Everyone deserves a vacation from time to time. Traveling outside of your normal area helps you put things in perspective, de-stress and forget about whatever troubles you may have at home. And while it may not always be easy, people with special needs or those dealing with a disability deserve to travel just as much as the rest of the world. It may take a bit more work and forethought, but it doesn’t have to be a huge issue, or take away from the enjoyment of the group. But if you are traveling with a disabled or special needs individual for the first time, you might be a bit concerned. Consider these five tips to help you relax, prepare, and enjoy the trip.
First off, the importance of planning ahead cannot be overstated. While anyone who has ever vacationed out of the country knows this pretty well, it is even more important for disabled or special needs individuals. Write out a complete travel itinerary and go over it with the involved individuals and any caretakers who are used to this type of journey. Create a detailed list of needs based on this itinerary, both in plans that need to be created and adjusted and anything that needs to be purchased to pack. If the special needs individual has issues with mobility, define those issues and their solutions, and what has to be done about it.
With these plans in place, it is time to call ahead. Although much of your travel itinerary can be handled online, this situation requires that you talk to actual people. Don’t just trust the descriptions you see online, as they could be outdated. This is hugely important when it comes to descriptions of wheelchair accessibility and vehicle accessibility. Again, don’t take it at face value. Make sure you speak to someone who works there or actually owns the vehicle.
Prior to your day of travel, call around and double check everything once again. You may feel like you’re going overboard, but any issues you can handle now are issues you won’t have to deal with in person. And depending on the specific disability or special needs of your traveling partner, that could be incredibly uncomfortable for both of you. Talk to the hotel, the airline, the car rental company and any medical equipment rental company you’ve contracted with, to make sure all is in place. If you’re working with a travel agent, make sure they are on the ball at this time as well.
On the day of your trip, get to your travel destination early. If you’re flying, get to the airport at least two hours in advance of the flight. International travel could require even more pre-departure time. You will need the help of support staff from the airline, and that process could make everything take a bit longer than you would like. Leave extra time for traffic if need be, to help you keep stress levels low.
Finally, make sure you are expecting the best but are prepared for the worst. You never want anything to go wrong, but if you are taking on traveling with a special needs individual, that person should be able to trust you. Do you know how to work the lift chairs the rental vans utilize? Are you comfortable administering any medical treatment, and do you understand what each piece of equipment does? Have you been trained to recognize physical or emotional issues with your travel partner? Again, it all comes down to preparation. But knowing what to do in an emergency will help you stay calm if anything were to happen.