Home > Recommendations, Travel > Fun travel opportunities for special needs families and individuals – no, I’m not kidding.

Fun travel opportunities for special needs families and individuals – no, I’m not kidding.

With summer coming I figured a travel section would be helpful to those of you who like to consider all of your options before making any plans. If you are traveling with small children it can narrow those options considerably. Add a special needs family member and the options – wait, what options? All I see in the search results is “not for kids who cry on rides,” “not for kids who are scared of water that has waves in it,” “not for kids who need a bathroom nearby” “not for kids who get carsick, seasick, or motion sick, ” and “okay lady, who are you kidding here?”
All jokes aside, the info below might help make your planning and travel a little easier. There are two sections in this post, one for families traveling with a special needs person and another for individuals with disabilities traveling alone* (ages 8 to adult), though there is certainly some crossover so be sure to read through both.
*This is not a sleepaway camp post – these programs, places and agencies are for vacation travel opportunities.
For families traveling with a SN loved one:
  • Franklyn D. Resort— and sister resort FDR Pebbles— are all-inclusives on the north coast of Jamaica with an outstanding feature: each family has their own vacation nanny during their stay. They offer big discounts when traveling with a special needs child, as well as lots of other great offers. This is at the top of my wish list right now. See my separate blog post about this awesome-looking resort chain!
  • Beaches Resorts — the family brand of the Sandals chain– include several properties in Jamaica and one in Turks & Caicos. They all have kids programs for different ages, nursery, and a host of activities. Nannies are available for kids with special needs: the Beaches’ policy notes that a one-on-one “coordinator/nanny” can be arranged at a charge of $8.00 per hour; the child may participate in regular scheduled activities; and “for extended hours, prices will vary.” Additionally, all Beaches Resorts — except Beaches Boscobel, which is built on a hill– are wheelchair-accessible.

Other places nearby NYC:

We went to Rocking Horse Ranch last Winter and they were very accommodating to James – he even got to go on a horseback riding excursion on his own horse, with a guide staying close by him for the entire 90 minutes. For those of you who don’t know James, he is extremely low tone and ADD, a lethal combination on a horse. We were sure he wouldn’t be able to handle it but the guides were very positive and reassuring, and we felt safe letting James go. I’m so glad we did! I don’t know of any discounts for disabled persons, but RHR is an all-inclusive family retreat and they offer special rates each month including birthday weekends where the birthday person goes completely free. We plan to go again this summer and wholeheartedly recommend trying it out for a weekend. http://www.rhranch.com

We have also successfully visited Sesame Place (see my posts on discounts for Sesame Place and Hershey Park). We not only received a substantial discount on admission, but for $199 got a private cabana for 8 with a water-stocked fridge, towels to use and take home, chairs, table, ceiling fan, and exclusive visits from the Sesame characters. Now I know I sound like I am advertising for them, and $199 is not exactly cheap, but it was well worth it for us to have a haven to go back to every time James needed a break. The cabanas were right across from bathrooms and next to a huge water area. Plus there was no standing in line to see the characters and the private space  helped us have a lot less to carry around the park – you need to show a wristband every time you enter or exit the area so we felt safe leaving our stuff behind. If you split the cost with another family it gets much more affordable, and the park often runs a “buy one day-get one day free” admission special. http://www.sesameplace.com

We have also done trips to the Poconos and a couple of nearby beaches in NJ and MD. If you want to know more just send me an email.

For individuals with disabilities traveling alone:

Exceptional Vacations: “is dedicated to providing high quality vacation opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities and special needs.  We ensure a safe environment with an emphasis on inclusion.  Our trips promote integration, socialization, friendship and fun. Exceptional Vacations’ trips provide a wonderful opportunity for personal growth, normalization, and socialization in a safe and fun atmosphere.  We have a professional staff committed to providing our special needs travelers with the experience of a lifetime.  Our special needs tours are all inclusive.  Vacationers only need to bring the desire for a new and rewarding experience. If one of our supervised tours does not meet your needs, Exceptional Vacations can design a custom travel package for your individual or group travel.  Our experience gives us the expertise to put together wonderful trips for special needs travelers.  Our tours open doors for travelers with disabilities to experience everything the world has to offer. Click here for more info:http://www.exceptional-vacations.com

Mobility International U.S.A. is an international exchange travel program for people with and without special needs, ages 15 and up. The focus is on leadership development and disability rights training. For more info go to http://www.miusa.org.

Outward Bound USA is a year-round program for ages 14 and older. It serves individuals with learning disabilities, visual disabilities, health impairments or those who are hard of hearing. Scholarships are available. Go to http://www.outwardbound.org for more info.

SOAR is a program for children and teens ages 8-18 with a learning disability or ADD/ADHD. Activities include backpacking, rock climbing, rafting and wildlife studies. Fees range from $1700-3700 per course. Go to http://www.soarnc.org.

Wilderness Inquiry is a travel and adventure program that brings together people with and without disabilities. Scholarships are available. go to http://www.wildernessinquiry.org to find out more.

As always, please leave comments if you have other recommendations, experience with any of the above places or agencies, or questions about traveling with special needs.  So now traveling with your special needs loved one will be a breeze. Right?

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