As a frequent traveller across the UK, I have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of hotel rooms. Although many hotels have done a lot in recent years to improve their access for disabled people, it is always best to do a bit of forward planning before setting off on your travels to ensure your trip is hassle-free. It’s also worth remembering that it is unlikely that a hotel design or layout will entirely meet all your needs, so you may still need to take some equipment with you from home.
I find a great option for a cheap getaway is a budget hotel. Premier Inn is the UK’s largest hotel chain and I have stayed at many of their hotels up and down the country. What I like about Premier Inn is that there is a lot of information available on their website about accessibility, so you can find out in advance about the facilities on offer.
Their accessible rooms tend to be bigger than the standard room but none of their rooms have ceiling hoists, although they do say you can bring your own. All their beds are zip and link so the accessible room can be a twin or double. However, when booking online you can only choose single, double or accessible so unless you phone up in advance you will need to arrange your room layout on arrival.
The bathrooms have the standard grab rails and I find the taps and shower controls easy to use. Not all Premier Inn hotels have wet rooms, so this is worth checking beforehand. I have found their staff helpful and my assistance dog has always been made welcome.
If you’re looking to save money, then Travelodge, the UK’s second largest budget hotel chain, is a good choice. I have stayed in these hotels on occasion and have learnt that the facilities do vary depending on which hotel you stay at, as they’re all quite different in their design and layout.
Most Travelodges offer accessible rooms, although the information on what is supplied is not readily available online. Some of the accessible rooms have wet rooms but others don’t, so you would need to check in advance.
In my opinion, the beds are comfortable and the majority are available in zip and link format. But, just like Premier Inn, there is no way to book the room as a double or twin online, so you should call to arrange this instead. The beds are also low rise which makes it easier if you need to transfer from a wheelchair, but not so easy if you have difficulties standing.
This hotel chain has also considered the needs of their disabled guests in other parts of their hotel. Their bar cafés offer large print menus and portable induction loops. The company also say that all of their staff has completed a disability awareness training programme as part of their induction, which is refreshed on a regular basis.
Another hotel brand that many people will be familiar with is Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express. These hotels are part of the IHG chain but most of the hotels are franchised. This means that what’s provided does vary, depending on the hotel you visit. IHG does however set certain standards which they expect their owners to deliver.
I personally like staying in Holiday Inns as their facilities are a bit more luxurious and there is often a swimming pool and gym. What I particularly like about Holiday Inns is that if they are unable to provide a separate bed for your companion, then they will offer a connecting room at no extra cost. However, I find you need to arrange this in advance on the phone. Some Holiday Inns are able to provide a wet room, but you would need to check this in advance too. Holiday Inn is one of the few hotels who do provide ceiling track hoist facilities in some of their accessible rooms.
As well as chain hotels, there are also plenty of independent hotels around the UK which have fantastic accessible accommodation. In some instances, the accessible rooms far exceed anything you would find in a hotel chain. Of particular note is Rudding Park hotel, which this year won the Catey award for accessibility and the Visit England Gold award for hotel of the year. They have an extensive access statement on their website which provides considerable detail on what is available in the room, including the measurements for these facilities.
When searching for an independent hotel, I usually find the hotel first and then give them a call to find out what provisions they have for their disabled guests. In many cases there is nothing on their website to indicate that they are accessible, but when you phone they usually have an accessible room, and some even have ceiling hoists. It can be a bit frustrating having to call up instead of just booking on the website, but it is a good way to ensure your expectations are met.
Airbnb can also be an excellent option for accessible accommodation. I used to think this was just rooms in people’s homes but there are all kinds of accommodation including self-catering and Bed & Breakfast. I have used Airbnb a number of times and have always been happy with what I have chosen. It is now even easier to find accessible accommodation, as earlier this year Airbnb introduced 21 new accessibility filters, including entryways that are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, step-free entry to rooms and an accessible-height bed. This has made it easier for guests with disabilities to find exactly what they need when travelling.
Hotel accommodation has certainly improved for disabled guests, providing disabled people with a lot more choice when it comes to staying away from home.