Travelling with Accessibility Needs Part 1: Tours and Hotels in Paris

The primary reason I went on a Paris/Lourdes trip in the fall was as the medical companion/back-up for my Dad, who has complex, chronic health issues that require night time dialysis. In addition, he has limited mobility with a walker, and this combination often means complex trip plans. I am very grateful that we are able to travel with him (and a very robust travel health insurance plan) but there are a lot of things to consider!

Paris itself is a very walkable city, but because of my dad’s mobility issues (he’s unable to walk very long distances) and dialysis needs (we needed a hotel that would accept delivery and storage of medical supplies before our arrival) this limited where we could stay and dictated what kind of activities I could include him in (and what my mom and I were able to do during the trip). I wanted to my parents to see as much of Paris as possible, so although my own personal preference would have been leisurely go to landmarks on multiple days, I chose to look at planned, private car tours.

After consulting with Official Accessible Paris Guide I learned that recent changes in accessibility legislation required all hotels to have at least one accessible room. The caveat of this is that the definition of accessible often refers chiefly to doorway width and ramp access, and often does not address entry-way, elevator, or bathroom needs. For my dad, we needed a hotel that had a flat entry way, elevator access, and a walk-in/roll-in shower with either a shower chair or bench (or as in most European-style hotels, a wet room where the shower and toilet are combined). I had looked at AirBnB (which is generally my preferred method of accommodation) but unfortunately could not find a property that had both the accessibility I needed and could also accept delivery of medical supplies. While it is possible to travel with peritoneal dialysis, the supplies are often delivered 2-3 days prior to your arrival into the country, need to be stored at room temperature, and take up a lot of space!

Many hotel searches later, and I am so grateful to have found The Source Hotel. Michel was our main contact, and he was absolutely amazing! Not only was he able to understand and accommodate the delivery and storage of our medical supplies, but he took pictures of them on arrival and sent them to me to confirm that we had received everything. He also made sure that our hotel room was able to accommodate my dad’s dialysis machine and shower needs (all the bathrooms in this hotel are walk-in showers with small benches for future reference) and converted our hotel room so that it was triple occupancy (most accessible rooms are designed for a couple or 1 person, not two people + a companion) – although this meant I spent all of Paris sleeping on a single sized pull out sofa! The hotel was beside a Pharmacie and close to a train station and bus stop, which made it very easy to travel. He was also very helpful with booking cabs and airport transportation, and we were able to store supplies during our trip in Lourdes. We also came back to the same room! It was approximately a 25 minute bus ride to “downtown” Paris (Eiffel Tower, etc) from the hotel.

It may be easier if you are travelling with a disability to book with an agency; but given that many of the medical needs required direct input/intervention on my part, I felt that booking independently worked better for my family financially. I did use Sage Travelling to book accessible tours that could accommodate my dad’s mobility needs, as they rate tours based on how much walking is required, and specialize in travelling with a wheelchair/limited walking. They do provide hotel and flight booking services as well. The response and customer support from Sage Travel was excellent, and our experience on the Paris Private Car tour was fantastic – we were able to take pictures and see all the major Paris attractions on a 4 hr car tour with my dad, and bypassed lines at several attractions as we were able to use side-entrances! Note that if you choose to do the Bateaux Mouches cabs can drive right up to the terminal but private cars cannot. I did book the tour through Sage Travel but we ended up using our tickets for a different day as the drop off location was too long a walk for my dad from the boarding dock for the boat (it’s about a 200 m walk).

The biggest thing I have to stress is if you are booking a trip for someone with mobility or accessibility issues is to book early and call hotels directly. Hotel websites and third-party sites will not always guarantee the accessible room is available, and third-party sites will not have specific information (other than elevators, etc) about what accessibility means to that hotel! IF you have the financial means, a company like Sage Travel does make things easier, but the ease comes at a premium cost!

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