Vacations With Your Special Needs Child? Think Before You Plunge!

A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.

– Earl Wilson

How true are these words and how wonderful it is to have that long deserved vacation to a new place which I read somewhere, evokes child like wonder because you have no idea what emotions it would bring out in you.

Talking about Vacations, I sometimes wonder if it brings out the same emotions in everyone including the families with a special need child as in others. Before Aarshia was born or even when she was younger, I never had to think twice before packing my bags, but it has definitely become something that needs a careful consideration in recent times.

My daughter happens to have Down syndrome and though it has always been associated with happy, cheerful , forever  hugging children but ask any parent and you’ll realise that it is more than a myth. Travelling with children of Down syndrome or other special needs can be consuming for any parent if things are not planned carefully.

Coming back to vacations, I realized it during our last trip that vacations are not going to be the same  ‘no worries’, ‘do as and when you like days’. The vacations now will have schedules, settling time frame, crankiness and tantrums and whether you can take it or not, you will need more patience than required at home ( at least at home, you don’t have to deal with strange glances when your child is lying on the floor at the airport or shouting in a quiet monastery.

By writing all of this, I am in no way implying that vacations with your kids is any lesser but  at the same time  if you expect you to have that no fuss, perfectly flowing days and a nice and quiet time with your spouse, than you need a reality check.

As a mother of a girl with Down syndrome, I know for sure that at times it gets quite demanding for parents to meet the needs of the ‘typical’ sibling when all your attention is being taken away by that little monster.  And when  it becomes a struggle to manage time between your spouse, children and yourself. I have experienced it first hand when you swing back and forth between ‘why the hell did I plan this vacation’ to ‘thank God I planned this vacation!’

 But are there things that can help us making this time memorable (in a good way)? Is there a way a vacation can be taken without us wanting to commit suicide at the end of it? The answer is ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. Yes because there are few things which can be done and ‘No’ because no matter what you do, you can always expect surprises. Here are some things that might help:



 Be realistic: This is the most important part, because no matter how meticulously you plan your vacation.  There would be surprises, some good and some not so good. For starters, you will always be on the watch out for what he or she might get mad at and throw that tantrum; otherwise there is always a stranger your child may get over friendly with, without this guy returning the favours. Else there could be issues with food and you’d find yourself talking to the chef 4 times in a day. Lying on the floor, wandering away, shouting and wanting all the attention are some of the things you might want to prepare yourself for.

Not to forget, the constipation, the colds, the coughs, and sometimes a high altitude problem, more in the case of Down syndrome. It is not a rocket science to figure why some parents never dare to go out (I know some personally) but that cannot be a solution. This would only build resentment in the family members, siblings and the child himself.


Think differently

We all want to do everything for our kids with our bare hands and quite understandably we do that every day but when it comes to experiencing a new place or a country, an extra pair of hands can really come handy! And it should not necessarily be a paid professional baby sitter, it could be your sister, friend, mother or mother in law (only if you guys get along well). The extra expense would not pinch you much if everything is thought out in advance. And at the end of it this person would be happy to see a new place for free and you’d be happy to have a reliable family member to leave your kids to while you go indulge in that five course meal and drinks with your husband.

Do you know in some parts of the world you get a nanny plus good discounts if you have a child with disability? Pretty amazing right!!

Try and travel in support groups

Apart from the family holidays, it could be a good idea to travel with other parents of children with special needs. The other family would understand your situation and can look after your child in case you two want a long walk and spend some time with your ‘typical’ child doing what he/she would like to do. Surely, you can return the favours next day.


 Plan ahead

Try and get a direct flight, book a room that has enough space, get all the passes in advance, inform the hotel staff beforehand, build anticipation in your child and choose the rewards if the child behaves well, get names of some over the counter medication and pack those noise cancellation headphones. With the right armour, some situations can be better controlled. So find that sticky note now!

Try two vacations?

Sometimes I wonder if there should be two vacations for families with a special needs member,  One with the child and other without him.  May be a short holiday for the couple, (What do you guys think?) I know, I have already raised few eyebrows but let’s try to think rationally here.

If you know that this vacation is meant for the entire family, you will try not to get disappointed for not getting that extra hour in the bed or not being able to go for that amazing walk in the woods with your husband.  You will be happier giving all the attention to your precious little because you know your holidays are around the corner where you will be able to do all that and much more. Also it would be a great learning for the children to establish their own relationship with their grandparents, aunts and other family members you’d leave them with. They would love their new found freedom without the parents and this would also make them pretty confident and independent. Mothers, they too need some space sometime!


Those in it know that there are times when even vacations can get extremely demanding and overtly exhausting but that shouldn’t mean that the kids should be deprived of them. Being a parent it becomes a litmus test of our management skills to make sure the vacations are enjoyed by both children and the parents, and with a little research and planning, who knows you’d soon be singing …“we all are going on a summer holiday…” Oh you are packing already!

Happy vacations

there are some other destinations that families with a special need child vouch for..


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