Things To Know

5 Reasons To Travel With A Special-Needs Kid


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Parenting a special-needs kid is very much a blessing. It’s also exhausting. The energy it takes just to manage the day-to-day can leave families wondering if travel is more work than it’s worth. Been there. My sweet 12-year-old, one of two girls, has physical, medical and developmental challenges that make it easy to feel tapped out on an ordinary day. But I’ve learned that family travel with her really is doable. Moreover, it’s important and liberating. Really!

Consider all the things travel lets you and your children do:

Learn about the world around you

It’s good to be reminded that there’s a whole world out there beyond the doctors, therapists and school that consume your attention. And it’s invigorating to be a part of this bigger world. It helps keep things in perspective. Let your kids can learn about different places at their own pace, from their own viewpoint and you’ll see those things in a fresh and different way yourself.

As with any child, when my daughter is listening to a story that involves the beach we talk about all of the beaches she’s been to and what they were like. Then we build on that by talking about the ocean, marine animals and geography in terms she can relate to. These new experiences also empower her to not be afraid of the outside world. Travel has helped my daughter become more adept at handling changes and accessibility challenges. It’s taught her to look for solutions instead of just getting frustrated and even to be more independent.

Reconnect as a family

When we got back from a recent ski vacation in Park City, UT, my 15-year-old remarked, “The best part of our trip was that our family was doing something together, just like other families do.” Pick a destination together that you’ll all love.  Exploring someplace new takes coordination and teamwork, but the payoff is fun and adventure that you enjoy as a family and it’s worth it.

Relax

Without your daily schedule pulling you in a million directions, your mind and body can rest a little. In addition to family time, set aside time for you and your partner, as well as one-on-one time with your other kids, who might sometimes feel overshadowed by their sibling’s needs. And don’t forget to find time for yourself; maybe a massage or an early morning walk on the beach while everyone else is still sleeping. I call this recharging time my “blue sky.”

Create great memories

When you’re dealing with ongoing medical issues it can seem like there’s never a good time to go, but it’s important to make time. Last year we spent five months getting my daughter through a significant medical challenge where she was in constant pain (and there were no guarantee she’d completely recover). I am typically very optimistic, but four months in I started wondering if the best was behind us. What if I didn’t get my little girl back? Had she really fully lived? I renewed my commitment to make everyday count. Even if our vacations had more “detours” than other families’ I owed it to her and to myself (and the rest of my family) to at least try to create the kind of vacation moments that you remember fondly.

Remember that you can

Every family is different, but I am convinced that there is a way for everyone to get out and enjoy family travel, gain a new perspective and recharge. If you haven’t traveled with your special-needs kid before, start small, make plans (and back up plans), then just go with the flow. It gets easier and more rewarding with practice.

It’s time to start planning for spring and summer travel. Where do you want to go?

Karin Sheets is a special needs travel contributor for several websites. Her family travel blog is Special Needs Travel Mom You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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