As anyone with a disability or their carer will know, planning an outing requires forward planning.
Checking whether the destination is accessible for disabled people, whether it can cater to specific dietary requirements and planning how you will travel all needs to be done in advance to ensure an enjoyable and stress-free day.
Many venues offer a discount for people who are ill or disabled and their carers, so this is also worth checking before you go.
Day trips: where to go
Events and other ideas for places to go are regularly listed in magazines, local or national newspapers and online sources such as Artsline, which provides information on more than 1,000 arts venues across London that are accessible for disabled people and can cater for individual needs.
Books such as The Rough Guide to Accessible Britain can also provide inspiration. The guide is free to Blue Badge holders. It is produced in association with Motability and has listings of days out in Britain for the disabled visitor.
English Heritage manages most of the historic castles and monuments in England. You can search for attractions on the English Heritage website by county or postcode, and find out what special facilities each location has.
The National Trust has many properties and protected land throughout England and Wales. Most of the sites have good access and facilities for disabled people. Where possible, the Trust admits powered wheelchairs and similar small vehicles into its buildings, and frequently provides manual wheelchairs. Self-drive and volunteer-driven powered vehicles are available at some larger gardens and parks.
VisitEngland is the website of the official tourist board for England. You can use it to find attractions, shows and events, day trips, accommodation and destinations across the UK that cater for disabled people.
Read about some of the organisations that provide specialist trips for people with disabilities and carers.
How accessible is the venue?
Once you have decided on where you would like to go, contact the venue directly to enquire about what facilities they have on offer, such as:
- disabled parking spaces
- wheelchair access
- disabled toilet or adult changing facilities
- accessible restaurant facilities
The venue or event you are attending may require you to book in advance or phone ahead to let them know your requirements. Some venues are able to hire out wheelchairs for the day, so it’s worth finding out beforehand what they offer.
Some locations may have adult changing facilities, although these are still quite scarce. Use the Changing Places website to find your nearest adult changing facilities.
You may also want to buy a key from the National Key Scheme, which offers disabled people independent access to locked public toilets around the country.
Carer's tip from Scope
"When you’re out and about, it can be difficult changing pads on older kids and adults. They are too big for change units and the floors are too dirty to lay them on. I take a plastic tablecloth, which is big enough, yet portable and easy to wipe clean."
Visit Scope to read more tips like this.
Active pursuits for ill or disabled people
Being active can be difficult for someone who's frail, ill or disabled. But keeping active may improve their ability to do daily tasks, help them to relax, control their weight and encourage them to make new friends.
Although it can be hard for someone who is ill or disabled to keep active, there are many different options that they could consider.
Outdoor sports can be thrilling for anyone. As awareness of disabilities increases and technology advances, more activities are becoming available for disabled people, with the help of willing volunteers. These include:
- Fishing. This is a popular sport among disabled people, as it provides a great opportunity to be outdoors in a healthy environment. The British Disabled Angling Association says that fishing is a social activity that offers a sense of achievement and possible health benefits.
- Horse riding. Horse riding benefits the rider both physically and mentally. It improves balance, posture and co-ordination, and leads to more supple and relaxed muscles. Contact the Riding for the Disabled Association for more details.
- Cycling. The benefits of cycling are the same for disabled people as they are for the able-bodied. It promotes independent mobility, and improves physical and mental wellbeing. If the person you're looking after has a visual impairment or other disability that prevents them from using a single bicycle, you can hire or buy a tandem bike. The charity Charlotte’s Tandems lends them free-of-charge to people in this situation.
Carer's tip from Scope
"Most places offer queue jumping to people with special needs. If they don’t, I always just go to the front of the queue and ask nicely. No-one ever minds when I do."
Visit Scope to read more tips like this.
Day centres help people to get out and about if they don’t have the facilities to do so, or if they live on their own and feel isolated. They offer the chance to learn new skills and participate in activities such as bingo, tea dances, and arts and crafts.
