rooms. It’s very nicely done. The location is hard to beat too, with a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Accessible hostels are not limited to the US, as I’ve seen excellent access at hostels in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Access varies from hostel to hostel, so contact each property directly for detailed access information. Some hostels even feature family rooms with private bathrooms. For more information visit HI on-line at www.hihostels.com.

The YMCA is another budget lodging option that is often overlooked by disabled travelers. Although sometimes grouped with hostels, most Ys also offer on-site recreational facilities such as swimming pools and weight rooms.

Although access varies from site to site, properties that offer accessible rooms usually have access to their recreational facilities as well. For example, the Salisbury YMCA in Hong Kong not only has four accessible guest rooms, but it also has wheelchair-access to one of their swimming pools. Visit www.ymca.net to search the worldwide directory of Ys, then inquire directly with each property to determine their level of access.

On the more traditional side, many hotel chains, such as Microtel and Motel 6, offer accessible rooms at reasonable rates. Microtel gets the highest marks for consistent access, as all Microtel properties are constructed from the ground up with access in mind. Their goal is to be the preferred motel chain for travelers with disabilities. So far they’ve done a great job. Visit the Microtel website at www.microtelinn.com for more information about their access features.

Motel 6 can also offer good access, but unfortunately they’re not very consistent. When they’re good, they’re very, very good; but when they’re bad, you have to almost be a contortionist to use the toilet. Most of their newly constructed (post ADA) properties are nicely accessible, so look for properties constructed after 1992. Their remodeled properties are access nightmares, so make sure and ask a lot of questions before you book a room. Visit www.motel6.com to request a free Motel 6 directory.

And if your travels take you across the Big Pond, you can’t beat Premier Travel Inns for access and value in the United Kingdom. Says Ann Litt of Undiscovered Britain, “All Premier Travel Inns have at least a couple of adapted rooms which have wide doorways, grab bars, adapted bathrooms and low rise tubs. They’re not luxury properties, but they are clean, affordable and accessible.” For more information visit www.travelinn.co.uk.

Of course, you can always look to the great outdoors for some budget lodging options. If that’s your choice, don’t leave home without your Golden Access Passport, a free lifetime pass available to any US resident with a permanent disability. Pass holders get free admission to all US national parks and a 50% discount on campsites. For more information about the Golden Access Passport, contact your local Bureau of Land Management, or pick up your own Golden Access Passport at any national park entrance.

Last but not least, check out the Bonfils-Stanton Outdoor Center in Winter Park, Colorado. Operated by the National Sports Center for the Disabled, Bonfils-Stanton features accessible nature trails, fishing and picnic areas and an accessible campground with raised platforms. The campground is open from May 29 to September 30. There is no charge for camping but advance reservations are required. For more information visit www.nscd.org.


A recognized expert on accessible travel, Candy is the editor of Emerging Horizons and the author of Barrier-Free Travel; A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. She also shares insights, information and industry updates about accessible travel on her Barrier Free Travels blog. Candy can be contacted at Candy at EmergingHorizons dot com.