Top Travel Destinations for Kids with Special Needs
Planning a family vacation or a trip to Disneyland may be more of a challenge for a child with special needs. Parents need to take into consideration everything from nutritional and medical needs, sensory stimulation and wheelchair accessibility. But popular travel destinations shouldn’t be excluded; especially when the experience needs to be special for all your children. With a little planning and research, your vacation or trip can be fun for the entire family. AbilityPath.org provides a few of the top travel destinations to consider. Read more of our travel trips including packing and preparing.
Disneyland and Walt Disney World
Disneyland and Walt Disney World are the most magical places on earth for ALL families. What child (big or small) doesn’t want to visit Mickey and friends? Most parents of children with special needs or disabilities can take advantage of the amenities Disney has to offer. Disney’s customer relations take extra efforts to welcome guests with disabilities. Your first stop should be guest relations (directly inside the park) when you arrive to present your child’s medical records so Disney cast members can provide you with information and accommodations that will enhance your child’s visit to this most magical place. While preparing for your trip, read Walt Disney World of Possibilities by Stephen Ashley. To plan your Disney vacation, visit www.disneyvacations.com
Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, TX is the world’s first accessible family fun park. It was designed for children and adults with special needs and their families. The amusement park provides a wide range of attractions that are accommodating to individuals with cognitive and/or physical disabilities and their families. Morgan’s Wonderland even features locator wristbands and touch screen display monitors so parents can keep track of their children. There is also fencing around the lakes and perimeter of the park for added safety. Guests with disabilities are admitted free of charge and are able to bring in their own food. Guests can pre-register either online or via telephone. Learn more at www.morganswonderland.com or check out their live webcam for a sneak peak.
Franklyn D. Resort
Franklyn D. Resort in Jamaica is an all-inclusive resort on the beautiful beaches of Jamaica. This resort includes your own vacation nanny exclusively for your family during the duration of your stay. This vacation nanny is part of your package everyday from 9 a.m. – 4:40 p.m. (evenings optional for an additional charge). They will accompany you on daily activities including swimming, and offer you an extra set of eyes and hands. They will also watch your children independently if you need a break. When their help isn’t needed, they will remain at the suite and and ensure the fridge is stocked and everything is tidy. This enables everyone in the family to relax and enjoy their vacation (including parents). All suites are wheelchair accessible and numerous activities are offered that kids and adults of all abilities can participate in. You will need passports for everyone in your family so provide plenty of planning time and contact the State Department for travel requirements and documents. Learn more at www.fdrholidays.com.
Shared Adventures in Santa Cruz, CA is a nonprofit organization founded on the belief that “recreation, fun, challenge and access to the outdoors are essential parts of a fulfilling life.” They provide community-based activities throughout the year for individuals with disabilities for all ages and segments. One of their more popular events is “Day on The Beach” with adaptive water sports of snorkeling, flotation, kayaks and scuba. You can also rent a beach wheelchair during your visit. Pack your bags and stay in this beautiful seaside town while participating in one of the Shared Adventures available to your child. Visit www.sharedadventures.com for a schedule of upcoming events including Day on The Beach, Day in The Sky and Elephant Seal Trip.
Wyndham Garden Hotel – Austin
Wyndham Garden Hotel in Austin, TX opened five specially equipped “thoughtful rooms” designed to make stays less stressful for families with children with autism. The rooms were designed with safety features such as door alarms, corner cushions on tables, child proofed drawers, shortened strings on blinds, special toys, books and outlet covers on all power outlets. They also offer gluten-free and casein-free snacks. Austin is an extremely kid-friendly city including attractions such as the steam train and Austin Children’s Museum. This is a great family getaway featuring accommodations that you know will work for your family and your child’s special needs. Make sure to book your “thoughtful room” early (there are only five available). To plan your trip to Austin, visit www.austintexas.org.
Social Story for Flying and Traveling
Heathrow Airport – London is reasonably friendly to those needing special assistance
Heathrow Airport Facilities for Those with Special Needs
All terminals offer:
- Wider access pathways
- Telephones at a height accessible to wheelchair users
- Disabled toilet facilities
- Reserved seating for disabled people in check-in areas
- For general advice and information regarding the special needs facilities at Heathrow Airport call +44 (0)844 335 1801 or Heathrow minicom service for deaf or hard of hearing on +44 (0)20 8745 7950.
Airport Parking Shop – Major UK airports
Airport Parking for People with Disabilities & Special Needs
During your travels, you will most likely encounter people who don’t know what to do or how to react to your child with special needs. Be prepared to speak openly about your child’s special needs and/or diagnosis. As diplomatically as possible, let people know what you need for your child in relation to their disability. Most people will be more than happy to help. If they offer you accommodations that don’t work, politely decline and explain what you specifically need for your child.It is advisable to phone ahead to your travel destination explaining your child’s disability and how they may behave around other guests or staff. It is also good to inquire on special accommodations that may be needed. This could include wheelchair accessibility or allergies to different foods and textiles.
Some parents recommend printing business cards describing your child’s behavior or special needs and politely asking people not to make eye contact or attempt humor if your child is upset. Keep these in your pockets for tantrums and consider translating them into a different language if traveling internationally. Vistaprint.com is a great source for cheap pocket-size cards.