Parents of children with special needs know that planning a vacation and traveling requires some extra time as well as gear. However there are somethings that you should leave behind to make the trip go much smoother for everyone.
If you have a child with special needs, you know exactly what to bring with you on vacation: a DVD player for plane diversion, favorite toys, therapeutic gear, meds, a boatload of patience. But what I’ve learned from traveling with my son, Max, who’s 7 and has cerebral palsy, is that there are certain things it’s better to not take with you whether flying or driving.
Leave Behind Your Reservations.
And I certainly don’t mean the airplane kind. I mean any hesitations you might have about asking for help. When the security line at the airport is long, and I know Max is going to wig out (he hates crowds), I go right up to a security guard and ask them to escort us through. It works almost every time. Ignore the glares and pretend you are a celebrity.
Leave Behind Your Expectations.
Trips don’t always go as planned; trips with kids who have special needs rarely go as planned. Max tends to get upset in bustling restaurants. Used to be that I’d keep hoping he’d adjust. Since that’s not happening, I’ve learned we have to dine early, when there are no crowds. We were on a Disney Cruise recently (there’s Max at left, attempting to make out with Minnie), and Max most loved room service (it’s included in the cost of the trip). Good thing he didn’t get used to THAT.
Leave Behind Your Traditional Ideas of “Fun.”
One year, we went to The Franklyn D. Resort in Runaway Bay, Jamaica. They had a water slide. It looked awesome. Max was, shall we say, not amused when my husband went down it with him. He was content to sit on a beach and toss sand into the bucket. Lesson learned. Your kids may not enjoy some of the things other kids enjoy, but they have their own good time.
Leave Behind Your Defensiveness.
Ordinarily, I rarely think about the fact that I have a kid with special needs. We go about our routines. This is life as we know it. But when we go away, I suddenly become acutely aware of it. People stare. People ask questions. People don’t know how to behave around Max. This used to upset me to no end, but I’ve learned to stay neutral; people are curious, and sometimes rude. You can’t control them—you can only control your own reactions.
Leave Behind Your Everyday Worries.
You have enough to deal with in real life: juggling therapies, doc visits, the occasional why-is-my-life-so-insane freakout. A vacation should be a vacation for you, too. If the hotel has a play center, camp or babysitting, call ahead of time and discuss your child’s needs with the manager. Then, relax. You deserve it!
Ellen blogs daily at Love That Max.
Do you find these tips helpful? Do you have anymore special needs travel tips to share?