Holidays for people with cognitive issues

Travel can be a stressful experience for anyone: airports tend to be noisy, confusing places; you need to find your way around often unfamiliar environments; and from missed connections to not understanding the menu there is always the potential for the best laid plans to go a bit awry. For travellers with cognitive issues, out of their normal routine, these difficulties can understandably be exacerbated.

But if you, a friend or a family member are affected by cognitive issues and still want to get out and see the world, there remain plenty of options open to you, from wellness retreats in Spain that are wonderfully peaceful and calming, to more ambitious and exciting itineraries, such as touring India or the wide open spaces of Mongolia.
These trips take into account that what works for one person may not necessarily work at all for another. Holiday companies can tell you what you can expect from every step of your itinerary, what’s involved in each activity, and allow you to build free time into your daily schedule according to when you need it. And most importantly of all, they cover a fantastic range of destinations and themes because while there may be some areas of life that a person has difficulty in, that doesn’t mean they’ve lost their imagination or their thirst for new adventures.


Many of our holidays for people with cognitive issues have tailor made itineraries. These have clear advantages, in that you can develop the itinerary in partnership with the operator to ensure it works for you and your needs. You may prefer a daily schedule limited to one or two places and activities, allowing for plenty of free time to relax and unwind. You can also design an itinerary that fits activities around the times of day when you’re at your best.

Air travel has taken a big leap forward in recent years when it comes to accommodating passengers with cognitive issues. Many airports have developed ‘quiet routes’ to departure gates designed to minimise stress, as well as defined quiet areas where you can wait for your flight in peace and quiet. Some airports even provide introductory tours that you can take before your actual day of travel, to familiarise yourself with the surroundings, gain reassurance and learn what to expect.

On small group holidays, numbers tend to be limited to around 16 or fewer participants. That means there is less pressure to socialise than you might experience on, say, a large cruise ship, and you will have the services of a dedicated tour leader throughout.
All holiday companies will provide a detailed written, day-by-day itinerary before you depart so that you can be reasonably confident of what to expect and when. Obviously, you will need to be fairly flexible given that plans may at times change according to the situation on the ground.
Depending on the type and severity of your condition, some operators may require you to travel with a companion, and you may find it more comfortable to be with someone you know well. However there are certainly trips where you can feel confident about travelling on your own, such as tours of India’s Kerala state, during which you can be accompanied throughout by a travel buddy there to lend support if needed.
If you require medication for your condition then you will first need to check it is legal to bring it into the country you’re visiting, and bring a copy of your presecription; second bring a sufficient quantity to last the duration of your trip; and third, if you’re visiting a country where you can expect extremes of temperature, arrange for adequate storage with the operator.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Accessible travel or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Our travel team is always happy to discuss your particular requirements when it comes to accessibility. If we know early in the process exactly what you need then through communication with suppliers we can make appropriate holiday recommendations, and ensure that every aspect of your trip will meet your needs, from accommodation to meals and support.

Types of trip

If you’re looking for a restful retreat then you might consider a one-centre tour, such as a wellness retreat in Spain that has previously accommodated guests with ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression and sleep issues. Here you can enjoy an atmosphere of immense tranquility, private rooms that attract no single supplement, and the option of holistic treatments, yoga and Pilates, or just refreshing coastal walks. In Catalonia a dedicated sports hotel also offers a peaceful environment with well trained staff to welcome travellers with autism or Asperger syndrome. In Scotland you can take a tailored mindfulness course, with meditation and yoga in the countryside and scenic gardens to wander.
For those of a more adventurous disposition there is the potential to head further afield. You could tour Kerala in the company of a small group of people with a mix of disabilities, their carers and companions, alongside a team of highly trained support staff. The operator works closely with every guest to ensure your requirements are met exactly. And then there is the wide open spaces and relaxed pace of life in Mongolia, where flexible itineraries have appealed in the past to people with Parkinson’s, MS and Prader-Willi syndrome.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Ash Edmonds] [Rainforest bridge: Tim Swaan] [Group at sunset: Arthur Poulin] [Wellness resort: rawpixel]