It’s that time of the year when the majority of families go on holidays. I know from personal experience however that holidaying with someone with a disability, particularly a physical one, can be a little daunting – all the extra planning and things that need to be considered, such as accessibility, medication, toileting.

With some research and planning, or even the use of a specialist travel company, you can soon be on your way to enjoying that holiday. Here are some tips to get you started.

  1. Research your holiday

It’s important that you research and plan this thoroughly to be sure that it is going to be right for all of the family. Is there something for everyone? How easy is it to get there and to get around? Are there any safety concerns?

Research the facilities provided with regard to the specific needs of your person, both within the complex and in your room. I learnt to not take ‘accessible’ claims at face value after arriving at our ground floor apartment, to find there was a huge step to navigate at the only door wide enough for the wheelchair. Speak to someone who knows the place and ask specific questions relevant to your circumstances. Is there flat entry to the room? Are the doorways wide enough? Does the bathroom have handrails or a wide shower stall? Is there ramp entry to the pool? Is there a quieter area of the restaurant for someone with sensory needs?

  1. Prepare your person

Try to involve your person in planning the trip if possible.  Once you have booked your holiday, tell your person about it, particularly if your person is Autistic. This will help them prepare for change and hopefully reduce any anxiety. You can look at photos in a brochure or via websites for those who are more visual.

Remember to take things that will make the journey and holiday more comfortable for your person, such as headphones to listen to music; ear defenders; movies, books or toys; and comforters such as pillows.

  1. Organise special items

Take the time to list and organise all those special extras you need to take. And check it twice – there are just some things that can’t be picked up at the local store. Things to consider might include:

  • medication, particularly if only obtainable through a hospital pharmacy;
  • equipment and any chargers, such as mobility, sensory, feeding etc;
  • continence aides, including nappies/pants, change mat, conni bed pad or waterproof sheet;
  • comforter or special interest collection;
  • Specialised food or formula;
  • Disability Parking Permit.

If planned in advance, you may even be able to arrange to get some items delivered directly to your destination. A few boxes of Nutricia formula delivered directly to my parent’s house saved carting them myself by plane and train.

  1. Medical Information

Have all the basic medical information of your person with you, including Medicare, private health insurance and health professional details, and copies of any necessary health documents.

Note that if you are travelling by plane, some airlines may require a ‘fit to travel’ certificate from your doctor and/or a letter advising of specific drugs being required. This letter can also come in handy if clearing customs.

  1. Insurance

If you are undertaking a holiday of considerable financial cost, it might be worth considering travel insurance. Whilst insurers can’t refuse cover based on disability, there may be restrictions regarding pre-existing conditions. It may help to get a letter from a medical professional, especially if the condition is under control and there is unlikely to be any need for medical or hospital treatment.  Check the fine print to make sure your requirements are covered, including any equipment such as a wheelchair.

  1. Be flexible

Even having done all the research and planning, things can go awry. Remember – you are doing your best and some things just simply happen, so take a deep breath, drop your shoulders, and carry on calmly. Sometimes the most unforeseen events can lead to amazing alternatives.

  1. Enjoy yourself!

Above all else, relax and enjoy your family and holiday. Make some wonderful memories

By Louise Jessop: Carer, Counsellor and Life Coach

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