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These tips have all been sent in by other parents, carers and professionals in the learning disability community. We hope they will give you plenty of ideas to try, but please remember Netbuddy is not responsible for the information provided or any of the activities suggested.
Check out our Holidays info pack for specialist tour operators and more tips & recommendations.
Go for picnics
Eating out on holidays can be quite difficult for us. Instead we have lots of picnics - lovely countryside and weather helps! Picnics are easier to manage and therefore more relaxing. What a holiday should be about.
Slippery sleeping bags and inflatable mattresses don't mix for my son who has cerebral palsy. We got a good quality DOUBLE mattress and sewed 12-14 big sturdy eyelets around the edges of a fitted sheet. Then we attached a SINGLE duvet cover onto the top of the sheet, sewing down either side leaving enough room for getting in and out/ comfort. Put duvet in first then fit sheet onto mattress using webbing through the eyelets tied underneath. Works like a dream!
If holidaying in the UK, its worth ringing the local Council Children's Information Centre for a list of suitable childminders, holiday clubs etc for special needs children. I've found it possible to holiday in most parts of the UK and find childcare.
If struggling to get a passport photo of the person you are caring for, contact the Passport Adviceline on 0300 222 0000. Generally the photo together with proof of diagnosis and GP letter outlining why the person cannot meet the standard passport photo requirements (eg unable to close mouth or look directly) should suffice.
We use a V-shaped pillow – the kind mothers used to breastfeed – to help support Milly in airplane seats. We simply turn it upside down, sit her on the open v and the sides cradle her.
We managed to find one - www.freedominsure.co.uk- who seemed to be very helpful for families with complex needs. Other friends have recommended All Clear and FISH insurance. Remember to tell them everything - even the more minor aspects you may not think are important
Travelling with medicationTravelling by plane with medication: always pack half in your hand luggage in case your suitcase does walkabouts. That way, you will have enough with you till your case is relocated or you get some more locally.
Getting lostIf you are travelling to Disneyland or a big theme park, and are worried about loosing the person you are caring for, when you get there take them to the guest services and introduce them. Also write your contact details on a piece of paper and put in their pocket.
ipad travel essential
For me, an iPad is a travel essential. I can upload free apps – from piano, guitar, to sensory, books and interactive animation, colouring-in apps, jigsaws .... and lots of photos and visuals to build social stories on the go. Prolonqu2go loaded with new words associated with the travel... and when my son gets overloaded there is music and headphones to calm him down.
Manchester Airport has produced a really useful illustrated guide to 'Airport Awareness' in association with various organisations, including the NAS. Although this guide is for Manchester, much of the info is useful for any major airport. Airportaware.pdf (729.4 KB)
We always ask hotels for kids' cot sides, to slide under one side of the bed to keep our son safe. Many hotels stock these for young children, but if not, we put a large chair along the side of the bed to stop him falling out.
Car matsWhenever we travel, car mats are a great help. Just put one under a sheet and even if your child wets the bed, it won't go through to the mattress.
SurfingMy daughter, who has autism, has been surfing in Ireland for the last two years, during our holidays there. It was such a confidence booster for her and brilliant fun. I really recommend giving it a go. There are various places in the UK/Ireland that offer surfing for kids with autism/learning disablilities. Try Google.
Every time we go to a new holiday destination my son is adamantly against it. We have to get him excited about a new place. Show him what they have there, why he is going to like it and prepare him for the adventure. We involve him in the research and planning, and most importantly, don't surprise him.
The fear of the unknown
When you are planning a trip, try and take away the fear of the unknown by using symbols, books, even photos of every stage of the journey. Prepare as much as possible in advance by showing the photos, symbols every day, take away the unpredictability which is a big part of the fear.
How many sleeps
When we go away, our son's biggest stress is being taken away from his home comforts, so we take a velcro strip displaying how many sleeps we will be away and when we are going home.
