A Flying Bumblebee chat with……Hannah’s Hope!

Welcome to another Flying Bumblebee chat, this time with Hannah Deakin! Hannah is 28 years old and is a disability blogger over at ‘Hannah’s Hope’. Hannah suffered an injury as a young teenager, went on to develop several illnesses and secondary complications, and as a result is now a powerchair user. Hannah fundraises for Starlight Children’s Foundation and is a Disability Ambassador for the White Lodge Centre. She is also a public speaker and runs workshops raising awareness of disability.

Hannah very kindly agreed to take part in my mini-interview series and has shared her accessible travel tales!

When and where did you have your first holiday following your injury and after becoming a powerchair user? How did you feel before you went and was it how you expected?

My first holiday following my injury and becoming a powerchair user was my Starlight wish in 2013. I had not been on holiday since 2005, so for my wish I asked to go on a family holiday. We went to London for just under a week and it was amazing. Although I had spent many years in London, it was in hospital there, so it was lovely to actually see it! We were lucky that most things were organised by Starlight, so a lot of stress was taken away. Mum and Dad went up to the hotel prior to our stay to do a recki, check what they had there and that everything would work! Luckily, it wasn’t too far to do that as you couldn’t really do that if you were going abroad! I was really excited before the trip. It was my first holiday in 8 years! I was also slightly apprehensive that everything was going to work. It was amazing. Lovely to have a break and do enjoyable things. I have since been on a family holiday to Winchester. It worked so well we have been there twice.

Do you ever find it difficult to get the balance right between finding a holiday that is suitable for your whole party but can also meet your accessibility needs?

Yes, definitely. We like a hotel as opposed to self-catering accommodation, it means we don’t need to worry about shopping and cooking, everyone can have more of a break and it is one less thing to worry about. Many hotels though, do not have the facilities I require. Some hotels that are more set up for disabilities, often seem like they are more for the elderly and I am 28! Others, could accommodate my needs but are more institutionalised with many visitors with learning disabilities. They look wonderful for some people and I am glad they are out there, but I am mentally very bright and able, I just have high physical needs.
Also they would not fit my parents needs either and we like to try and do what a family without a disability wants to on holiday, and emphasise my ability not disability.

What are your top requirements when searching for holidays and how much luck do you have finding these?!

Our top requirements are that the hotel is wheelchair accessible, has a wet room, interconnecting rooms, somewhere that will take their bed out so we can put a hired electric bed and air mattress in, car parking and somewhere that is not too far distance wise. It is important that there is somewhere nearby that we can hire equipment from (electric bed and air mattress). Nice food is also important! We struggle to find places that meet these requirements.

What reassurances would you offer other travellers with a disability considering their first holiday or accessible day out?

It is difficult and challenging to find accessible breaks, but it is great to have a break, have a day out or a holiday. I recommend researching and planning as much as possible to avoid unexpected hurdles. Start somewhere fairly local and then spread your wings further a field!

And finally……How would you summarise, “Holiday Happiness?”

I would summarise holiday happiness as a relaxing break with easy accessibility, friendly and accommodating staff, warm weather with sunshine (but not too hot), local attractions and places of interest to visit and good food. Somewhere that meets my requirements, so makes the day to day aspects easy so we can enjoy the break.

A big thank you to Hannah for taking the time to tell me more about her accessible adventures and for sharing fantastic tips and reassurances for other travellers!

Buzz on over to Hannah’s blog for more info and her social media links x


Fab but hilly! Center Parcs Woburn Forest

Just a mini review this time following our recent trip to Center Parcs Woburn Forest. I wasn’t planning to write a review as there are plenty to be found online, but having visited I wanted to mention a couple of accessibility-related tips! Owing to a comedy of errors including a forgotten camera battery, a cracked (and continuing to slowly crack) phone screen and a wildfire stomach bug we have almost no photos…This is 1 of only 2 which contain real life people.

We have visited Center Parcs Sherwood Forest a couple of times in the past and found it really accessible (and flat!) There is accessibility information available online for Woburn Forest. The one part of it that seemed to pass us by was the hilly nature of the site! It wouldn’t necessarily put us off a return visit, but a flat site is a lot easier when taking mobility into consideration.

We stayed in a lovely 3 bedroomed Woodland Lodge which had great level access and was very spacious inside.

We didn’t choose to stay in an adapted lodge but the en-suite shower was really spacious.

The only step was from the patio doors out to the barbecue and seating area. In retrospect it would have been a good idea to request an area at the back which was flat, the wooded area behind the lodge would be fab for children to explore but not ideal when a wobbly 7 year is attempting to scramble up unaided…

The main thing I wanted to mention for those who need accessibility tips is the hilly nature of the site! We were at the top of a 10% gradient hill which recommended cyclists dismount on the way down, so you can imagine how unlikely it was that the unfit adults could cycle back up again! Quite embarrassing when small children and pensioners were overtaking but moving on…

Emily isn’t able to ride a bike yet so we use a trailer when out and about. It was pretty impossible to pull that up the steep hill!