Different centres cater for different groups of people – for example, those with learning disabilities, physical disabilities or mental health problems. Contact your local authority or local carers’ centre to find out about day centres and accessible events in your area.
Travel and transport
When considering the venue or event that you want to visit, you’ll want think about how easy it will be to travel and stay at your destination.
To plan the best route, you can check public transport details using the Traveline website, or if you’re travelling by car, the RAC route planner can help you plan your journey.
Disabled people can obtain Railcards for use on all trains across the National Rail network. Disabled people travelling in their own wheelchair who don't hold a Railcard can get discounts on fares for themselves and one travelling companion.
People who are registered blind or partially sighted can get the same discounts, but only if they travel with a companion. See the Railcard website for more details.
You might also find it useful to check the Changing Places website before you travel to find your nearest disabled toilets with adult changing facilities.
Specialist organisations providing accessible holidays
The following organisations can provide details of holiday accommodation that's suitable for people with disabilities and their carers.
- Tourism for All is a national charity that provides information on accessible holiday venues and places in the UK and abroad for disabled people, their carers and family.
- Vitalise is a national charity that specialises in short breaks throughout the year for adults and children (aged six and older) with physical disabilities, dementia or sight impairment, and their carers. The charity has holiday centres around the UK, including Cornwall, Southampton and Southport. It also offers holidays in Spain and Germany.
- Vitalise also offers short breaks for carers who want to go on holiday without the person they're looking after. All Vitalise centres are registered as personal care centres and most are also registered as nursing care centres. However, the charity does not have the resources to provide holidays for people who are bed-dependent, or who have uncontrolled epilepsy, learning difficulties, or mental health problems.
- The Disaway Trust is a registered charity that organises group holidays internationally and in the UK for people with physical disabilities aged 16 to 80 years and their carers.
- Holidays for All is an umbrella website for various specialist tour companies and disability charities. Holidays for All has listings for a range of holiday providers who specialise in breaks for people with sensory and physical disabilities, their friends and carers around the UK and abroad.
- Livability Holidays is part of a charity and offers accessible hotel and self-catering holidays in the UK, located by popular seaside venues.
- DisabledGo provides online access information to over 90,000 venues across the UK and Ireland.
Family holiday venues
If you're caring for a child with a disability, short breaks or holidays for the child can help benefit both you and the child. You may have other children who do not have a disability, and a short break for the disabled child can allow you quality time with your other children.
Organisations such as the Short Breaks Network organise family-based short breaks that can help deal with the sense of isolation that some children with disabilities feel, by enabling them to meet new people, make new friends and become part of a "second family".
Your social services department, GP or health worker can provide a list of organisations that provide breaks for children with disabilities. They may be able to make a referral for you to some of the organisations.
Many parents and carers of children with a disability prefer to take a short break or holiday with the child. One of the organisations listed below may be able to help:
- The Calvert Trust runs outdoor adventure activities in the countryside. These activities help children and adults with disabilities, with their families and friends, to fulfil their potential. The trust has three purpose-built centres with full-board or self-catering accommodation around the UK, offering a range of sports and recreational activities.
- The Holiday Homes Trust provides affordable holidays for families, carers or groups who have a member with a disability, physical or mental or age-related illness. Their centres are located at popular holiday sites, with specially adapted accommodation for all families with a special need, low-income or single-parent families.
- You can get advice and information on charitable grants and other financial help with the cost of a holiday from the national charity Contact a Family. The charity has produced a useful guide called Holidays, play and leisure (PDF, 1.03Mb).
- The Disabled Holiday Directory is an online directory of organisations and venues, both UK and abroad, that cater for children and adults with disabilities.
More information on activities, breaks and holidays
You can get more advice on NHS Choices about help with transport costs or if you are going abroad check out our Healthcare abroad sections. GOV.UK also has specific advice on foreign travel for disabled people.
If you are a carer, you may want a holiday or short break without the person you care for. Find out about carers’ breaks and respite care.