by Kimberly McCallen
Summer trips are a great time to connect as a family, but traveling can be a bit more challenging when a child or parent has special needs. Taking some extra time to plan your trip carefully will help it be a success and make wonderful long-lasting memories together.
Please get the approval of the doctor who cares for the individual with special needs or the disability before travel.
Here are some tips for planning summer activities for your family:
1. Choosing a Destination. Start by researching places you would like to visit. Are you planning a daytrip in the state, traveling to another state, or traveling out of the country? What type of destination is best for your family? Does your family enjoy the outdoors, educational programs, amusement parks, water activities, local events, city tours, or a variety of activities? Be sure to check the destination website or call to see what disability access is available.
2. Getting There. Plan your travel carefully – what routes you will take and what stops to make. Be sure to include frequent stops and activities to help pass the time. Reservations or ticket purchases may be necessary. If you are attending a program or function, or utilizing public transportation, you will need to register prior to arrival to hold your spot. Be sure to let the booking agent know that you will need special accommodations. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation to ensure equal opportunity for persons with disabilities. If traveling out of the country, check airline policies and hotel accessibilities. (Laws in many countries regarding disability accommodations differ than in America.) Travel can be time-consuming for any family, however extra time may be needed when requiring disability accessibility. Expect delays and layovers. Make sure that you have necessary medicines or equipment for the entire trip (and for any unexpected delays). In case of an emergency, keep the phone numbers of your child’s medical team close at hand.
3. While There. Plan the activities that your family will enjoy, with the inclusion of some down time. (You don’t want to come home from vacation needing a vacation!) Be flexible. Sometimes things happen that may throw the schedule or routine off, such as: delays in travel, someone gets sick, sudden change in weather. If this happens, put the activity back on your list and maybe you can squeeze it in another day. Even with an unexpected change in plans, you can still have ice-cream while watching the sunset.
4. Relax, enjoy, and make memories!
Kimberly McCallen is a mom of two and resides in West Virginia. Her husband has a disability, which means extra planning and time when doing almost all activities. Kimberly’s articles have been featured in parenting and family magazines in American, Canada, and Australia.