Lots of families travel to family functions, and for fun. Trips that fit your budget may not be as frequent and the destinations may not be as far as in the past, but travel planning will still demand your attention. Travel for the child with a special need without any preparation will be far from fun and games, but with a little planning you can find the best choices for your family's time away from home.
Some kids enjoy taking a day trip more than travel to stay overnight. The advantages of a day trip include:
Returning to the comforts of home at night
Packing supplies for one day (no PJs, etc. needed)
Does not require extended time off of work
Ability to choose departure and return home time
Families who live close to a large city will have lots of day-trip options. Those who live in more rural areas will not have as many destinations (museums, zoo, theme parks), but can make up for it with outdoor activities (swimming, fishing, picnics).
When considering a day trip, planning the destination is important. Consider times that your child will be at his best. A tired child (with or without a disability) will not enjoy the outing. Also consider when the destination will be least crowded.
If you go to the science museum during the school week, you will likely encounter large school groups. Going on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the summer might avoid the crowds (as others are outside) and be a pleasant escape from the heat.
If you are going to a business or tourist-type attraction, research the hours, admission fees, and any information about services for children with disabilities. If your child is deaf, for example, find out the times that presentations are interpreted in sign language.
Perhaps you are planning a day in the great outdoors. Plan for the necessities: bathrooms, snacks, drinks, and a place to come in from the elements. Remember sunscreen, bug spray, and routine medications as well as emergency contact numbers.
Visits to Family and Friends
You may want, or need, to travel to see family and friends. This can be one of the most relaxing travel destinations, or it can be one of the most stressful.
Begin by planning ahead with the host family. While they do not need to know all of your child's confidential information, some basic explanation of what to expect can make the visit much smoother. Consider sharing information on the following:
Mode of communication
Sensitivity to touch, light, sound
Interaction with strangers
If Aunt Susie always grabs and hugs her young visitors, a heads-up can prevent a child on the autism spectrum from having an unpleasant encounter. If Cousin Mike likes to take the kids to the park, make sure he is aware if your child has a unilateral hearing loss. It will prevent frustration for them both and possible danger to your child as they are crossing the street.
Perhaps you will be visiting someone who adores children and will definitely go out of her way to interact with your child. Suggest a preferred activity or favorite snack to set the tone for the visit. Once your hostess sees that some tried and true ideas are the ways to make friends, she will be asking for more input.
Choose a vacation destination that suits the overall needs of your family. There should be something for everyone — things that will appeal to your child, his siblings, you, and your spouse. If the destination only offers activities that differ greatly from your child's needs, perhaps it is a trip for siblings to take with one or both parents at a different time.
Theme parks offer a variety of activities: shows, rides, visits with movie or cartoon characters, and playgrounds. If your child has a physical disability, you will be able to bypass long lines for rides, but the same is not true for other disabilities. The child with ADHD may love the thrill of the roller coasters, but he may grow impatient as he waits for his turn to ride. Theme parks also require lots of walking.
Scenic areas can offer a calming get-away-from-it-all option. Some children on the autism spectrum respond well to this kind of a trip. Camping can offer the same peaceful experience for some. However, the child with ADHD or the child who is overly sensitive to sun and bugs may not enjoy such a trip.
Whatever your vacation destination, consider your accommodations, food choices, and the activities that will entertain your family. Doing research ahead of time will help you effectively plan the trip, avoiding things that will cause upset to your child and to your family.