As a frequent traveler with a disability, people often ask me what kinds of gifts to buy for a loved one who wants or needs to travel. Here are a few of my recommendations — not just for wheelchair travel, but for all travelers who want to be more organized, less stressed, and have more fun on their next vacation or business trip.
If the person you’re shopping for has a service dog, check out my service dog travel guide, too!
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Wheelchair Travel Gifts Under $25
Many helpful gifts for travelers with and without disabilities are surprisingly affordable. Here are some of my favorite low-cost travel tools and gadgets.
Fun LED lights make a great gift for the disabled traveler on your shopping list! And they help with safety, too. Pedestrians who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices tend to be lower to the ground and may move more slowly. This puts us at higher risk of being hit by a car, especially at night. Ironically, almost no health insurance companies pay for light kits on wheelchairs — and buying them from the manufacturer is very expensive. Thankfully, with the popularity of LED lights there are now many affordable, awesome options for “pimping your ride.” I recommend buying USB lights and attaching them to a portable battery pack, or your power wheelchair’s USB port if you have one. The JACKYLED set can be controlled by an app, and the strips are easy to stick on a wheelchair, scooter, or walker.
Never underestimate the value of a simple, useful gift! Carabiner clips are one of the items I rely on most for travel and in life. I’m not talking about the ones for climbing, but these locking connectors that can be used to attach grocery bags to a wheelchair or walker, connect a dog leash, hold keys and more. I have limited hand dexterity, but can still fasten and unfasten these.
Travel Cup With Straw
Many people with disabilities can drink more easily with a straw. The Contigo tumbler fits into car cup holders, seals itself when you pull the straw out, and has a straw holder on the side so it doesn’t get lost.
This medicine case has compartments for many different pills and holds far more than its size would suggest. It’s ideal for over-the-counter painkillers, antacids, anti-diarrheal and other as-needed medications you always want to have available. I love mine!
GoTubbs are small containers for holding anything you need on the go, from medications to candy. Unlike many other small containers, they’re designed to be opened with one hand, so they’re easier for people with limited hand function or coordination to use.
For soaps and lotions, try GoToobs!
Wheelchair Travel Gifts $26 – $70
These wheelchair travel gifts will help give someone what I consider among the greatest gifts of all — the freedom to travel — without breaking the bank.
Trtl Travel Pillow
Like most people with power wheelchairs, I have a headrest, but actually trying to sleep / nap in my wheelchair is difficult without something to support the side of my head. This travel neck pillow solves the problem!
Eagle Creek Pack-It Folders and Cubes
As a traveler with a disability, I’ve found that staying organized is key to making sure my trips go smoothly. By far the most useful product I’ve found for packing my suitcase efficiently is packing folders and cubes. I own quite a few, but the set I most highly recommend is this starter kit from Eagle Creek. The “Specter” material is thin and slightly stretchy, which means the garment folder holds more and is easier to close than even other Eagle Creek garment folders. The cubes are useful for holding smaller items such as socks and underwear, and even a pair of shoes. You can also roll T-shirts and yoga pants and put them inside, then compress them to a much smaller size. Eagle Creek makes several varieties of folders and cubes, so explore the options to find the right set for your wheelchair travel needs!
I’m always cold — this seems to be common among people with cerebral palsy, and some other disabilities as well. Cold weather makes my spasticity (stiff muscles) much worse. I do most of my traveling during the warmer months, so when I was invited to speak at the Ruderman Inclusion Summit, I had to be prepared for the weather in Boston. These hand warmers are one of the best products I’ve purchased for any purpose, ever. They actually get hot to the touch, and putting them in my jacket pockets kept me warm enough that my muscles didn’t seize up like they usually do. Plus, they charge USB devices AND have a built-in flashlight, so they’re useful for emergency preparedness as well.
Are you noticing a theme here? It can be difficult to bring a full electric blanket when traveling, especially if you’re flying, but a small heating pad can be surprisingly effective.
Wheelchair Travel Gifts $70 and Up
Help bring someone’s travel experience to a new level with these extra-special gifts.
A dash camera offers more than just security while driving. It’s also an easy way to capture video of your road trips! You’ll never miss that perfect sunset or cityscape again. The Roav by Anker Dash Cam is my top choice because it includes HD quality video and WiFi for well under $100. As a person with limited hand dexterity, I prefer to access my files wirelessly through an app rather than having to struggle with plugging in cables. This dash cam is easy to use and great for travelers with or without disabilities.
Spinner Suitcase Set
If you’re looking for a gift for a person with a disability going off to college or ramping up (pun intended) his/her travels, you can’t go wrong with a new set of luggage. A reader recently asked me which type of suitcase is easiest to push or pull from a wheelchair. My answer: four-wheeled luggage, aka spinner luggage. There’s no need to tip it in order to roll it, and the spinning wheels make it easy to turn and change directions. There are many brands of spinner luggage out there and most will last many years. Some colors of this Rockland set are on sale; two hard-sided suitcases for $70 is a great deal! Personally, I prefer brightly-colored suitcases like this set, to reflect my personality and so they can be easily distinguished from others’ luggage at baggage claim or even in the back of my van.
GoPro Hero 6
The new GoPro Hero 6 action camera features voice control, making it far more accessible to people with disabilities than any previous GoPro model. GoPros are durable, easy to use, and can be mounted to almost anything to capture video on the go. This model is waterproof to 33 ft without a housing, a big improvement over my Hero 3. I don’t have the Hero 6 yet, but it’s on my wish list!
There’s a reason so many people with disabilities love Apple products. Apple has made a tremendous effort to integrate accessibility into everything they make. iPads and other iOS devices have built-in functionality for people with all kinds of visual disabilities, their touch screens are super easy to use, and I write all my blog posts with Siri voice recognition. Seriously, what traveler doesn’t want an iPad for work and play?