This week the question that I’ve been asked most is, ”Where are the best places to go for a family vacation with a special needs child?” Between the crazy weather and the date on the calendar, everyone’s thinking about planning their spring break and summer vacations.
I think that question is the wrong place to start, it’s too limiting. There are a lot of great destinations that are well-suited to special needs families, but I think the first priority is to find a place that fits your family with something for everyone – then find destinations or resorts that meet that criteria. This is a family vacation, there needs to be something for everyone. If this is your first family vacation with your special needs child, consider starting small to have a more enjoyable first outing.
Tips to finding a destination for a family vacation with your special needs child:
Determine your family’s vacation style.
The vacation should be fun for everyone, so think about what your family loves to do – ski, beach, cruise, explore. Don’t be limited to what you have done before with your special needs child. One of our best family vacations was the first time we took my special needs daughter skiing at Park City. My husband, older daughter and I love to snowboard, but we’d never taken a family ski vacation because I wasn’t sure if my special needs daughter would get too cold, have problems with altitude, or even like skiing. The trip ended up really unifying our family as we shared our love of the sport together. My special needs daughter enjoyed participating with us through an adaptive ski program and my older daughter said it “made her feel like a real family.”
Make a list of destinations your family is interested in.
Ask your friends and family for their favorite places that fit your family’s vacation style. Put the question out on Facebook, you are sure to find out about destinations and resorts that hadn’t thought of.
Research the logistics and determine the best fit for your family.
Check out each referred destination – Are they easy to get to? What about getting around? Are they wheelchair-friendly? Where are local medical facilities? Do they have special needs programs or resources? What is there for your family to do together, and individually? There should be something for everyone – including you!
Make a list of the things that your family needs for accommodations.
Think about what it takes for your family to be comfortable. Amenities like a kitchenette, or at least a mini-fridge and microwave, a pool with a lift, close proximity to local attractions, a one-bedroom suite for down time for your special needs child (or you), an ADA room or a bench in the shower might be on your list depending on your individual needs. Also consider options like a room in a quieter part of the hotel, and a view if you think you might be spending some time in your room. Most hotels and resorts have a lot of options that aren’t listed on their website. By having a list of the features that you need, you are setting your family up for a more enjoyable vacation.
Get your family involved.
Have everyone do a little research about the destination and find something that they really want to do or see. That way everyone is part of the planning and has at least one activity that they are looking forward to. The family vacation starts before you leave home.