The following article was written by Cerebra and published on their website.
Many families are starting to think about their summer holiday. We suggest some things to consider when planning a trip with a child with additional needs.
At this time of year, many people's thoughts turn to ideas for holidays and/or days out when the better weather comes. Where there is a child with additional needs, there is likely to be extra research to do relating to travel, venues, facilities, finance and timing. If a trip is to be arranged through a standard package or self-organised, rather than through a specialist disability holiday company, additional or unusual aspects of the arrangements are worth starting well in advance. More details than average are likely to need extra time beforehand to double-check that everything is in place that will be needed.
Having these plans, or most of them in place could have another advantage, of enabling you to act quickly to book the actual holiday nearer the time, when special offers are often available and if a child's health varies, to choose a period when you think they are likely to be feeling better.
Here are some things you might want to consider before booking that well earned break:
Plan ease of physical access on all modes of transport to get to and from the venue, and of facilities at the venue. This may mean contact with various providers to put arrangements in place. Transport for Disabled, UK gives up to date information about trains, coaches and other forms of transport, http://www.gov.uk/transport-disabled.
Holiday insurance is essential but costs for insurance that covers pre-existing conditions can vary widely– particularly if travelling outside of areas served by the NHS, but even if travelling within the UK. There are additional things you may need to check, for example, would the insurance cover family to stay at a holiday venue for extra days if the child is not able to travel back. The small print of a standard type of insurance, or extras provided with policies already in place for something else (such as a car or home) might cover contingencies, depending upon the circumstances. http://www.cerebra.org.uk/English/getinformation/dailyliving/Pages/Holidays.aspx is a place to start finding specialist venues and insurance.
A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC, which has replaced the E111) is needed for each traveller in some countries, but will not cover every contingency. If you already have EHICs they might need renewing. The official application details and a form that enables you to get the cards free, can be found at: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/Pages/about-the-ehic.aspx, and there is further information at http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/free-ehic-card.
It is useful to gather information from accommodation and resorts as well as feedback from other holidaymakers who have been there. This will help you predict how comfortable the proposed venues would be for the child, and for other holidaymakers. For example, how easy would it be to keep an eye on the child, would there be a sense of freedom or would there be aspects of the layout, facilities or effects on other people that would cause worry all the time, and how quiet or noisy is it? If applicable, would there be understanding for a child with emotional, behavioural or physical difficulties? Would you want a particular type of childcare to be available? Often this kind of intelligence is posted online, for example, tips for travelling with a disabled child, http://uk.lifestyle.yahoo.com/travelling-with-a-disabled-child-tips-advice-154400501.html. For a specific venue, try putting the place / hotel into a search engine with the word “disabled”. For a specific condition, try searching for a term connected with it, e.g. “autism-friendly”.
Making applications for grant funding towards a holiday or trip typically needs more time than you might think because of grant-makers' procedures. They will often want additional letters from professionals, and have committees that only meet every so often. Places to start looking for holiday grants can be found at: http://www.cerebra.org.uk/English/signposts/finance/Pages/FundingforHolidaysandOutings.aspx and http://www.cerebra.org.uk/English/signposts/recreationleisureholidays/Pages/Grantsviacharities.aspx.
Discuss with your child's GP and/or paediatrician about any special arrangements, extra equipment or medication that you may need to make or take with you. A doctor's letter and contact details describing the child's condition and treatment may also be useful to have with you in case any medical issues need attention during the holiday.
Families of children with additional needs are probably more likely than average to need to know what to do and where to go if there are difficulties, for example how to access equipment suppliers and/or medical facilities. If travelling outside the UK, have with you the contact details of the British Embassy or Consulate there, and whether there are any days such as public holidays when facilities or shops may be restricted or closed.
If you are travelling by air, check what special arrangements the transport providers will be able to put in place. You might want to check who to liaise with; how much and what kind of equipment can be taken on to the plane; what kind of catering is provided; how to move through airports with the child; what assistance they can offer that would smooth your way, for example special facilities or being able to jump a queue; and whether the child, or even a piece of equipment, may need an extra seat. Some airlines and travel companies may give different answers from others, and some countries may be easier to travel through than others. There is an instructive blog by fellow travellers here, which also includes suggestions about equipment to buy and take with you that has enabled some children to travel more comfortably. See also, Flying with a Disability, http://www.flying-with-disability.org/index.html.
A number of other charities publish factsheets about holidays for their client groups. This one from Contact a Family, Holidays, Play and Leisure, covers relevant equipment, sport, days out and local play facilities, http://www.cafamily.org.uk/media/379738/holidaysplayleisure.pdf. Parenting.co.uk lists companies that arrange holidays for clients and take care of many of the details for you: http://www.parenting.co.uk/holidays/holidays-for-the-disabled.cfm. The publisher of the Disabled Holiday Directory, http://www.disabledholidaydirectory.co.uk/about/disabled-holidays-for-children.html (Discover Holidays Ltd.) is one of these. Tourism for All, http://www.tourismforall.org.uk and www.openbritain.net, lists accessible accommodation, attractions and services, mostly in the UK, as well as further information on transport, ports and airports, travel agents, planning a trip, etc., and links to specific guides that they publish.
Cerebra's springboard page for recreation, leisure and holidays links to more wide-ranging information at http://www.cerebra.org.uk/english/signposts/recreationleisureholidays. If a respite-type holiday, for example for a very sick child is needed, there are some suggestions at http://www.cerebra.org.uk/English/signposts/childcarerespite/Pages/Holidaysandrespite.aspx. If the subject you are looking for is not at those pages, try our search box, or please let us know so that it can be added in the future!