Tailor-made holidays - Travel tips

Relaxation, adventure, pleasure - that's what holidays are all about. Whether disabled or not, we all want to have a holiday that's just right for us, made to measure, so to speak. And that means something in particular if you're disabled.

Measurements literally determine whether your holiday is truly relaxing and enjoyable: measurements of doors, passageways, bath tubs, bedrooms. Barrier-free accommodation and leisure activities are in much demand - and fortunately there is more and more on offer. So where do you find the right accommodation for a holiday, made to measure?

Numerous offersThere is indeed a wide selection of barrier-free holiday packages. The Internet is full of information sites for travel and accommodation with disabled access, usually put there by associations and organizations, or self-help groups. There are a number of travel agencies offering, or even specializing in, holidays for the disabled. And there are any number of hotels, guest-houses and holiday apartments that cater for the disabled holidaymaker.

A growing market

And the good news is: the choice is getting bigger and bigger. Barrier-free traveling is a growing market. And let's face it, barrier-free access holidays don't just benefit the disabled, but also the elderly and families with buggies or small children. As the population ages, there is a growing demand for easy-access holidays. This fact hasn't escaped hotel and restaurant associations. They are encouraging their members to take advantage of this market opportunity and to offer accommodation that's suitable for the elderly and the disabled.

What does "barrier-free" mean?

It can be difficult for people with disabilities to find their way around the growing number of offers. The main problem is the descriptions. These can be brief - "disabled access&", "suitable for wheelchairs" - or there can be full descriptions of the rooms, entrances, corridors, restaurants and parking. Information portals now exist that verify and test these offerings. But in most cases, the details on the portals also come from the establishments themselves. Holidaymakers can then make the painful discovery that the reality does not match the description. They get stuck at insurmountable obstacles when trying to access the hotel or their room, the rooms themselves or the breakfast room may not provide enough maneuvering space, etc. It is clear that definitions of what "disabled access" actually means are not universal. And even if the accommodation itself is up to expectations, sometimes the environment isn't.

Compulsory standards

In future, holidaymakers will no longer have to contend with these "double standards". In March of this year, the main German hotel and guesthouse associations agreed for the first time on universal and binding standards for barrier-free access to hotels and gastronomic establishments. Checklists are sent to hotel and restaurant owners so that they can test and evaluate their own establishment. The requirements for this new "barrier-free" standard have now been published in the Deutschen Hotelführer 2006 (www.hotelguide.de) and the IHA-Hotelführer Hotels Deutschland 2006 (www.hotellerie.de).

Ask first, enjoy later

But these standards have not yet been generally implemented. It is therefore advisable when booking on the Internet to ask for specific details to guard against disappointment. Particularly useful are the personal reports from previous visitors contained on some of the portals. Often illustrated with photos, these provide a clear picture of what the accommodation is really like. And hotels usually react pretty fast to any criticisms published there.