Whether the destination is the nation’s capital, the Grand Canyon, the call of the warm beaches of the west coast, or the adventure in the metropolitan jungle of New York – summertime means FUN time for many families.” The same is true for families vacationing with adults with developmental disabilities; they anticipate the rest, reprieve and bonding that comes with ‘getting away’. Before the excitement sets in, however, these special families have much more planning and preparation than the average traveling family. I’s need to be dotted and T’s need to be crossed, lists and appointments must be made; everything must be in order to achieve a successful family vacation.
Planning Travel Ahead
Let us share with you a few tips and tricks to a memorable and happy family vacation with your developmentally disabled family member.
- Airline tickets booked? Fortunately, most airlines have helpful tips and best practices posted to their websites, do the best you can to research the airline of your choice. Many offer special arrangements for families traveling with adults with developmental disabilities.
- TSA provides Travel Tips for Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions on their website HERE. TSA Cares is a help line specifically set up to answer any question you may have in preparation for TSA security. Passenger Support Specialists are available upon your request and serve families traveling with adults with disabilities. They also provide special resources to provide individualized support during your airport visit, from screening to your departure gate.
- Try a practice run. For many adults with developmental disabilities, new sights and sounds can be overwhelming. Begin the conversation about airports, bus/train stations, etc. Talk about the sensations they may experience: the sounds from intercoms and equipment, the lights and the potential for long lines or crowds to gather. Try to introduce them to the environment with a short visit or showing them pictures of the inside of the plane/train/bus. As much practice as you can provide will lessen the chances of a sensory overload on travel day.
- Discuss the trip with your doctor. Describe in detail the travel plan so the doctor can walk you through measures that may aide in coping with a long flight or limited medical support.
- Carry a current photo of your special traveler. Also, be sure your traveler is carrying an ID card with emergency numbers and any medical information that may be pertinent to their care if they are separated from your group.
The Benefits of Travel and Vacation for Adults with Developmental Disabilities
While the amount of preparation for a vacation may seem quite daunting, the benefits of travel far outweigh the work to get there.
- Stress Relief: Caregivers and Disabled Adults both may feel the strain of daily challenges. A change of scenery, a new location, a sense of calm provides opportunity for a much needed reset.
- Health Improvement: Vacation affords opportunity to catch up on rest and exercise we would otherwise miss out on in our day-to-day routines.
- Strengthen Family Bonds: Family time away leads to new memories made and opportunities for connection and conversation.
- Education & Exploration: “And then I realized adventure was the best way to learn.” – Unknown – GO EXPLORE! New cultures, activities and new settings lead to conversation and exploration. Learn by adventuring. Go. Do. Learn.
Travel Companions Do The Planning For You
Many organizations exist to provide a seamless, carefree, vacation experience for adults with developmental disabilities. If you wish to provide your loved one with an opportunity to travel independently but want to be sure they are provided medical, physical, emotional and social support on their adventure, we recommend seeking out opportunities with organizations like these:
No matter the destination or the mode of transportation, we hope you experience a summer filled with adventure, laughter and excitement!
“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt