Vacation Ideas for Special Needs Children?

Stephanie - posted on 01/07/2011 ( 24 moms have responded )

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Hello Ladies,

I know, how dare I speak of sun-kissed beaches and margaritas when we're all most likely up to the gills in therapist and doctor bills, but I need something to look forward to! As long as I can remember, I have loved to travel and just because I have a seven year old son with microcephaly, does not mean that I want to put an end to that, nor do I want to stunt his cultural growth and development. I am a realist, however, and would love to hear from you on resorts you've found that have been accepting to children with learning disabilities so we can get a break (even if it's for an hour or two a day). Our son is very social, but without the right supervision he can get a bit rambunctious (what kid doesn't, right?).

Anywho, I will say that we've done Disney Wolrd (three times, in fact) and they have been the BEST by far in terms of granting special audiences with the characters, seating us for meals that suited my son regardless if they were booked or not, and of course, the pass to the front of the line. BUT THAT TRIP WAS EXHAUSTING. We've also done cottage/house rentals, but again, exhausting and we found ourselves thinking it would have been more relaxing in our own home with familiar surroundings (and not stressing what D would break)!!

We've recently booked a trip on an RCL cruise as I heard they will get you trained staff within the kids camps if you want to have your children join in the activities, but would love to hear from the social universe of places/activities tried and true.

For example, Beaches, Club Med and some of the US ski resorts come up quite often in search results. Has anyone been? All of these come with a hefty price tag so it would be great to know what we're getting into before shelling out the cash, you dig?

Thanks for your input/feedback.

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Claire - posted on 01/26/2011

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we are going to florida in may 11 is it easy to get passes for the front of the lines as we have 2 disabled sons 8yrs and 5yrs. We are flying from England for 2 wks and have bought a 14day ticket for the price of seven what are thee best places for disabled children and can you sit at the front in many of the attractions? thanks claire

Virginia - posted on 02/15/2011

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If you want to go low-key, I'd recommend the Strasburg area of Pennsylvania. There's Hershey Park for the coasters, a quiet, old-fashioned amusement park called Dutch Wonderland, and lots of trains. It was a good vacation for us. We didn't have the money for it, but Hershey Lodge does have some kid-friendly activities.

Karen - posted on 01/27/2011

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Royal Caribbean cruise was awesome! they cut my son's food, brought my adhd daughter her food quickly so she could eat and run back to kids programs, did extra laundry when son wet the bed....amazing!
We like Time share condos for vacationing with special needs kids--we control diet and activities and visit resort facilities and nearby amusement parks or hiking....Kihei on Maui was fun and the aquarium was very fun....haven't taken them to all-inclusive resorts...

Mary Jo - posted on 01/11/2011

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Hi - we have had two great vacations at Beaches (we went to Jamaica - beaches boscobel) with our kids. Our son was 8 the first time we went - he is globally developmentally delayed and can be behaviourally difficult at times. They have a fully supervised "kid camp" but we hired a nanny to stay with Branson through the day to help supervise - it was well worth the $8.00/hour for either a half or full day. The nannies are fabulous and you can have one in your room for the evening for a couple of hours to get our for a quiet dinner. It's not an inexpensive vacation but our kids loved it!

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Talhia - posted on 03/19/2012

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That sounds great. We are interested in Jamaica. How long is the flight and the ride from airport to Boscbel? Very curious. Thanks

Alexandria - posted on 03/17/2011

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Hi Stephanie, i also have a child with disability. through his preschool newsletter i have found a theme park in texas called morgans wonderland. its a park just for special needs and their families. your child would get in free and the person(s) accompanying the child would pay $10. well if you wanna know more about this place check out their website: morganswonderland.com

Claire - posted on 02/18/2011

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we also do caravanning with one that can be towed by car, also with friends whose children are nearly the same age, so we normally do this during the year, but my husband had a heart attack 2 years ago so we decided to have one last big holiday with the boys as we don't know whats going to happen in the future. claire

Virginia - posted on 02/18/2011

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Sorry, I didn't get that part of it. For us, we don't have the money to go to Florida!
Camping has become our friendly resort. We do this with another special needs family...and some understanding others.

Claire - posted on 02/18/2011

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thank you virginia but we don't really have the money to go to hershey park as we are flying into sandford airport in florida and we are going self catering, but thank you for the input claire

Stephanie - posted on 01/12/2011

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Thanks so much to you all. Very helpful. I just booked a cruise with Royal Carib (since my son loves Dreamworks movies) and they will get you a one-on-one as long as you request in advance. I like the idea of being close by just in case. So, fingers crossed!! I will be sure to give feedback when I return.

Mary - posted on 01/12/2011

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We have had a great time taking our physically handicapped daughter on cruises. All the cruise lines we have tried made special accomodations for her and she had a great time. She has a trach now and cant be left alone....but prior to that (2 years ago), we used to leave her with the 'counselors' who took great care of her. I would highly recommend it, as there are fun things for adults to do on the ship - but you're only a few minutes away if the counselors or your child needs you!

Bonnie - posted on 01/11/2011

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most of the rides at Disney are family orientated so that height shouldn't be an issue. If he's not tall enough, he'd probably wouldn't want to ride it.