Bespoke France offer fully accessible holidays for families living with learning and multi- sensory difficulties www.bespokefrance.com
Phone ahead for assistance
If you are travelling with someone who has special needs, phone ahead & ask for assistance. We travelled by EuroStar and phoning ahead was a God-send. We had an allocated member of staff who took us into a quiet room before the train was announced and escorted us to the platform. At the other end we were greeted by staff who escorted us to the front & helped us through.
Your Direction Ltd
Your Direction Ltd offers supported holidays for people with learning disabilities, with the opportunity for people to design their own holidays within the UK or abroad. www.yourdirection.co.uk
Petty Pool Outdoor Activity Centre
Petty Pool is an outdoor activity centre that provides tailor-made breaks to suit almost everyone. They take things as fast or slow as you want to go. Guests stay in log style cabins with en suite facilities. Staff are highly experienced. Petty pool
Away with us holidays
Away With Us Holidays arrange supported, all-inclusive holidays for people with learning disabilities to a number of destinations in the UK, Europe and further afield. www.awaywithusholidays.com
We have produced a guide to relieve some of the stress and worry of air travel for people with disabilities. Disabled and reduced mobility airport guide
The Thomas Centre
The Thomas Centre is an autism-friendly holiday company in Lincolnshire, which specialises in five star holidays for families, groups and people with complex conditions, including autism, aspergers and ADHD. www.thethomascentre.co.uk
Dave Lee HolidaysDoes everyone know about the Dave Lee Holidays, available to the whole family for disabled children based in Kent? We took part in one of their fantastic trips. They really spoilt us and helped us every step of the way. We had a brilliant stay in Disneyland Paris with like minded families who all understood each other! http://happyholidays.moonfruit.com
The National Autistic Society publishes a leaflet titled Holidays: Preparation and Practicalities, with tips on preparing your child for a holiday. It includes a guide on how to explain your child’s condition in all major European languages.Call the NAS on 0845 070 4004 or look up www.autism.org.uk
Railway-themed holidayMy son has Aspergers and he is obsessed with trains and railways. We recently had a fantastic holiday in North Wales as there were loads of steam railways everywhere, which kept him happy and were really good fun for the rest of the family. There were also walks which crossed over disused railway tracks, and when we weren't actually riding on a train, he had plenty of railway guide books to entertain him!
Our son has a profound learning disability and going on holiday can be a challenge, but I thoroughly recommend Swanage as a holiday destination, the beach is very accessible, the town wheelchair friendly, you can even access coastal paths and the staff at the steam railway were very helpful. A lovely friendly place to stay.
Holiday routineWithout the routine of school, my son acts up, so holidays can be hell. I now prepare a holiday routine for him. Even just a basic structure helps, like: 'wash, get dressed, breakfast, park or some other activity, lunch, play or video, dinner, bathtime, bed with story or DVD'.
Family holidays in CornwallWe have found a great family holiday in Cornwall run by a lady who has worked with special needs and has a full-time on-site nursery. Good facilities etc. Wringford Down Hotel, Cawsand, Cornwall. www.cornwallholidays.co.uk Our son loves going and enjoys everything and so do his siblings.
Plan aheadFind out as much as you can about your holiday destination in advance – where the loos are, what the food is like, is it free from flickering lighting and echoing (some restaurants can be really loud and scary). Know where a quiet zone is. Know where the big noise/light/smell hazards are e.g. fairgrounds etc
Disability Holidays Guide
The Disability holidays guide lists specialist tour operators for wheelchair users. You can search the guide for accessible hotels, villas and cottages, and you can also find travel insurance, hire accessible transport and pre-order mobility aids and equipment. The Disability Holidays Guide
Leisure time plannerWe have a leisure time planner for our eldest so that he can do things in 1hr rotations otherwise he would spend all day doing exactly the same thing during the holidays.
Tourism For All
www.tourismforall.org.uk provides useful information on accessible holidays and places to go in the UK and abroad for people with disabilities, their carers and family. Their website also has a directory of holiday venues, which is really useful.
Out About & Away
Out About & Away is a non-profit organisation that provides day trips and short breaks for people with disabilities. They also provide leisure and sports activities for disabled people.
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