Special Needs Holidays and Travelling: My Top Tips for Holidays and Days Out

Kerry Fender by Kerry Fender Additional Needs

Kerry Fender

Kerry Fender

Down’s Syndrome, my family and me – one mum’s account of family life with an extra chromosome.

1. Stop listening: to people who try to tell you that you can’t go on holiday when you have a child with special needs

What do they know?

Most of them have never had to try.

You know best what is possible for your family.

Take it from me – you can and should have a holiday.

You deserve one.

You just might have to do things a little differently.

There are organizations which specialise in adaptive holidays for families/individuals with disabilities, but they aren’t necessary for everyone, it depends on your child’s specific needs.

2. Throw away the ‘rule book’: and any preconceived notions that you may have

Think about what ‘holiday’ actually means – ‘an extended period of recreation, usually away from home: a break.

In other words, spending time relaxing, doing enjoyable things, and making memories.

Apart from that there are no set elements to what constitutes a ‘holiday’.

Now you’re ready for the next step:

3. Do whatever works for you

My parents once tried to tell us that a three-day city break in London was completely inappropriate for our children; the only suitable holiday for them would be a week at the seaside.

It was Easter – too cold for the English Coast.

Going abroad was out of the question then, as was being away from home for more than a couple days, as our eldest son struggled to cope outside of his familiar surroundings and routine.

So we ignored my parents ... and had a fantastic time.

Three-day city breaks became a regular thing for us, always spent in a Premier Inn, because they all look pretty much the same and our son knew what to expect.

4. Play by ‘Australian Rules’

What I mean by this is don’t be too reticent about having to do things a little differently in order to make things work for your family (within reason).

This is where your thick skin will come in handy, as we special needs parents so often have to do things which seem counter intuitive, or just odd, to other people.

This may include, but is not limited to:

- Brazenly taking your own food in an electric coolbox if your child will only eat certain things.

- Rearranging the furniture in hotel rooms if necessary. In family rooms with a truckle bed we used to push the truckle under the dressing table to make a little ‘den’ for our eldest son to sleep in. It made him feel safer.

- Asking for music in restaurants to be turned down. We’ve done this, and when we explained why, one place even pointed out a cool, quiet space we could use as a refuge if need be.

- Taking your own (portable) toilet seat for your child to use.

5. Don’t assume the ‘posher’ places won’t welcome you

Many such places pride themselves on their standards of customer service and will bend over backwards to accommodate their guests’ needs.

In one upmarket hotel not only was Freddie treated like a little prince, but, seeing our special needs buggy, they unhesitatingly offered to change our room immediately if the steps would be a problem for us.

Happy Holidays!


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