Vacation Travel Tips for Families with Special Needs
Thursday, March 21st, 2013
For most of us, spring vacation symbolizes the light at the end of the tunnel, or the reward for surviving another long, cold winter. It is a chance to head to warmer climates, shake off the winter blues, and recharge for the coming summer months. For families with special needs, however, there are a number of hurdles that parents have to cross before they can relax on that lounger by the pool, or soak up the rays on the beach. Making travel arrangements, booking hotels, and figuring out how to chauffeur a family with special needs around a bustling vacation destination can be an incredibly stressful undertaking. Here at M&L Special Needs Planning, we understand (from personal experience) exactly how stressful that process can be, and we have developed a fail safe way to minimize vacation stress while maximizing vacation enjoyment. In fact, we can sum it up in just one word – our favorite word – planning.
Choosing the destination
The first step to any vacation is choosing the destination. Finding a vacation spot that meets the needs of all family members can be overwhelming, but through careful research and planning ahead of time you can plan a vacation that everyone enjoys.
If you are staying on a resort, research the available activities ahead of time. Check with client services to ensure that the different activities offered will meet the varying needs of your family. Ask about restrictions, hours of operation, and accessibility for each activity (i.e. wheel chair accessibility), and ensure that they are suitable for children with special needs. Confirm that the on-site restaurants can handle any dietary restrictions, and research the available, on-site medical care options.
If you are staying at a hotel or with family, research the location ahead of time and check the accessibility and services offered by the hotel. Create a restaurant and activity folder, and choose restaurants and activities that meet the needs of your family. Include in the folder information such as hours of operation, price range, and accessibility. It may be helpful to find menus online and include these in the folder as well. Make sure to include indoor and outdoor activities, in the event of unsuitable weather. Contact the operators of these activities ahead of time to ensure that these activities are suitable for children with special needs, and to check on accessibility and restrictions. This folder can also include directions and notes on the closest hospital in the event of an accident or illness.
If you are looking for a spot to vacation that offers activities specifically for individuals with special needs, check out these articles by Erika Kotite and Barbara Streett . In addition to some fantastic vacation spots, they also offer a number of additional tips for planning vacations for families with special needs.
Traveling To and From
Families with special needs often need to travel with specific medications, equipment, and medical devices. If you are planning to fly to your destination, it is always a good idea to pack these items in a carry-on in the event of lost or damaged luggage. Contact both the airline you are traveling with, and the airport you are traveling out of, at least 48 hours ahead of time to check on the restrictions that surround the items you need to travel with. As well, ask if they offer any services to assist with security and boarding. According to the Children’s Disabilities Information website “several airlines will arrange for a walk around the detector and can arrange for a private security check, if needed. Almost all the airlines mentioned that special needs items, such as an oxygen tank or medical pump, were not counted as part of your carry-on luggage.”
Ensure that all medications are clearly labeled and in their proper containers, and for additional peace of mind, obtain a note from your family doctor stating which medicine and equipment is necessary. Also include an explanation of why the medications and devices are necessary.
If you are driving, remember to pack medication and medical devices in an area which is easily accessible, and bring lots of snacks. Prepare ahead of time a playlist of music which your family members enjoy, and print off a list of car games and activities that can help alleviate boredom and entertain your family. If your children have their own hand held devices, be sure to have extra pairs of headphones on hand.
Daily Routines on Vacation
Many families find that it is best to stick to normal routines as much as possible while on vacation – this can include sticking to the normal sleep schedule, eating at the regular times, and even bringing along familiar daily items, such as a favorite nightlight, toy, or alarm clock for your child with special needs. Letting your child know ahead of time the plans for the day can also help him or her deal with any anxiety, and provides stability and structure. Be sure to include an information tag on any personal items that you take with you while out and about, and research the area you will be visiting ahead of time, i.e. location of washrooms, sunny and shaded areas, and quiet areas in case your child needs a break from the crowds.
We hope that this blog has provided you with some ideas to help you reduce the stress of your upcoming spring vacation. Proper planning and research can help you to prepare for any eventuality, and will allow you the peace of mind to relax and enjoy your much deserved vacation.
Please feel free to contact us with any suggestions, comments, or questions – we love hearing from you. If you would like to learn more about special needs planning in general, or the services that M&L Special Needs Planning offer please give us a call, or check out our Services page. We also offer a number of free informative workshops throughout the year.
Thanks so much for stopping by our blog today; from all of us to all of you, have a fabulous vacation!
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