Friday, August 10, 2012

Traveling with Children with Special-Needs

Traveling with children adds a host of extra considerations for all parents; but for parents traveling with children with special-needs, there are an even greater number of elements to be considered.  While the whole process can seem intimidating and overwhelming (particularly those traveling for the first time!); with a little planning and organization, it can be simply a different kind of family vacationing that, much like traveling with infants, toddlers, and tweens, can be both challenging and rewarding!

image courtesy of All About Parenting
This week, I was honored to have the opportunity to pose a few questions on this topic to Princesa Pérez, Editor-in-Chief of All About Parenting magazine; an amazing publication dedicated to being, in her words, "a place where moms can find information, resources, and ideas to become better parents and raise happy and healthy kids, no matter our differences."  Her gracious and informative responses can be found below; my hope is that they inspire you as much as they did me to get informed, get organized, and plan a family adventure!

What steps can parents of special-needs children take to reduce the stress of traveling?
Research. You need to find the best vacation spot for your family. Call them in advanced and let them know everything you need but also ask them lots of questions so that you know what you can expect from them as well.
Create checklists. Make detailed lists of all the things you need to get ready for your vacation.
Create an itinerary of the activities that you would like to do while on vacation. What I do is I create my itinerary in advance with the best date and time to go to each place, the best route and mode of transportation and a specific budget for that particular activity.   
Prepare your child. Explain as much as you can everything that is going to happen while on vacation. Before you go, let them know where they are going and what they can expect.  Try to let them know what is coming next every step of the way if you can.
Give yourself plenty of time. Time is the key to success if you travel with a child with a disability. 
Be prepared for anything. Have with you comfort toys, special foods, lots of activities to keep them entertained, and medications (if needed) at hands reach ALWAYS.
Be flexible and take it slow. Sometimes things don’t go as we plan, but we have to adjust and keep going. Put a smile on your face even if you don’t feel like it and enjoy your trip as much as you can. 

What are some of the best travel-planning resources for families vacationing with children with special-needs?
Parents can get great tips, information, and more by going to:
Autism Speaks
Transportation Security Administration

What do you feel are 3 of the top vacation spots for families with special-needs children, and why?
Disney World offers a “free guest with disabilities passes" that allows holders to avoid long lines. Mobility access is available for park goers in wheelchairs, which they also rent for your convenience. If you let them know in advance they can make special accommodations for guests with visual disabilities, food allergies, and lighting sensitivities.
Cruises have wheelchair access in almost every area of the ship and food allergies can be accommodated in advance. A good thing about cruises is that you can participate in any of the activities that are available but when it’s time to take a break, you can go to your room and relax.
Discovery Cove is a park that truly caters to families of children with special-needs. You swim with dolphins, snorkel, and hand-feed exotic birds. Food allergies are accommodated. Special wheelchairs that have extra space and can be rolled straight into the water are available for rent. They offer different packages based on your needs; you just have to find the one that best fits your family. Unlimited admission to SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica in Orlando for up to 14 consecutive days is also included with your Discovery Cove Package. At Discovery Cove, a quiet rest spot is never more than a few steps away for you to sit and relax.
Many thanks to Princesa Pérez for her generosity in sharing her invaluable expertise!  Wishing you safe and happy travels, wherever the road may take you!
-Destination Mom

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