Sharon - posted on 01/11/2011

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I have vacationed all over the US, Caribbean, and Mexico with my special needs daughter. Up until she was about ten, she was in a wheelchair, so that was a tough one for the resorts to manage. She could walk short distances, so it was only moving that was an issue. The Best places in terms of happy-to-accommodate were 1) Winter Park ski resort - they'll take your child for the day with a volunteer and they will support/push a ski outing (whether that means adaptive skiing, riding on a skisled, whatever, they have Tons of options) and happily keep them in the kids club for the parts of the day they don't get outside according to your child's interest. They are all about YOU GO AWAY AND HAVE A GOOD TIME, and we'll make sure your kid does the same. Can't say enough. 2) Disney cruise line. They let daughter be in the kids' group that was developmentally appropriate (5-7 when she was 10) and also gave me a pager in case they needed me. Only once all week did they page us, and it was because she wanted to say hi. :-) Their hours are also absurdly long, which daughter couldn't have managed, but it was fun for her one night to stay for dinner and watch a movie in her jammies. 3) Club Med (Punta Cana) was Great, too. Their counselors were perfectly willing to truck her anywhere, which led to her doing some things I Never would have thought. There was no way she could do trapeze, but during that unit, they put her in a harness and challenged her to climb the ladder...and she DID! Up to like, twelve feet before she decided she was done. Everyone clapped! So...there are my suggestions. Hope it helps. :-)

Stephanie - posted on 01/10/2011

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Glad you brought up Great Wolf b/c it's fairly close to me. I have heard it's not a "week long" vacation...more of just an overnight or two. Would you agree?

Becky - posted on 01/10/2011

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We were at Great Wolf Lodge last year. My son has physical diability and we found that all the water attractions my son wanted to go on were totally accessable. They also have a Club Cub that my so had a wonderful time at painting a shirt as a reminder of his trip. The best part is you never have to leave the resort.

Dorothea - posted on 01/10/2011

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It depends on what you want to do. Our family loves to go to children's museums. My boys love to swim so we take a yearly trip to Pentwater Michigan in August. I grew up there so it's nice to see all my friends and family again. When my boys are a bit older, I want to take them to DC and go to the museums there. Kalamazoo has a great Air Zoo that's free to get in but you have to pay for the rides. My boys LOVE it. Every time we go to Kalamazoo we have to go there. My boys enjoy zoos, so we try to go to the Columbus Zoo once a year. (We live in Ohio.) I've taken them to the Zoo in Battle Creek and they enjoyed that. I want to take them to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, but that's a trip for another year. My boys tire out quickly so we also do micro trips. It works well for our family.

I'd buy your book on vacations with special needs kids:)

Best of luck! Thea

Stephanie - posted on 01/09/2011

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Yeah, I've been looking for websites and/or books, but nothing dedicated to this. Maybe that's my calling?? ;-)
Thanks for the insight!

Kris - posted on 01/09/2011

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We have only done Disney. We do micro trips for the day to all sorts of places (zoo, etc). Almost every place we have gone to has a website and a phone number to call about special needs. There maybe a special needs book out there for vacations. Check amazon. Best of luck and keep having fun!

Stephanie - posted on 01/09/2011

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Everything was wheelchair accessible. In fact, it was a mom whose son is bound to a wheelchair, feeding tubes, etc, that told me about Disney being the place to be. And they had rides that accommodated the wheelchairs, as well. They give all families a special pass so you can get to the front of the lines. They really cater to you. Last time I went, I'd forgotten Dante's doctor note and it didn't matter. They gave me the pass. The pass is also good for up to six family members to get ahead of the line with you.

Iridescent - posted on 01/09/2011

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I think they have to be, but I'm not sure - are they all also wheelchair accessible?

Stephanie - posted on 01/08/2011

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I am liking th Morgan's post. I may have to investigate further.

Disney World, of course, is pricey, but I don't know about the height requirements. Check the website. They should have rides by height. Also, they have so many shows and attractions within the park that everyone should be entertained. Animal Kingdom especially, had plenty of stadium style shows.

In fact, Sea World was great when our son wasn't as mobile. Everything is stadium style seating.

Iridescent - posted on 01/07/2011

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We've been discussing the exact same thing! We have a family of 7, 3 with special needs, 2 severe. While Disney World is a possibility, what is the height requirement for healthy children to go on the rides? One of our kids is only 39 inches tall and slow to grow, so this is a big concern.

One trip we've been thinking about is a winter one to Lego Land, Disneyland, and that area - there are other things, I just can't remember what, all within a few miles of each other. It's also somewhat close (1 hour) to some family, and also a friend online with a daughter who has the same very rare disorder my daughter has so we could meet. We would need to go in the winter because my daughter and her daughter both suffer from heat intolerance, which is bad enough on a warm winter day in California I'm sure, as it was brutal here once it got to 70F. I don't want to have two wilted little girls totally unable to enjoy the days.

We've also been thinking about going to a conference for families like ours (NUCDF), but this year it's in the summer in Colorado, which will be hot. I'd love to meet some other families with the same problems in person, but would it be worth the effort for my children? I don't know.

I, too, would like to hear what others have to say. We have typically rented a cabin a few hours from home, so we remain close to a hospital with the right equipment to treat my children. They're still quite young, so more wasn't really necessary. They're getting older though.

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