Whether it is to escape the monotony of the everyday, take in new experiences or find rest and relaxation, there are many reasons why people go for a holiday. With the world open to exploration, adventure travel, cruise tours, budget flights and online booking, going for a family holiday has never been easier.
But hold on…
How about a family holiday for a child with a disability? Are accessible holidays and holidays for the disabled going to be just as fun and adventurous? Won’t it be a tiring and difficult experience?
Fret not. We have compiled some handy tips for you to take note of, to help your holiday be smoother and nothing less than memorable.
Getting your child involved right from the beginning will ensure he or she knows what is going on. From the location to the date of the holiday, he or she will feel prepared when the day comes if you talk about it in advance.
Show your child pictures of the holiday destination. You can use it to explain that these places are where you will all be going to and this will help with familiarising him or her so that there will be less chance of being overwhelmed in a new place.
Putting your child in a situation where he or she can practice how to react or respond in certain situations will help when faced with the scenario in real life. Act out the process of going through the metal detectors at the airport or stepping onto the gangplank to enter a cruise ship. A visit to the airport prior to travel can assist with reducing anxiety and build up excitement instead.
Making the most of this holiday also means considering the limits of your child. If he or she is normally cranky around a certain time, make sure that you pencil in down time into the travel schedule as well.
During the trip, assign your child a role. He or she can be given a hardy camera and be in charge of taking scenic pictures, or be responsible for a bag, or even just pointing out main landmarks and attractions of the holiday destination.
Giving your child a schedule or timeline also helps prepare him or her before, during and after the trip. He or she knows what to expect and when to expect it. However, because sometimes the inevitable happens, try not to time everything to the minute. Leave blank spots that can be used as “special time”. This special slot also needs to be communicated in advance to your child.
Pack a bag of colour pencils, books, stickers and activities that your child loves to engage in. These can be used as a distraction while waiting or help your child calm down if being out and in a crowd gets overwhelming.
If you have a special mealtime or bedtime routine, try to stick to it as much as possible. It’ll help to have a bit of the day to day stay constant during the holiday travel.
Being away from home and all that is normal can be scary and overwhelming for some children with disabilities. If there is a constant that is portable, for example a soft toy, a storybook or a favourite blankie, do bring it along as it provides a tangible sense of security and familiarity.
Get your child’s doctor to prepare a letter describing your child’s condition, especially if the condition cannot be physically seen, such as autism. It’ll help in case any explanation is needed and this will minimise time wastage in trying to explain your situation in case help is needed.
Before travelling by plane or ship, you should notify the carrier you are travelling with of your child’s situation and find out if there are any special guidelines you have to follow. Usually, special assistance may be provided if requested or deemed necessary.
Research is key to any successful holiday. For holidays for children with disabilities, it is even more vital that you check up on the places you are going to. An example would be whether the accommodation you plan to stay in has rooms to accommodate travellers with disabilities.
Travelling with children with disabilities does take effort but these tips will help. It is definitely worth the effort though, as going on a family holiday does have its health benefits and you certainly cannot discount the memories made and stronger bonds forged.
*Leisure Options is Australia’s leading provider of supported disability travel and holidays for individuals with special needs. We specialise in providing local, national and international holidays for people with physical and intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injury, anyone requiring a travel companion and the frail or elderly.
Contact us today and start planning your dream holiday.