Family Vacation Tips

Tips for Planning An Accessible Family Vacation

[fa icon="calendar"] Mar 6, 2014 11:05:00 AM / by Sally Black

Sally Black

Accessible Family VacationsFamilies come in all shapes, sizes and abilities. Chances are, at some point in life, just every family will need to deal with accessibility or other unique health issues while on vacation.This may be something as natural as a mom vacationing while pregnant or traveling with an elderly Grandparent. It may also require a bit more detailed planning for a guest flying with a motorized wheelchair or a specific itinerary planned for the comfort of an autistic child.

Planning a family vacation with someone who has special needs may feel like a mounumental task.  Many families in these circumstances report that they haven't had a vaction in years because trying to plan a trip became so overwhelming.  We understand and are glad to help.

Vacationkids founder Sally Black is a former Registered Nurse. Her clinical experience has given her specialized insight into itinerary planning for many vacationing families with special needs. When doing her hotel inspections and destination reviews, Sally always keeps a keen eye for details that will help families of all abilities.

When planning a family vacation within the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act assures  disabled travelers will receive equal treatment under the law.  Throughout the U.S. services and ammenities are generally available to allow you to travel in comfort and safety.If you plan to travel outside of the U.S., please know accessibility can mean different things in different countries. A hotel or sightseeing spot may advertise that it is accessible. Upon arrival you may find out this means several burly hotel employees will carry you and your chair upstairs. Do keep an open mind, ask specific questions and never agree to anything that you are not comfortable doing.

The following tip wills help disabled travelers and their companions to properly plan a family vacation that will be fun for everyone -

 * The very first travel planner you should speak with is your doctor!  A doctor can often offer advice and prescribe measures that will make your journey easier.  Be VERY specific and clear when describing the trip to your doctor. Of course, your doctor knows you best so always heed their advice.

 * Plan your vacation at least one year in advance! Handicapped rooms or guaranteed adjoining are in demand and often the first to sell out. It often takes time to make calls and get confirmation for specialized services or equipment, especially when traveling abroad.

 * Be completely honest during your consulation with your travel agent. It's natural that some agents may feel a bit embarrassed asking very personal questions so be as open and honest about your needs as possible. Be specific and clear when describing any disability. Not all travel providers will know the "lingo" of accessible travel or the medical terms for certain conditions. This becomes even more important when traveling overseas where important points can get lost in translation. Give as many details about abilities and don't downplay the severity of the disability. The more information a service provider has, the better they will be able to accommodate you.

* Take a doctor's note and phone number. Travel with a statement from your doctor, preferably on letterhead, covering your condition, medications, potential complications, special needs and other pertinent information. Be sure you have a number where your doctor (or another medical professional) can be reached in an emergency situation at any hour of the day. * Bring enought medication plus a bit extra. Many experts advise that you travel with two complete packages of essential medication in case of emergency. Store all medications and other necessary medical supplies in your carry-on bag, NEVER put it in any checked luggage.

* Investigate physician availability where you will be traveling. Your doctor, health care provider, insurance company or local embassy can provide the names and contact numbers of physicians at your destination in case of emergency. 

* Carry medical alert information, preferably in a place that a medical professional or anyone who assists you will find easily (wallet card, necklace, close to your identification).

* Allow plenty of time before your flight to check in, get through security and transfer to your gate. Arrive at least two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight -- more if you're traveling at a peak time.

* Know your rights. Before going through airport security, be aware of the TSA rules for Travelers

* Avoid connecting flights. Although wheelchairs are the last items to be checked into the luggage compartments, and thus first to be pulled off, flying direct can save you unnecessary time and hassle. One exception: If you have trouble maneuvering into airplane lavatories, long flights may become uncomfortable - so a series of shorter flights might be a better option. If you do choose to connect, be sure to allow plenty of time between flights (we'd recommend at least 90 minutes, or two hours if you need to go through customs or security) to get from one gate to the next.

* Check in with your flight attendant before your plane lands to make a plan for your exit strategy.

* Don't forget about transportation to and from the airport. If you have a wheelchair, make arrangements in advance to have an accessible vehicle pick you up in your destination city.

* Bring a small kit of spare parts and tools for emergency repairs on wheelchairs or medical equipment that may be traveling with you. Be sure to check policies- if you can't take them with you or consider renting equipement at your destination whenever possible.

At Vacationkids, our focus is on family vacations. In most cases we can help plan and book trips for families who have a member that has accessibility issues.  Please know if your family member requires very highly, specialized care and travel planning that we feel is beyond our scope and ability, we will gladly help refer you to a reputable travel planner that specializes in that type of care  you need.  We just want to insure that any family that comes to us enjoys a fun, safe and healthful vacation.

Topics: family vacations

Sally Black

Written by Sally Black

Sally is the Founder of Travel Agency and author of the book "Fearless Family Vacations". She is also the Director of Travel Agent Initiatives and Training at The Family Travel Association.

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