There is a shuttle bus service for guests with mobility difficulties which can transport you around the village, and has wheelchair access. We used this one evening as there was no way Emily could manage the walk back, particularly up the hill!

I had a chat with guest services about the location of the adapted lodges, although I think if we were to return to Woburn it would actually be more important to get a good (level) location near the Village Square. The lady in guest services recommended contacting Head Office when booking to ensure your lodge meets your needs.

We are big fans of Center Parcs but hadn’t last visited since Emily was 1 so hadn’t thought about the actual physical layout of the site. We loved our trip and it’s a great place to visit, but if you have accessibility needs make sure you are placed somewhere level!

And of course who needs a £250m Center Parcs site to explore when the Parc Market has mini trolleys?….

A Flying Bumblebee chat with…. An Ambitious Turtle!

Welcome to another Flying Bumblebee chat, this time with an Ambitious Turtle – otherwise known as Fi Anderson! Fi is a mum of 2 little girls living in the UK, who also manages to squeeze in being an active disability campaigner and an award-winning disability blogger. Fi has the progressive muscle-wasting condition Muscular Dystrophy and works in a variety of roles including as a Transport Ambassador for Muscular Dystrophy UK, and being involved in many campaigns around accessible travel, toileting and housing. Fi is also co-founder of The Minicore Project, and works as a motivational speaker, panellist and guest blogger.

Fi often blogs about her accessible transport experiences as a power wheelchair user and she kindly agreed to answer a few questions on her family adventures and accessible travel. One of my aims is to share our personal family adventures with other families or disabled travellers, and I thought it would be fascinating to include Fi’s experiences as a young parent with a disability.

Where was your very first holiday or day out with Abbie and Ava? How did you feel before you went and was it how you expected?

Our very first family holiday was in August 2016 to Roquetas de Mar, Costa Almeria Spain when Abbie was just 4 and Ava 10 months old. I was insanely anxious despite going through every step of the way with a fine toothed comb, ringing around, double – triple checking that the airline, transfers, hotel etc all knew our needs exactly and that everything was set for our journey. The holiday itself was amazing, we made some wonderful memories. The only thing I’d say is the trip cemented the notion that everybodys version of what “accessible” actually means is different!

For example I was excited to get in the pool at the hotel, only I needed a pool-side hoist. On the hotels website and via the gentleman I spoke to on the phone both stated the pool had ramped access. Which I took to mean it had a ramp to use a water proof wheelchair to literally roll down into the pool. When we got there and saw it for ourselves there was noway what so ever a completely non-ambulant guest could access that pool. It was ramped to the raised pools edge, then you have to be able to get up out your chair and sit on the pool edge, and launch yourself in like an able individual.

Do you ever find it difficult to get the balance right between finding a holiday or day out which is both suitable for you as a family but can also meet your needs?

Yes, this was a huge obstacle! As a Mum I was on the hunt for a package holiday with lots of fun things for the kids to do at the hotel and surrounding around, but I also needed an accessible hotel room with a wet-room. For without I wouldn’t of been able to shower at all for the whole 2 weeks we were there. Just like in the UK, there was a severe lack of wheelchair accessible hotel rooms that also would allow for an additional bed for our eldest.

I came up against a crazy “health and safety” rule on why hotels with accessible rooms wouldn’t allow for an additional bed to be placed within for a child, this was because their hotel insurance states its a high risk factor if wheelchair users don’t have x amount of room to manoeuvre around. I get that but it’s almost as if they don’t expect disabled people to go on holiday with their immediate family. In the end I did find a hotel willing to put an extra bed and cot in their accessible room, but I had to upgrade it to a superior room to bypass the health and safety issue and that cost us a lot more than we budgeted for.

What are your top requirements when searching for holidays and how much luck do you have finding these?!

Accessible room which would allow for an extra pull out bed and travel cot. The same accessible room’s bathroom to have a wheel-in-shower vs a bath. Lots of things for the kids to do but good for wheelchair access. Ability to get in the pool with my girls.

Finding an accessible family room was the most stressful and time consuming. I used Enable Holidays to judge what may work access wise and tried to find the same hotel on budget holiday websites to avoid the disability holiday price tag that comes with doing through a disabled persons travel agent. It saved me over £1,500 doing all the leg work myself when I compared the same holiday with a company like Enable Holidays.

What reassurances would you offer parents with a disability who are considering their first family holiday?

As long as you do your research and know your own needs, it’s totally do-able! There’s an awful lot of leg work if you do it yourself to save some pennies but once you’re on that beach with your family it’ll all have been worth it!

And finally……For you all as a family, “Holiday Happiness is……?”

Holiday Happiness is the ultimate pay off to everyday struggles and a chance to focus on your loved ones making unforgettable memories.

Thanks to Fi for giving such an inspiring account of her family holiday experience, I would most definitely second the notion that people’s version of ‘accessible’ can vary quite dramatically! A perfect example of exactly why access information really needs to be so much more detailed, allowing individuals to make their own decisions on whether it really is accessible for them.

Buzz on over to Fi’s website and social media links to find out more.